Farewell, Kinko's, my friend.
I get kind of nostalgic whenever the name of a business goes belly up. Well, not every company. I didn't weep when the name Enron went under, for instance, though I sure felt sorry for its shafted workers, who watched their savings disappear. But when a business has been a good one, when it's served the needs of its customers gallantly, and then it winds up being swallowed up, because of progress, or dumb luck, or whatever, then, sure, it's kind of sad. Not as sad as the moment Wilbur loses his best friend in Charlotte's Web, but it's still a little sad.
But, yes, at the same time, I realize that's the free market for you.
Anyway, as you may have heard, FedEx Corporation is changing the name of FedEx Kinko's, a chain that provides document solutions and business services, to FedEx Office. That means the Kinko's will be no more, or at least we can say it's the deathknell of the name. But Kinko's, which was practically a second home for me in the 1990s, between college and my early days of work, is in good company. Since we're bidding it adieu, I thought I'd take a quick romp down Memory of Lane and look at other corporate names who are no longer with us but surely belong in some sort of business name hall of fame.
Burma-Shave. Actually, this one probably shouldn't be up here, since as some people know, you can still buy Burma-Shave as something of a novelty nostalgic product. Still, the name isn't what it once was.It was a shaving cream that was introduced in 1925 and for awhile was the second-highest selling brushless shaving cream in the United States. It was a huge name until the 1950s when sales began declining, and the product was eventually sold to Phillip Morris in 1963. Their big sales gimmick was their "advertising sign program," where they had these tiny six signs on highways, and you'd read them all, and once you had, you'd have completed a little verse. One now-famous series of signs, according to this tribute page to Burma-Shave, read:
Within this vale
Your head grows bald
But not your chin
The signs were removed after Phillip Morris took over, and then name Burma-Shave has since all but disappeared from the landscape.
Pan Am. This was a wonderful airline, in my humble opinion, that began in the 1930s. I have a lot of fond memories of traveling on this flight in the 1970s, and of the stewardesses letting my younger brother and I check out the cockpit. Oh, sure, other airlines were doing that sort of thing, too, but since Pan Am did it for us, they earned my unwavering loyalty. Besides, even if you're a Delta fan through and through, you have to admit, there's a lot of history with Pan Am: Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek creator, was once a Pam Am pilot, according to Wikipedia, and so maybe his experience flying in an airplane helped stoke his imagination when it came to soaring in space. Pan Am had roles in other popular culture as well, appearing on everything from an I Love Lucy episode to Blade Runner. Indiana Jones also flew in a Pan Am in the first Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. But the short answer to how it wound up aground: mismanagement and a lot of bad luck--for instance, Pan Am became a favorite for terrorists to hijack in the 1980s, which scared a lot of people away.
Burger Chef. It probably just couldn't stand the heat in a fast food kitchen that included the similarly named Burger King. In any case, Burger Chef eventually morphed into Hardee's, but for awhile, you could ask any kid in America who Burger Chef and Jeff were, and they knew that they were the mascots for this beloved burger chain.
Carnation Breakfast Squares. This delicious breakfast snack that was big in the 1970s and 1980s. I thought that maybe no one else remembered it, but if you Google it, you'll find web pages dedicated to it.
LIFE. You apparently can't kill this magazine. It was once, of course, the most recognizable publication in America. I just checked to see if it was still around (it used to be a weekly, and then a monthly, and then a Sunday magazine insert... and now, you go to the web site, and it says, "Stay tuned for the new Life.com.")
So the soon-to-be-lost name of Kinko's is in good company. The question I'm wondering is -- will anyone be talking about and remembering it fondly, 30 or 50 years from now?
Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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