‘SoMo’: A South St. nickname is born

June 24, 2011
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“SoMo”—short for “south of the Monument”—is a new name for South Street’s burgeoning business district being pitched to early praise—and some ridicule—by the local McCormack & Scanlan Real Estate office.

“As a lifelong JP resident, [South Street’s businesses] kind of faded into the background,” said Karen McCormack, the real estate firm’s co-owner. “SoMo” came out of “conversations about how we can bring more traffic down there,” she said.

The name plays off New York City’s SoHo and the South End’s SoWa. It was brainstormed last month by Karen McCormack and her sister Michelle, who runs an Internet marketing business called LoveTheCool Strategy. They floated the name on Michelle McCormack’s Facebook page, “Secret Boston.”

“I’ve taken it a step further,” said Karen McCormack, who has met with local businesses about possibly doing collective marketing under the SoMo name and “really pump up this area.” McCormack and Scanlan already slipped the term into an advertisement that appeared in the May 27 Gazette. McCormack also debuted a SoMo website (www.wix.com/somojp/somojp) and Facebook page.

South Street is home to many longtime businesses, such as the Fresh Hair salon and Ferris Wheels Bike Shop. But it has also seen a recent influx of new ventures, including the Hallway Gallery. McCormack & Scanlan joined the scene in recent years.

“Most of us like the name SoMo,” said Fresh Hair owner Joy Silverstein, who has met with McCormack & Scanlan about the collective effort.

“I think it’s a cool little name for our district. I like the humor of it,” said Ferris Wheels owner Jeffrey Ferris, describing “SoMo” as tongue-in-cheek.

Early response from the outer world has been cooler. A poll on SoMo’s Facebook page last week showed a handful of voters preferring no nickname at all, and “SoMo” tied with “The Culture Gauntlet” and “Artists Row.”

After the Gazette website first reported the “SoMo” name two weeks ago, online comments have been largely satirical. One suggested “UhOh.”

“SoMo” refers to South Street’s start at the Soldier’s Monument in Monument Square. McCormack noted that the Monument has always been a central JP spot. It’s also an easier place to invent a name around than the opposite end of South Street at Forest Hills T Station. That could have resulted in “north of Forest Hills”—or “NoFh,” McCormack joked.

“SoMo” extends from the Monument at least as far as the McCormack & Scanlan building at 68 South St., but may end up going much farther down the street to encompass such places as A Far Cry orchestra.

Promotion is the main goal, rather than forming a formal business association, McCormack said. It is starting small, with an email list in the works, Silverstein said.

Real estate companies are notorious for inventing showy neighborhood names as house-marketing tactics, McCormack acknowledged. “I’ll go back to [business partner Colleen Scanlan] and say, ‘Have you heard this one?’” McCormack said of such trends.

But inventing a name for a business district is something new, and in this case probably won’t benefit McCormack & Scanlan directly because real estate is not much of a walk-in business. The idea, McCormack said, is simply to highlight an energetic street that is often overshadowed by the Centre Street strip.

Right now, the entire Centre and South streets artery is frequently combined in business district references, such as the local JP Centre/South Main Streets organization, which McCormack praised.

“When you say ‘Centre/South,’ it’s no wonder Centre comes first,” she said. “Centre’s so much larger. It’s big Centre and little South.”

But if “SoMo” sticks, little South may sound bigger.

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