Lake Calhoun Sailing School changed its name in 2018 to Minneapolis Sailing Center. The nonprofit’s executive director, Ted Salzman, has lived around Bde Maka Ska for 31 years. He became habituated to its former Calhoun name long before John C. Calhoun’s pro-slavery, anti-Native American views became a topic of heated debate in recent years.
“I always liked the name in terms of just the sound of it,” Salzman says, “because it had so much of an association, for me, with the place and with growing up here.”
Then Salzman learned about John C. Calhoun. “It certainly was hard to realize, and frustrating to realize, that, ‘Oh, this is a name that is associated with this person,’” Salzman says. “It was kind of a shock to find out what this person stood for.” The decision to change the name didn’t need much debate among Salzman and the nonprofit’s board of directors.
The lake’s name changed in early 2018 (pending state Supreme Court action) and nearby streets changed this August, so business owners near the lake face a decision: Remove the Calhoun name or stick with its baggage.
So far, most establishments TCB contacted with a Calhoun name are continuing to use it.
Granville Lawrence, owner and optometrist at Calhoun Vision, says “As a business decision, the name works. I’ve had this name for 24 years. I’m not eager to change it unless there’s a groundswell of interest. When everybody else is changing the name, I’ll change the name too.”
Although Lawrence opposes Calhoun’s advocacy of slavery, he says he doesn’t associate the namesake with the lake. “When you have a business, it’s not just a name. It’s who you are. It’s your brand,” Lawrence says. “People who have built up a brand for years, as we have, are somewhat reluctant to flush it down the toilet.”
The places that have removed Calhoun have gone all-in by making additional changes to their branding. At the Sailing Center, the name change complemented a larger effort to make sailing more inclusive, Salzman says.
When the bike shop Calhoun Cycle renamed itself Perennial Cycle, it also changed its logo and color scheme. “I jumped on it as an opportunity to refresh all the way across the board,” owner Luke Breen says.