What 'Truist Bank' can learn from 'Atrium'

Plus: Krispy Kreme plans shop in South End; CATS eyes 3 light-rail stops for Ballantyne; Lifetime reality show features Charlotte — can you stomach the concept?

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Sometimes, awful names turn out better than you think

Has anybody in your family ever had a baby and you thought the name was terrible?

Charlotte’s newest big bank is finding itself in that role week, as people are widely panning the name “Truist Bank,” the result of a merger between SunTrust and BB&T. SunTrust is based in Atlanta, BB&T is based in Winston-Salem, and the two are merging by the end of the year and moving their HQ to Charlotte. They said this week that they plan to employ as many as 2,000 people in Charlotte and take over more than half of uptown’s Hearst Tower — which could take the new name, too. “Truist Tower”? Frankly, all uptown skyscrapers look like true bank towers. But which one is the truest?

Like your cousin’s baby’s horrendous name, though, the name “Truist” will eventually grow up and grow on you, becoming less grating over time as you get used to it. Think of another widely mocked name when it was first introduced — “Atrium Health.” Now it’s just what everybody calls the healthcare provider formerly known as Carolinas HealthCare System. Your opinion of it is more likely to be based on your actual experiences with Atrium and its many fine healthcare professionals than on whether you think naming a huge medical system after a word that means “entrance hall” was a wise branding move.

Let’s cut right to the criticism. Here’s American Banker (“Hard sell ahead for BB&T-SunTrust as ‘Truist’ lands with a thud”):

A few branding experts who spoke to American Banker acknowledged that they were not immediately crazy about the name, but they also stressed that Truist will ultimately be what the bankers make of it. …

The banks will also need to get ahead of any associations with either tryst or truant, two words with negative connotations, said Douglas Strickler, CEO of the advertising firm HOT° INC. …

They should also be mindful of addressing challenges with pronunciation of the new name.

Unscientific survey says: A Twitter poll showed name-haters with a 6-to-1 advantage over the 100 people or so who loved it as “clever marketing” (which probably happens to be the combined size of the two banks’ PR departments):

Hang on, not done yet. A few Ledger readers also weighed in:

  • “It’s like Truliant Credit Union, except worse.”

  • “It sounds like ‘tryst,’ and headline writers will be thankful next time a Truist executive gets caught with his pants down.”

  • “If you don’t feel underpaid, consider that somebody was paid at least six figures to come up with this name.”

  • “‘The Truists’ would be a good name for a particularly zealous cult.”

  • “Even by the already-low standards of merged bank names, this is an exceptionally stupid name.”

More sober-minded branding experts, though, are taking a longer view. John Cavanaugh, vice president of strategy with local marketing and communications firm Belgrave Associates, said in a statement to the Ledger that the name could be tapping into shifts in the banking industry:

The new Truist Bank brand allows the combined company to reinvent itself for the digital banking customer. The name feels untethered to a region or way of doing business since the strategic paradigm has shifted from branches in prime locations to space on the devices in our pockets. The challenge will be holding on to traditional customers while growing awareness among younger ones looking for mobile-based services.

Ledger’s take: Maybe the idea all along was to create a name that people would be buzzing about — and to reap millions in free publicity. If so, Truist might be better at marketing than we think.


New CATS recommendations include three light-rail stops in Ballantyne

The Charlotte Area Transit System said this week that it is recommending a route for a future light-rail extension through Pineville and into Ballantyne, where one option would work well with recently announced plans to develop a mixed-use town center.

The recommendations, outlined Wednesday night at a community meeting in Pineville, are a big step forward in what could be a significant extension of the Lynx Blue Line to the south. It has implications not just for transit but even more importantly for development. Planners and developers widely credit light rail with turning South End from a motley collection of old industrial and warehouse buildings into a lively millennial hangout.

They are hoping it will have the same effect to the south, where it could lead to redevelopment of downtown Pineville, Carolina Place mall and dovetail nicely with plans announced last week by Northwood Office to develop a Ballantyne town center on 25 acres behind the Ballantyne hotel. There’s no money at the moment for light rail, and politicians are expected to figure out funding at some point in the coming months (probably a tax increase couched as “investment”).

The recommendations call for:

  • The route to run behind Carolina Place mall, along Carolina Place Parkway. CATS rejected another option to run the line along I-485.

  • The extension to continue toward Ballantyne. There are still two possibilities: 1) continuing along I-485, then turning south along Johnston Road and ending by the Ballantyne hotel; or 2) running through the Ballantyne Corporate Park, crossing 521 and ending at Community House Road (see map below).

Three light-rail stops for Ballantyne? One recommended route would go through the heart of Ballantyne Corporate Park and the golf course, a site of potential future development.

Link to Ballantyne center: That second option — the one through the office park, over 521, past the hotel, through the current golf course and ending at Community House — is intriguing because it would mesh well with Northwood’s redevelopment plans. The CATS plan would have three light rail stops in Ballantyne and would greatly help Northwood’s vision of turning the area into a hip entertainment district with restaurants, an amphitheater and apartments.

It would probably also mean a bridge over 521, which could include a pedestrian bridge that makes the six lanes of Johnston Road less of a hassle to cross.

At its quickest, light rail would be at least 10 years away. But it feels as though pieces are starting to move and a plan is forming.


‘First Sight’ has many Charlotte sights

If you’re looking for an empty-calorie TV show to binge on this summer, you might as well check out Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight.” As the name suggests, it’s no “Downton Abbey.”

But it’s set in Charlotte, and Wednesday’s premiere featured a lot of local sights you would recognize — if you can endure the show’s premise: Matchmakers set up four couples to get married, sight unseen. After eight weeks, they have to decide whether to stick with their new spouses or not. Some couples look as though they might have a chance, but several look to be total train wrecks in the making that should make for captivating reality TV.

The first 15 minutes of Wednesday’s episode featured plenty of shots of the skyline, as well as scenes of light rail and one of the brides-to-be jogging through what looked like Myers Park. Weddings were at the Alexander Homestead in east Charlotte. Local businesses making appearances included Savvy Bride Boutique in South End, Emerson Joseph uptown, Queen City Party Charters and Fink’s Jewelers at SouthPark.

The premiere is available online (US Weekly has a recap). The show airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.


In brief

  • Lawyer reprimanded: The N.C. Bar has disciplined a Charlotte attorney for mocking an opposing witness on YouTube and Twitter. In court documents filed last week, the Bar says that despite a judge’s order, Venus Springs posted a 37-minute YouTube video of a deposition that an Ally Financial HR employee was giving and titled it “Best Ways to Tell if a Witness Is Lying.” It included narration such as, when the employee touched her ear: “She doesn’t want to hear her own lies.” Representing herself, Springs had sued Ally for wrongful termination. That case was dismissed.

  • Waters Edge at University Place: EB Arrow announced a new 182,000 s.f. office building with ground-floor retail and an adjacent 308-unit multifamily development off J.W. Clay Boulevard. It would be one of the first new office buildings in the area in a decade and would include a lakefront linear park and pedestrian improvements. Rezoning hearing is Monday.

  • Atrium borrowing plan blocked: The state-government panel that oversees the issuance of public debt has rejected Atrium Health’s plans to use a state guarantee to help acquire a Georgia hospital chain. Business North Carolina quotes State Auditor Beth Wood as saying the dispute centered on the Local Government Commission’s reluctance to let Atrium benefit from the state’s Triple-A bond rating, which is supposed to be used to benefit N.C. citizens. The guarantee would lower Atrium’s borrowing costs.

  • Accounting move: Mike McGuire, the Charlotte-based CEO of Grant Thornton, is stepping down from leading the international accounting firm this summer. He’ll become a “brand ambassador” focused on business development. (Biz Journal)


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

Krispy Kreme heading to South End

Krispy Kreme looks as though it plans to open a store in Charlotte’s South End. Last year, the company said it was opening offices and a “test kitchen” at 2116 Hawkins St., near the intersection with West Tremont Avenue.

Now, a permit filed with the county seems to show that the company is preparing to serve doughnuts there, too. Drawings for the ground level show a “welcome shop,” a place for beverages, several restrooms, tables and chairs and what appears to be the U-shaped conveyor belt (“production testing line”) for making doughnuts and glazing them with that sweet sugary waterfall. The second floor has offices, including one marked “CEO,” plus a room called “The O.G.”

Krispy Kreme’s headquarters is in Winston-Salem, and it has said it intends to keep its HQ there. Its CEO owns two lots on Lake Norman. If the Charlotte office has an office for the CEO, well, you can draw your own conclusions about what that might mean.

This looks like more than a regional office: drawings from a county permit for 2116 Hawkins St., where Krispy Kreme has said it is building offices.

Krispy Kreme didn’t return emails this week. Building owner Asana Partners did not return a phone call.

Bonus observation: Can you imagine working above a Krispy Kreme?

Krispy Kreme is also opening a new spot near Concord Mills.

Brief bites:

  • Breakfast, brunch, lunch, booze: Denver-based restaurant chain Snooze is opening its first East Coast location in Charlotte this month in Plaza-Midwood. It’s not open for dinner but will have six kinds of eggs Benedict and “a full bar, offering a variety of mimosas, Bloody Marys, beer and other cocktails,” the Biz Journal says.

  • SouthPark fruit bowl news: Rico’s Acai has moved from a food truck into the food court at SouthPark mall, according to its Facebook page.

  • Burger power rankings: Thrillist ranked the top 100 burgers in the country. Brooks’ Sandwich House was #8, Zack’s was #32, and Bang Bang Burger was #80. (Charlotte Stories)

  • New at Blakeney: Open Rice, “a casual restaurant serving authentic Hong Kong cuisine,” opened last month and serves “traditional street food, teppanyaki, noodle soups, rice and noodle dishes and hearty Hong Kong-style baked dishes.” (Charlotte Agenda)

  • Good read: How a California restaurant owner told Yelp to get bent. Quote: “I came from Italy, and know exactly what mafia extortion looks like. Yelp was manipulating reviews and hoping I would pay a protection fee. I didn’t come to America and work for 25 years to be extorted by some idiot in Silicon Valley.” Business complaints about Yelp are featured in a new documentary called Billion Dollar Bully. (The Hustle)


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.