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- Many of our favorite, go-to stores have surprising origin stories.
- CVS is anacronyms with multiple meanings, and Starbucks is named after a character in Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.”
- Other businesses, like Zara and Applebees, were forced into new names after learning competitors had already taken their original ones.
Target, 7-Eleven, Applebees, and CVS – these are stores that make up our everyday lives. But have you ever stopped to wonder what their names actually mean, and how they came to be?
Keep scrolling to learn more about 12 popular businesses and how they got their unique names.
Zara was originally named “Zorba,” after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek.”
- Thomson Reuters
Ortega was set on naming it after the 1964 film “Zorba the Greek,” and he even had the letter mold for his storefront sign ready to go. But there was a bar about two blocks over with the same name, and the owner told Ortega it would be too confusing for them both to be called “Zorba.”
So, Ortega rearranged the letters to say “Zara,” and the rest is history.
In 1946, 7-Eleven was named after its extended hours of operation: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Though 7-Elevens have been in existence since 1927, they didn’t officially get their name until 1946. Previously known as the Southland Ice Company, the convenience stores reemerged after the Depression in the ’30s and rebranded, calling themselves “7/11” or “7-Eleven” to represent new, extended hours of operation.
Though they were originally open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, 7-Elevens are now open 24/7.
H&M stands for “Hennes & Mauritz,” which is a nod to its Swedish origins.
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H&M opened in Sweden in 1946, and it was originally called “Hennes,” which means “hers” in Swedish. After the store started to gain some traction, it acquired Mauritz Widforss, a hunting and fishing apparel company.
The fusion led to both men’s and women’s apparel being sold at the store, as well as a permanent name change: Hennes & Mauritz. The store is now commonly, if not exclusively, referred to as H&M.
Target originated as a discounted, offshoot branch of Dayton-Hudson department stores.
The first Target opened its doors in 1962 as a discount store, an offshoot of the Dayton Company (later known as Dayton-Hudson). According to Target’s website, their iconic name and logo was a spur of the moment idea via the Dayton-Hudson PR team, who “debated more than 200 possible names … on a red-and-white whim, they came up with ‘Target’ and immediately envisioned a classic bullseye logo with three rings.”
By 1968, Target had surpassed its parent company in popularity, leading revenue production to nearly $1 billion. As a result, the first Target Greatland store – which offered a wider array of merchandise – opened its doors in 1990, and Dayton-Hudson officially changed its name to the Target Corporation in 2000.
Starbucks is named after Captain Ahab’s sidekick in “Moby-Dick.”
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In a 2008 interview with The Seattle Times, Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker described the exhaustive process of figuring out a name for his now-iconic coffee chain:
“We were thinking of all kinds of names and came desperately close to calling it Cargo House, which would have been a terrible, terrible mistake. Terry Heckler [with whom I owned an advertising agency] mentioned in an offhand way that he thought words that begin with ‘st’ were powerful words …
“Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo. As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in ‘Moby-Dick.’ But ‘Moby-Dick’ didn’t have anything to do with Starbucks directly; it was only coincidental that the sound seemed to make sense.”
The founders of Applebees wanted to call it “Appleby’s” but the name was already taken. So, they changed the spelling.
When the original Applebees opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1980, it had a much longer name: T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs, to be exact.
According to Mental Floss, the original owners of the restaurant wanted to name it Appleby’s, but that particular spelling had been registered by someone else. So, they traded the “y” for two “e”s and added the “T.J.” in front – a nod to one of the founders, T.J. Palmer.
The name was altered to the (much simpler) Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill in 1986, and its popularity soon soared. Nowadays, we just call it Applebees.
Wendy’s is named for the founder’s daughter, Melinda Lou, whom he called “Wendy.”
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According to Wendy’s website, the fast food chain’s founder, Dave Thomas, tried out all of his children’s names before settling on “Wendy” for the restaurant. The irony? His daughter’s name was Melinda Lou, and Wendy was her nickname.
Gap is a reference to the generation gap.
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The first Gap store opened in 1969, and the iconic name was chosen as a reference to the generation gap – “the differences in opinions and values between younger people and older people,” per Merriam-Webster.
CVS originally stood for “Consumer Value Stores,” but the acronym has also been interpreted in different ways.
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Per Reader’s Digest, “Consumer Value Stores” – aka CVS – opened its doors in 1963. The store’s sign featured both its full name and the now-famous acronym.
But the company’s past CEO, Tom Ryan, attributed a different meaning to the three letters: “Convenience, Value, and Service.” According to Encyclopedia.com, he said that this could also be an interpretation of CVS.
Banana Republic is a reference to the founders’ desire to dress people who loved “safaris and expeditions.”
- Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/FilmMagic
When Banana Republic was founded in 1978 by husband and wife duo Mel and Patricia Ziegler, it also had an accompanying travelogue. According to the company’s site, the store opened “as a shop for people with passion for safari and expedition wear from faraway places.”
The store has since mellowed out, and pivoted to trendier, professional attire after being acquired by the Gap.
Panera is an actual combination of the words “pan” and “era.”
- John Grees/Reuters
Per Panera Bread’s Facebook page, the restaurant’s name has both “Latin and Spanish roots.” “Pan” refers to “bread” or “bread basket,” and “era” refers to the measure of time. Slap the two together, and there you have it: Panera.
IKEA is an acronym that stands for “Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.”
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IKEA is yet another acronym – but it’s a little more complicated than CVS.
“IK” are the initials of the furniture company’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad. The “EA,” on the other hand, represent Kamprad’s childhood – Elmtaryd is the name of the farm on which he grew up, and Agunnaryd is the name of his village.
Throw it all together, and you’ve got IKEA. And probably a good piece of furniture, too.