By Laurelle Walsh
Winthrop innkeepers Kristin and Josh Buehler learned an “expensive lesson” last month, after finding out that their business name violated the trademark of a Hood Canal resort.
On March 2, the owner of Alderbrook Resort & Spa telephoned to ask the Buehlers to change the name of their business — Alderbrook Inn — to avoid confusion and trademark violation, according to Josh Buehler.
“It took us by surprise,” Buehler said. “We really liked the name.”
They quickly took steps to re-register the Winthrop hotel as Abbycreek Inn, and by the end of that week had changed the business’s website and Internet advertising to reflect the new name, Buehler said.
“The gentleman was really nice about everything. It could have been really bad,” said Buehler.
The couple purchased the former Cascade Inn last June, and renamed the hotel to “make a fresh start,” they said. They looked up the name “Alderbrook Inn” on the Washington secretary of state’s website and found no business by that name, but they didn’t do a thorough enough online trademark search, Buehler admitted. “It’s been an eye-opening past month,” he said.
Troubles with Westernization
Abbycreek has also received violation notices from Winthrop’s Westernization Architectural Committee (WAC) because of problems with the hotel’s sign on Highway 20.
Within days of learning of the trademark violation, the Buehlers removed the old name from the hotel’s sign, which left part of the old Cascade Inn sign exposed, violating the town’s municipal code, according to WAC administrator Cindy Hicks. In addition, the WAC asked Abbycreek’s owners to fix the sign’s lighting, which was pointing toward oncoming cars on the highway, Hicks said.
The Buehlers wanted to work quickly to avoid any legal problems with Alderbrook, but because the WAC meets only every two weeks, compliance with the sign review process has been “difficult,” Buehler said. Abbycreek’s new sign is up, and the lighting has been adjusted, “but we’re technically still in violation because the permit hasn’t been approved,” he said on Monday (March 30).
The WAC has requested that the Winthrop Town Council issue a maximum civil penalty of $1,250 to Abbycreek Inn for violations of the town’s municipal code, including using old business signage and altering signage without prior approval. The council was scheduled to make a decision on the fine at the April 1 meeting.
“The Westernization process is a process that takes time,” said Hicks, acknowledging “this one wasn’t an easy fix for the business owner.”
The most recent violation notice issued to Abbycreek’s owners required “immediate removal of all signage” in order to correct the violation.
To avoid violation, “all old signage would have had to come down, and they should have waited for Westernization approval before putting up the new sign,” Hicks said. “There is no provision in the ordinance for temporary signage at this time.”
Still making improvements
The Buehlers were busy all winter painting the inn’s 60 rooms, and with the fine spring weather, are now in the process of painting the building’s exterior. A new roof will be going on this week, Buehler said.
In addition, the couple has purchased an 18-hole mini golf course, which they’re going to install behind the inn this month. They hope to have mini golf ready to play by May 1 when the hotel fills with Zumiez employees in town for the clothing company’s annual retreat, Buehler said.