More than 20 years ago, Ottilia Chapman opened Tilly, an upscale women's apparel store at Regency Court shopping center. Tilly has been in business ever since, offering designer gowns, specialty bags, jewelry and other accessories.
But a mile away, a new store named Tilly's is causing Chapman concern, enough that she has filed a lawsuit against its owner, Tilly's Inc., a retailer based in Irvine, Calif., that operates an e-commerce site and 175 stores nationwide.
“It would be like a store calling itself Borsheim that sold ... jewelry moved in a mile away from Borsheims, the Berkshire Hathaway-owned jewelry store,” Chapman said.
Tilly's, which sells surfing and skateboard merchandise and apparel for men and women, opened this spring at Westroads Mall. It was the first Nebraska location for Tilly's Inc., which is publicly traded and operates its stores under the name Tilly's.
Chapman sued in Douglas County District Court, alleging the other retailer's decision to call its Westroads store Tilly's is likely to cause confusion or misunderstanding and constitutes a deceptive trade practice under Nebraska law, according to court documents prepared by Larry Welch Sr. of Omaha's Welch Law Firm.
Chapman said she also is concerned that Tilly's is trading on her store's good name and reputation.
“I have worked very hard to get here, and I don't appreciate them using my name,” she said.
Chapman is seeking a judgment that would prevent the retailer from operating its Nebraska store under the name Tilly's, Welch said.
“I don't care what they do in other states, but right in my front door? No,” Chapman said.
Tilly's Inc. declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Daniel Fischer, an attorney at Omaha's Koley Jessen law firm who is representing Tilly's Inc. locally, said the retailer does not comment on pending litigation.
Tilly's Inc. was launched as World of Jeans and Tops in the 1980s. Its “heritage dates back to 1982 when ... founders, Hezy Shaked and Tilly Levine, opened (their) first store in Orange County, California,” according to the company's website.
Last spring, Tilly's Inc. announced its intention to open a store at Westroads Mall, in a storefront then occupied by Forever 21. Forever 21 has since relocated to a two-story space in the mall.
Before the store's opening, Welch said, he wrote a letter to the California chain on Chapman's behalf, requesting the retailer call its Nebraska store anything but Tilly's.
“I suggested they use the name World of Jeans and Tops,” Welch said.
Welch said he advised the company that the name “Tilly” had been in use locally for more than two decades and was a “distinctive” trade name of an Omaha women's store.
The California company ignored the letter and opened Tilly's, Welch said.
Welch said that Tilly Inc. has filed an objection to Chapman's lawsuit and is seeking to have the case moved from state court to federal court “because they are not Nebraska-based.”