BRAD BARNES: Lessons in marketing

Let's just meet at The Market, downtown." Sounds like a pretty straightforward plan, right?

But not so fast. An already murky downtown name game has gotten even muddier.

See, for years there's been the City Market, at 1031 Broadway. It began as a small convenience store and grocery.

Then, late in 2006, Aramark opened the Market on Broadway, at 1009 Broadway — just a few doors down from the other market. It’s a convenience store, deli and kitchen with cafeteria-style hot food.

The folks at the other Market, the City Market, saw direct competition and broadened their offerings. So they started selling deli sandwiches, cookies and other fresh-baked goods in addition to the convenience store stuff.

Then, two weeks ago, a restaurant called The Market opened at 1037 First Avenue, a block east of the other two Markets. This was no Market-Come-Lately, though. It was a new location of a seafood restaurant called The Market that had been minding its own business on 17th Avenue, near Manchester Expressway, for years. When its owners got a chance to open in a bigger, nicer space downtown, they were lured by more seating, the lure of lots of business on the nights of RiverCenter and Springer shows, and all that.

Let’s not forget that on Saturday mornings Uptown Columbus has been convincing regional farmers to bring their fresh produce to sell in booths on the 1000 block of Broadway. What do they call it?

Market Days.

Of course, most folks simply say they’re, um, “going to the market.”

Maybe all of this is why some people have taken to calling the seafood restaurant the “Fish Market” — to differentiate it. But that can lead to a whole ’nother state of confusion. Literally. Most folks who’ve lived in the West know The Fish Market as a chain of great seafood restaurants in California and Arizona.

It’s confusing, alright.

It makes you wish these guys had done a little more careful marketing.

Already, many downtown bars do little more than compete for the same cover bands each week. Does that same lack of creativity have to invade even the names of the eateries?

Maybe I’m being too hard on them, though. The City Market shouldn’t have to change, since they were there first. And who could blame the seafood-selling Market for wanting to keep the name that was tied to it as they toiled to become one of Columbus’ best restaurants — a true destination eatery?

But it certainly calls for careful meal planning with friends. Hopefully it won’t mean just avoiding those three stops altogether and just say, “Meet me at Locos.”

Uh, but wait. Is that Locos Grill and Pub, or Locos Amigos Cantina?