Traverse City News and Events

From Bubba To Left Foot: What's In A Name (Part Two)

By Ross Boissoneau | Jan. 23, 2022

Almost a year ago, The Ticker  clued you in on the origins of local names, from Sex (the wine) to Mode’s Bum Steer to Hexenbelle. 

Today we’re back for more.

First, what of Captain’s Quarters, the longtime downtown TC men’s clothing shop?

Maurie Allen opened Captain’s Quarters in 1966, when he and his wife Betsy decided to eschew a corporate move to a shiny new Montgomery Ward store in their hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Instead, they opted to stay put, purchasing a downtown men’s clothing store, which they renamed and redecorated with a maritime theme.

Allen says the proximity to Grand Traverse Bay and the nearby Boardman River inspired them. The store’s décor includes maps and sextants on the walls, even an aquarium inside a coffee/display table. And in the summer, especially at street sale time, everybody pitches in. The staff know – and say – “It’s all hands on deck.”

Several local eateries adopt their names from other languages. Dave Denison named his    downtown eatery “La Cuisine Amical,” i.e. the friendly kitchen. Eventually he shortened it to Amical. “It was just too hard for people to remember or spell. They shortened it themselves,” he says.

There was another reason for the shortened name. The fact people had a hard time recalling it meant Denison had to place multiple ads under various names in the Yellow Pages: Amical, La Cuisine Amical, even “The French Café downtown.”

The name for Raduno, the Eighth Street deli and café, was suggested by owner Janene Silverman’s Italian husband Beppe Canavero. Raduno translates from Italian as “a gathering,” which Silverman says in the kitchen could be a gathering of food or vegetables. “In the dining room it’s a gathering of friends and family,” she says.

Others derived from foreign languages include Tabone Vineyards ("foolish” in Italian) and restaurant Pepe Nero, which translates as black pepper.

Trish Wiltse says The Dish restaurant was originally named for her – “Trish the Dish.” In fact, for years her email address was dish@tcfood.com She and her business partner and former husband Jeff subsequently sold it, but the name stuck. For a time, they also owned Giovanni’s outside Interlochen, which they renamed Maddy’s 31 to honor the founder of Interlochen Center for the Arts, Joseph Maddy.

They still own Bubba’s, a nickname for one of Jeff’s best friends, and Firefly, which they named for the frequent winged visitor along the river. It originally also bore the name 310, named for its address, but the couple eventually changed the two names to one. Wiltse says when she moved to northern Michigan at the age of 2, her dad bought a downtown eatery which became the Black Lantern. Today it’s known as Mode’s Bum Steer.

Jolly Pumpkin and Blue Tractor are among the establishments owned by restaurateurs Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell. The name of the former came about as a result of a brainstorming session by brewer Ron Jeffries and his wife Laurie: The one that always made them smile was Jolly Pumpkin. Add to that its immediate reference to Halloween, plus his nicknames Captain Ron and Brewmaster Spooky, and it was settled.

The latter pays tribute to Carlson’s and Lobdell’s home turf: They grew up on the Old Mission Peninsula, which was dominated by farming in the 70s, hence the presence of numerous tractors. The peninsula is surrounded by blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay. “Put it together, and you get something special!” says Carlson.

It’s not the only place you can head with the blues. The iconic Blue Goat is the area’s oldest wine shop, which makes sense, as it is located in one of the city’s oldest buildings. The name came from previous owners, who moved their Arcade Wine Shop to the location and took the name from some kitschy goat-themed artwork they’d purchased. It’s remained the name through several owners, excepting a brief run as the Village Wine Shop in the 1990s.

Which leads us to the local beverage industry, where names run wild. Start with Rare Bird Brewpub: When avid birder Nate Crane first met brewer Tina Schuett, he asked her if she had indeed been banding kiwis in New Zealand (spoiler: she had). The two became partners and opened Rare Bird. Schuett allows that the name originated in part due to that passion for birding, but it’s not the only reason. “It’s also a play on words, from the British connotation,” she says. As one of the few female brewers, she is indeed a rare bird.

Its most popular beer is Kushy Punch, which Schuett admits she borrowed from a type of cannabis she saw on sale in California many years ago. Another is Creepin’ In, which she says came to be when she felt winter was creeping in. “We name them for things we’re feeling or pop culture. There are millions of beer names, and you have to come up with something that hasn’t been done,” she says.

While The Ticker touched on some of the Short’s brews last time, we’d be remiss not to include Esther, named for Joe Short’s wirehaired pointing griffon, the official companion dog at the Elk Rapids production facility. Then there’s Melt My Brain, a gin and tonic-flavored beer (really).

Chateau Chantal’s founding winemaker, Mark Johnson, discovered many of his customers preferred a white wine, but wanted to enter the world of reds. So he created a Naughty Red, so naughty you could cross the traditional wine pairing borders and serve it with fish. “From there, we added the Nice Red to provide a touch of sweetness to the wine,” says Chateau Chantal CEO Marie-Chantal Dalese.

Why stop there? After those successes, Johnson added the Naughty and Nice Whites to complete the offerings from dry/sweet red to semi-dry/sweet white. The name stuck, and Dalese says someone tossed out “Naughty Apple” to extend the line to the ciders. 

Left Foot Charley owner Brian Ulbrich says his winery’s name came about after his first choice wasn’t available. He wanted to name it for the ancient Greek word “kairos,” meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment. Turned out his timing wasn’t right after all, as another winery had already applied for and been granted the name just a week or so earlier. That led him and his wife Jen to opt for a longtime nickname of his, as he was known to be clumsy as a child. “It seemed like it fit us, stumbling through (the industry). It’s light-hearted and fun.”

Among the wines there is Gitali, the Ulbrichs’ daughter’s name, derived from Indian Sanskrit poetry, similar to a psalm. Then there’s Murmur, named for a group (murmuration) of starlings. “Starlings are enemy number one in a vineyard,” Ulbrich says, known for their voracious feeding on wine grapes.

Murmur, like most of the wines there, also bears a silhouette of a starling. Ulbrich says they reflect the aphorism “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” “We utilize starlings in the labels to placate the enemy,” he says with a laugh.

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