Does the Main Line Moniker Help or Hurt Business?

Professionals from Main Line proper and the western suburbs weigh in on pros and cons.




WHAT’S IN A NAME? For the Main Line Art Center and its executive director, Amie Potsic, it represents a larger  sense of community and a broader reach.

Allan Haiges is easily one of the most accomplished music instructors in the area. He’s taught the past few generations of drum students here. Local private and public schools are full of his protégés.

Haiges lives in Drexel Hill, and his H Factor Percussion doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar Main Line location, since his work takes place in students’ homes. But that didn’t prevent him from snatching a domain name with a crucial geographic locator. Thanks to Ridgway Consulting, a marketing company in Narberth, you can find Haiges online at mainlinedrum.com. 

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet poses the question, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But would that apply in our area without the words Main Line?

“I’ve used mainlinemarketer.com and mainlinemarketers.com for myself to drive people to ridgwayconsulting.com,” says Ed Ridgway, who’s the guy behind campaigns for hundreds of businesses in the United States and Canada, including many top dental practices. “Haiges’ use of
mainlinedrum.com is much of his marketing. A local parent looking for lessons for her child is going to find that intuitive and easy to remember.” 

Most of us around here already know that the area was named after the string of affluent towns built along the stops of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s old Main Line from Paoli to Merion. As the region has expanded—arguably well beyond its original boundaries—so has the number of businesses that include “Main Line” in their branding. And is it Main Line or Mainline, anyway? 

Greg Bonner, chair of the marketing and business law department at Villanova University, offers a contrarian view. He urges businesses to only co-opt the name if they’re located on the traditional Main Line—and even then, to be careful when extending the label. Perhaps that makes sense in Exton, West Chester, Downingtown or Springfield. But what if you’re setting up shop in Malvern, Media or King of Prussia?

PRIME REAL ESTATE: Ridgway Consulting’s Ed Ridgway has seen the Main Line moniker work wonders for clients like Drexel Hill-based drum teacher Allen Haiges (right).

 

Wherever you are, going upscale has its limits. “I’ve heard negative responses directed at some businesses that use ‘Main Line’ but seem to be on the periphery or outside ‘proper’ Main Line geography,” says Bonner. “The general context is that [doing so] seems out of place, geographically removed, and is only capitalizing on the Main Line name, leaving suspicions like, ‘Who are they trying to be?’”

Nonetheless, says Bonner, “the shorthand way to refer to these local towns is ‘Main Line.’ I use ‘Main Line’ when I want a geographic locator that’s more specific than Philly or the Philadelphia area, but broader than a single town, like Narberth or Ardmore. ‘Delaware Valley’ is a crappy cop-out of a term and overly broad.”

The Main Line brand is nothing if not malleable. Its been twisted and stretched and shaped to encompass everything from Chadds Ford to Chester Springs to Manayunk to, yes, even Drexel Hill. It’s no wonder that MainLineNeighbors.com, an online guide to the area, benefits from having East and West editions.

Subsets seem to work well, too. The Lower Merion Community Network is a Facebook group with thousands of members from Narberth and Lower Merion. And Ridgway’s wife, Cindy, is a local real estate agent who uses the domain name, lowermerionhomes.com, for a territory that focuses specifically on the Lower Merion School District.  

But Bonner suggests that a name like Main Line Pizza (Wayne) or Main Line Plumbing (Havertown) adds self-imposed pressure on a business, and most likely the perception that services will be pricey—just as it would in real estate circles.

Leonard Salvato started working as a mechanic at Main Line Tire & Service in Paoli 27 years ago, before buying the company in 2008. To him, the name implies “quality and excellence—the best of the best, upscale, classy and top-notch.” 

In the end, says Bonner, the positives of such an affiliation always outweigh the negatives. “It gets you a halo effect—that’s why people do it,” he says. “It’s a good decision that could help you stay in business. You see Main Line Plumbing, and you figure, ‘Well that has to be close to me.’ People think, ‘I live in an older, nice house, and they must have experience
with older, nice houses.’”

And in every business, perception is crucial. “Plumbing is not sexy,” Bonner says. “But ‘Main Line’ provides an immediate connection-—because they wouldn’t call themselves ‘Main Line’ if they weren’t good at what they do.”

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