Granville’s Name Change

History, Iconic Communities, On the Road
on November 28, 2004

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently. At least that’s what a North Dakota town discovered when it adopted the unlikely name of McGillicuddy City a few years ago.

When residents of Granville (pop. 286) decided to name the town after a brand of beverages in 1998, they did it only to get money enough to build a community center. But the decision has proven far more rewarding than townspeople anticipated.

“It put us on the map,” says Allen Gotvaslee, a local farmer and member of the Granville Area Economic Development Corp. “Suddenly we were national and international news. It brought new people into town and generated a lot of excitement. It’s revived our town.”

Community leaders were looking for ways to strengthen Granville’s economy and foster new business when Wendy Rollman, a volunteer grant writer who lived in Granville at the time, stumbled across a contest sponsored by Sazerac Corp., a New Orleans-based distributor of Dr. McGillicuddy’s schnapps and root beer.

Sazerac was looking for a sparsely populated town typically blanketed in snow six months a year—because schnapps is preferred in cold, snowy climates, according to Sazerac—willing to temporarily rename itself after the fictional Dr. Aloysius Percival McGillicuddy, the made-up inventor of two varieties of schnapps and a root beer. In return, the winning town would receive $100,000 in $25,000 installments over the four years it kept its adopted name.

Rules also required towns entering the contest to have lodging accommodations and a bar willing to change its name to Shady Eye Saloon, the reputed name of Dr. McGillicuddy’s favorite haunt.

Granville qualified when Lucille Loftesnes, who had toyed with the idea of opening a bed and breakfast at her farm south of town, decided the time was right—and owners of the Branding Iron Saloon on Main Street adopted the required name and began serving McGillicuddy products.

“We hadn’t even heard of McGillicuddy schnapps until we brought it into town,” Gotvaslee recalls. At the time, the only place the brand was sold in North Dakota was in Fargo, 280 miles away.

When Granville won the contest, the community embraced the name change. “A lot of good things have happened,” says former Mayor Hilman Ulland. “We put in a rodeo grounds, RV hookups and two new buildings in the park. Some of the town’s organizations raised money for those things. The name change got us going.”

“Everyone got into the spirit, and we’ve really had fun with it,” adds Cora Mae Shipman, a lifelong Granville resident who has created recipes for home-baked goods flavored with McGillicuddy schnapps.

The name change also spurred an annual celebration known as McGillicuddy Days. The July celebration features a parade, live entertainment, church service and a team roping competition.

“I think the most interesting part of all of this is the people we’ve met because of it,” says Loftesnes, owner of Carver Lake Lodge, whose guests have included a Baltimore, Md., couple with the last name of McGillicuddy.

The McGillicuddys, who were scouting McGillicuddy City as a possible site for a future family reunion, suggested residents retain the town name because there is only one McGillicuddy City, while the nation has a dozen Granvilles.

Many townspeople agree, and many have grown fond of the town’s adopted moniker. “We like the McGillicuddy name and what it’s done for us,” says LaDona Malachowski, a lifelong resident. “If we can keep it, we will.”

Although the contest ended years ago, the town still proudly displays its McGillicuddy City USA sign. Residents seem content to keep the sign, along with their new community center.