The Great Wall of debate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

FRANKLIN—What’s in a name?

For one restaurateur, that question is about to be answered.

One of the shops adjacent to Farm Fresh in Armory Station near the Route 58 overpass is about to be filled by a Chinese restaurant to include the words Great Wall.

That doesn’t sit too well with the management of the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant operating in Armory Plaza, which is feeling the heat even before the new restaurant opens.

“I feel it’s hurting my business,” said Michael Jiang, manager of Great Wall.

News of the arriving competitor was made public around the time Farm Fresh Supermarket & Pharmacy opened in late March, and that’s when the confusion began, Jiang said.

Midland Development, which is managing the property at Armory Station, announced the signing of the new restaurant, which could be opened by July.

Two restaurants with similar names has some customers from the old restaurant believing it is moving to the new location. Jiang has been trying to reassure his customers that no move is planned.

“We’ve been telling our regulars that we’re staying,” he said.

Since the news came out, a small, hand-written sign at the entrance of Great Wall also alerts customers that no relocation is coming.

Great Wall has been in business since 2003, according to documents in City Hall. Currently, there are three Chinese restaurants in Franklin operating, and Jiang isn’t sure whether the city can support a fourth.

“I don’t think so,” he said. Business is “getting worse, worse, worse.”

The matter of two restaurants posting similar names could wind up in court.

According to Franklin City Attorney Taylor Williams, if an owner files with the City of Franklin to open a business and has “the proper paperwork” issued by the State Corporation Commission, “we will issue a business license.”

He said his preliminary legal research proves “I don’t see anything in our ordinances that gives us the authority to regulate” names of businesses.

That’s handled at the state level.

According to records at City Hall, Great Wall of Franklin LLC operates the Great Wall Restaurant. Although the new owner has been in contact with officials from the city’s Commissioner of Revenue office — which issues business licenses — no paperwork has been filed.

However, should one business “infringe” on another with the use of its name, the other can take legal action, Williams said.

That’s of little comfort to Jiang.

To compete in the market, Jiang said Great Wall will continue to provide good food and service, “as much as we can.”