HYANNIS – Shift is an eco-boutique in Hyannis that sells women’s clothing “made from eco-friendly materials using sustainable processes,” according to the company Facebook page. It was started in 2009 by Amanda Converse.
SHIFT is also the new name of two other stores, one in Chatham and one in Mashpee, that coincidentally also sell women’s clothing. That SHIFT, according to its Facebook page, is “Cape Cod’s premier boutique for classic and polished to contemporary chic apparel and accessories.”
Both are named Shift, both are boutiques on Cape Cod, and both sell women’s clothing.
Converse, owner of Shift, the eco-boutique in Hyannis, fears that many others are confused as well and she has, through a lawyer, sent a cease and desist letter in June to the other SHIFT, asking it to stop using the name.
Those stores, formerly named Resort, were renamed “SHIFT” (all upper-case, and different font than the Hyannis store) this spring.
Those two stores are connected to a store on Nantucket named SHIFT that began in 2010. The Nantucket/Chatham/Mashpee SHIFT is owned by In The Pink, which calls itself a Lily Pulitzer Signature store.
Converse said she has not heard back from the company.
Cape Cod Wave made two phone calls to the Nantucket store requesting an interview, and we sent an email to In The Pink. We have not heard back.
Converse said that when SHIFT opened on Nantucket in 2010, she hardly gave it a thought. “It’s a different county. Nantucket is a different world,” she said. “Nantucket is literally an island.”
But Shift is not the first retail brand to have migrated from an island to Cape Cod. There is a Black Dog, of Vineyard Haven, on Main Street in Falmouth.
“Maybe I was naive,” said Converse of her decision not to send a letter to the SHIFT on Nantucket when it opened in 2010. “But I guess I thought at the time that it wouldn’t infringe on my business.”
Converse said she has a trademark but “the legal fees from a couple of cease and desist letters is crippling to me.” Friends have started a Go-Fund Me page to support Converse’s efforts.
What’s In A Name?
“The reason I chose the name Shift is that I wanted people to look at the way they shop and shift their spending,” said Converse. “There’s a whole lot of meaning in the name. It’s about a shift in consciousness. And it made sense because a shift is also a type of dress. My name has so many layers to it.”
And Converse, a native of Falmouth, said that since 2009 she has been building that brand here on the Cape, with a specific focus on Hyannis Main Street.
She had previously worked with the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District. “I fell in love with Hyannis Main Street,” she said. “I saw how important local businesses were to local communities.”
Shift is on South Street, just off of Main Street.
“To build my brand, I worked seven days a week in my first five years,” said Converse. “I didn’t take any time off until five years into my business. I went to every networking meeting. I put my time, energy, sweat and tears into this community. I love it and I want my brand to be synonymous with that.”
She did not want her brand confused with the other Shift on the Cape, associated with what she called “preppy” Lily Pulitzer.
The first sentence of the “About Us” section of the In The Pink website quotes from Lily Pulitzer, “Life’s a party, dress like it!”.
Converse said she has 15 documented cases of brand confusion.
“I got a message from a college friend of mine that said, ‘Oh my gosh, I just drove by your beautiful store in Chatham,’ ” said Converse. “But that’s not the brand I’ve built on the Cape.”
Part of that brand has been her work for “Love, Live Local,” a for-profit company that set out to “dispel the myth that there is nothing to do on Cape Cod,” said Converse. Now it has a website, a magazine, and it runs locals festivals, featuring artists, music and more. It is as its name suggests, a local business advocate.
According to Elizabeth Wurfbain, Executive Director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, Converse was one of the first “buy local” advocates on Cape Cod.
“She’s really thought about her name,” said Wurfbain. “It’s a shift in thinking and a shift in how you build products that you buy.”
Sean Fitzpatrick, the owner of Cape Cloth, a local clothing company, went through his own, though very different, trademark infringement case with a company in Texas, he said. His was caused, he said, “because a lawyer wanted to have billable hours.”
Fitzpatrick’s case was settled, but he said he understood how difficult it is to build a brand and what it means to the entrepreneur. “When you are trying to build a brand, the brand is, for lack of a better analogy, like giving birth to a child,” said Fitzpatrick.
And if someone else were to try to use that brand, he said, “it would be like someone trying to take my identity away from me, to take my child away from me, to take the most important thing in my life away from me.”
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