The name makes the cut

Showdown: A judge will decide if Rick Nelligar has to stop calling his barbershop by his name -- like the one owned by Rick Zarou.

August 26, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

OLNEY -- Rick has a barbershop in Montgomery County. So does Rick. Both men call their establishments Rick's.

Now one Rick has a lawyer. The other Rick is getting one. And a Montgomery County judge may decide by Monday whether Rick Nelligar of Olney must change the name of his shop to avoid possible confusion with Rick Zarou's Rockville shop.

In his civil suit, Zarou accuses Nelligar of deceptive trade practices and violating his rights by using the name Rick's Barber Shop on the front of his business and on the sides of "two large antique Cadillacs."

Nelligar has not filed a response with the court, but he has squeezed the word "Place" between his name and "Barber Shop" on the front door and the only Cadillac he claims to own. He also changed the name on his state license to "Rick's Place -- Barber Shope."

"That's not enough," says Zarou's lawyer, Robert Levin. "The problem is, the business is still called Rick's. The name is too similar."

Zarou has owned his Rick's for 40 years, tending the locks of judges, lawyers and County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, among others. Before that, the Palestinian native cut the hair of British army officers in his former shop outside Jerusalem.

Nelligar entered the realm of Rick three years ago when he opened his shop on Georgia Avenue, eight miles away.

The difference between Rick's of Rockville and Rick's of Olney is like the difference between Haussner's and Planet Hollywood.

The Rockville shop has a swirling barber pole outside and courtly barbers within. The Olney version is decorated in Elvis: "Cars, guitars and clean-cut fun," Nelligar proclaims.

A Rockville haircut costs $10.50. A haircut in Olney is $10.

Not strangers

The two Ricks were not strangers. But how they learned of each other is, like everything else in this case, contested.

"We were tipped off about his shop from our customers," says Billy Zarou, who cuts hair in his father's Rockville shop. "They didn't ask if it was our shop, they assumed it was. That's when we decided we had to put a stop to this."

Nelligar says, "Billy was a good friend. We went to barber school together."

The two practiced side by side, according to the Academy of Professional Barber-Stylists in Wheaton. After graduation, Billy went to work for his father and says Nelligar almost did, too.

Instead, Nelligar went to Olney and worked at other shops before opening his, where he hired Billy Zarou's cousin.

Nelligar swears he learned of the Rockville shop from the state when he applied for his trader's license.

Changed name

Last year, the cousin had a beef with his boss and quit. Then, Nelligar says, Billy Zarou began making noises about the name of his shop.

Before it reached the level of legal threats, Nelligar went to the state last August and changed the name on his license.

"Who is he to tell me?" says Nelligar. "I changed the name. It's public record. People aren't going to drive eight miles and drive past six barbershops to get here."

Levin responds, "We're talking the suburbs here. Eight miles is a trip to the mall. It's not one end of Manhattan to the other."

Before the end of the month, a judge will decide whether to grant an injunction against Nelligar, preventing him from using the name Rick's.

Is there any way Nelligar can save his name?

"If he calls it Rick's Hardware Store, that would be fine," says Levin.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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