- Mustang Daily
Victoria Billings – Mustang Daily

Students who dream of leaving a lasting mark on Cal Poly’s campus, or owning a Vespa, will have their chance through Cal Poly Corporation’s contest to pick a new name for El Corral Bookstore.

El Corral, originally named for the horse corrals on campus, has now shifted its purpose, and the corporation is looking for a name to reflect that, interim director of El Corral Philip Davis said.

“We’re becoming less of a bookstore in terms of what we do and more of a general retailer in terms of what we do,” Davis said.

The store still sells textbooks, but now sees most of the revenue coming from school supplies and Cal Poly-branded apparel and gifts, making the “bookstore” title inaccurate, Davis said.

Cal Poly Corporation is also looking for a name that focuses less on the school’s agricultural origins and more on its current polytechnic vision, Davis said.

When El Corral was named in 1933, the campus was predominantly an agricultural school. Now, Cal Poly is known for engineering, architecture and science as well as agriculture, and the store should include that, he said.

“It would be nice to have a name that more clearly ties us in with the university,” Davis said. “(As) in a broader sense of what we do.”

The name contest comes after the former El Corral director retired in January, and Davis took the interim position. El Corral management wanted to redirect and reorganize the store’s direction.

“We’re promoting a sense of university and spirit, and it would be nice if the name is in sync with that,” Davis said.

El Corral chose a contest for the new name to involve the student body and ensure the name fit the campus well, said Yukie Nishinaga, marketing and public relations manager for Cal Poly Corporation.

More than 1,000 people entered last year’s contest to rename campus pizza restaurant Ciao!, and Nishinaga is hoping for a similar turnout.

“When we make these decisions, we want to do it collectively without customers,” Nishinaga said. “We really want the campus community to be a part of this process because it is their store.”

The student who submits the winning name will be awarded a Vespa Piaggio scooter, which is currently on display in the window of El Corral.

Cal Poly Corporation partnered with SLO Vespa, a local scooter store, to offer the prize, Nishinaga said.

“We wanted to run this contest, and we wanted to provide an exciting prize to the winner,” she said.

Some students have already noticed the Vespa in the window of El Corral, and considered names, though it’s harder than it seems, computer science freshman Timothy Vo said.

“I actually thought about (entering), but I didn’t think of a name,” Vo said.

Vo said he didn’t think the name El Corral needed much changing, except for dropping the “El.”

Other students, though, agree with Davis that the El Corral name is outdated.

Child development sophomore Natalie Neach said El Corral Bookstore no longer makes sense on Cal Poly’s campus.

“It doesn’t resemble Cal Poly,” Neach said. “It has nothing to do with it.”

A better name would tie in Cal Poly’s Mustang mascot or the school’s polytechnic focus, Neach said.

The contest runs from March 26 through April 15. After that, a committee of students, staff and El Corral will be assembled to select the best name.

The winning suggestion will be announced after several weeks, but there is no definite date.

“Because this is a bigger renaming process, it may take two to four weeks,” Nishinaga said.

Students can enter their name suggestions via email at renameelcorral@calpoly.edu.

Join the Conversation


  1. This suggested change is clearly a case of a new person (Phillip Davis) taking over a new assignment and wanting to put his mark on something despite the fact that consumers haven’t requested such a change. Essentially, it’s making a change simply to make a change.

    When deciding to casually discard something that’s been around for 80+ years, one should ask a couple of basic questions:

    1. Is the brand association communicated by the present name inappropriate, disparaging or inconsistent with Cal Poly and its history?

    2. Does the present name confuse consumers or misrepresent the products and services offered?

    3. Does the current name possess any brand equity as it relates to brand awareness with consumers, and what will be lost as a result of a change?

    4. What is the end-result the Cal Poly Corporation hopes to achieve with a name change (e.g. does the organization expect to increase product sales and therefore revenues and profits due to the change?)

    In response to question #1, the name El Corral supports California’s rich Spanish heritage and it is completely consistent with Cal Poly’s Mustang mascot. Therefore, the name presents no problem when tested against this dimension.

    In terms of misrepresenting the products or services offered, it’s the use of term “bookstore” that may be moderately misleading in today’s marketplace. The name El Corral has no influence when tested against this criteria.

    Regarding brand awareness, tens of thousands of Cal Poly students, alums and friends have come to know the name El Corral for generations. As a result, absolutely nothing is to be gained by making a name change and it is likely much will be lost.

    Finally, in terms of defining an end result from the change, has one been identified? What’s more, does the Cal Poly Corporation really believe that a name change will attract more consumers or improve the financial performance of the organization?

    At the end of the day, revenues may be down at El Corral for several reasons. First, the product mix, specifically the apparel offered is inconsistent with needs of the consumers. That may be a problem with the bookstore’s buyer not the store’s name. Second, the bookstore is losing sales to the Internet and other channels now that the El Corral Bookstore has lost the exclusive rights to sell Cal Poly branded apparel. Again, a name change will not correct this.

    In summary, Mr. Davis would do well to test consumers first before pushing an unsubstantiated agenda and casually tossing away a well-known piece of the University’s history. That’s where good marketing and branding strategy always begins.

    R.J. Murray
    Cal Poly ’80
    Murray Brand Communications, Inc.

  2. The name “El Corral” has a lot of history behind it. When I was a student in the late 1950’s, El Corral was located in the basement of the old Administration Building, which is now the Cochett Education Building. It included a snackbar where we had coffee dates with potential girl friends. They had hamburgers too. It was always a fun place to go to hang out. They relocated the snackbar to the new dining hall complex in 1960, where on Wednesday evenings a country-western dance was held on the patio with great music by the ag. student band, “The Cider Sippers”. The bookstore was relocated to the new Dexter Library addition on the first floor west side. I really hope you will keep the name “El Corral” for Cal Poly’s great history since 1903. You might change the name of the bookstore to “El Corral General Store”, which would cover the new nature of the store and retain the spirit of the Old West and the cattle and horse ranches that used to dominate the area from the time of the Missions. An Old West decor could also be used to style the store, and make it unique, along with a rearing mustang. This could make the El Corral more special. I hope you will consider it. Don’t destroy history.

  3. In response to the comment that El Corral does not relate to Cal Poly or our mascot – a corral is an enclosed arena that is often used as an area to run/exercise/show or house horses, including mustangs. So it’s pretty relevant.

    Also a new name wont change anything. The names of the on campus dining facilities keep changing, and the food remains over priced and undesirable. Same thing will happen at the bookstore. Focus should be on creating better deals for students so we can actually afford to support our school and not turn elsewhere for more reasonable pricing.

  4. I’m surprised that with all I hear going on with higher education that a priority for Cal Poly and specifically the Cal Poly Corporation is to rebrand one of the oldest and most recognizable names at Cal Poly.

    When I went to Cal Poly, I had the time of my life. I truly believe that Cal Poly is the best place to go to school. Since my graduation, I have given back however I can to support Cal Poly so that other students could have the same great experiences I had. In fact, every year since my graduation in 1984, I’ve donated money to Cal Poly. And it feels like every year, Cal Poly is always trying to change something about itself. Sometimes the change is good, but often I believe it takes away from the Cal Poly I knew and loved. But I’ve quietly dealt with all these changes until now.

    El Corral is not some “aggie” term named after having horses in a corral, it is named after our mascot, the Mustang, and where the students (the Mustangs) would go at least once for supplies, spirit gear, etc. I have no agricultural background and graduated from Cal Poly as an engineer and I find no problem with the current name whatsoever. Saying that the name is associated with agriculture and should be changed since the school is no longer just an agricultural school and using this as a reason for the change is one of the poorest excuses I have ever heard.

    As you said Mr. Davis, “We’re promoting a sense of university and spirit, and it would be nice if the name is in sync with that.” Changing something that all current and former students can connect with and relate to is the exact opposite of what you state you’re trying to do. If you really think something needs changing, then just drop the “bookstore” portion, simple as that.

    So, I truly implore you to end this renaming nonsense. If you are reading this President Armstrong, please stop us from losing such a prominent part of our history and heritage. To the Cal Poly Corporation, this is on you. I’ll say this, if the El Corral name is changed, you will never get another dime out of me. And I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of alumni that would agree with me.

  5. In marketing classes, Cal Poly professors regularly emphasize studying the competitive landscape as a primary step to implementing a change in positioning or messaging.

    Perhaps Phillip Davis should take a class based on the following info that is easily found on the web:

    Stanford – The Stanford University Bookstore
    Cal – The Cal Student Store
    Harvard – The Harvard Bookstore (since 1932)
    USC – The USC Bookstores
    UC Irvine – The UC Irvine Bookstore
    UCLA – The UCLA Store
    UC Davis – The UC Davis Bookstore
    Cal Tech – The Cal Tech Bookstore
    Fresno State – The Kennel
    UCSB – The UCSB Bookstore
    San Diego State – The SDSU Bookstore
    Hawaii – The Univ. of Hawaii Manoa Bookstore

    Is the term bookstore a thing of the past? Doesn’t seem so.

    Mr. Davis, may I suggest a couple of classes at the Orfalea College of Business?

    Leave the El Corral name and history alone and then do some homework!

    1. Realize that following the norm is not in the spirit of Cal Poly, we are trail blazers, entrepenuers and radicals. Please see that the contest a great business endeavor and stop discriminating on Mr. Davis, he is doing good work, all in the spirit of California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, or Cal Poly as it has come to be known.

      1. It’s safe to say nobody’s buying your positions Austin. When 14 of 15 posts disagree with you, you might just be on the wrong side of the issue.

        Rick’s comments above tell the entire story. The word bookstore is still used at every major university in the state. That alone confirms how off base and ill conceived this whole plan is.

        This whole thing was never researched with students or alums. It’s all just the musing of a poorly informed “acting” department head looking to make a change in hopes of making a name for himself.

        Read the writing on the wall and have some respect for tradition.

  6. Since the last contest yielded the name “Ciao” for the pizza place, I’m sure the Corporation will select a name for the bookstore that would fit right in a suburban shopping mall.

    The University has comparatively few traditions that have lasted a meaningful amount of time, let’s not abandon yet another.

    Just drop the term “bookstore” and call it simply “El Corral”.

  7. El Corral is a tradition, let’s keep the name and focus our energies on things that provide value. Drop the bookstore extension if you must. Clearly the main reason why El Corral is primarily selling supplies and clothing now is the internet. My daughter is a recent grad of Cal Poly. She and her friends regularly ordered their books from Amazon. It boiled down to a simple cost equation. I don’t blame the bookstore for this….it’s merely a sign of the times. I am sure other on-campus bookstores have the same dilemma…..but it doesn’t seem to bother them.

  8. Honestly, I don’t really see the point of renaming the bookstore. The thing is, part of going to a college is being part of that colleges history. It’s sharing a common experience with other alumni, so that even if you are generations apart, you have some similarities in your college stories.

    Personally I think it’s sad that the college wants to keep shoving all the history under the carpet and renaming everything. Backstage was named BackStage because it literally used to be that. If you go behind the stage portion in Chumash, you can see where they used to have it at. The old kitchen back there is totally wasted space full of carts of glasses now. It’s pretty ridiculous that they don’t utilize what they have.

    El Corral has been named that a long, long time, and it irks me that Poly Corporation wants to pretend it’s not an “Ag” school. Guess what? this whole entire area was founded with Rancheros. I find it typical that the upper class white management would want to continue to white wash the history of this school and take away any references to non white groups by changing the name of the bookstore. As a local, I’m offended that this person thinks they can just march in and change the name and it’s all good because they’re just being trendy! Don’t you want a COOL name!

    They’re creating a “problem” where one does not exist. The current name is fine. If you want to do anything, call it Mustang Corral, or something along those lines instead of just making it some stupid contest.

  9. This really feels like a case of a solution looking for a problem. As the other commenters have pointed out, the name El Corral has relevance and a tradition that shouldn’t be trivialized. It resonates with alumni and current students both, and that isn’t an easy thing to do. The name El Corral should remain. Poly Coroporation should be spending your precious resources on things that a) bring real value to the student body and the campus, and b) better utilize what is currently there, without simply discarding it because it’s “old”. Please drop this campaign now. The number of negative responses alone should tell you something. There are probably a hundred people thinking the same thing for every person who has responded online.

  10. I am responding to this, article, due to the web based comment posted in the Daily Mustang. I am a current student at Cal Poly, and regarding the renaming of the Bookstore; many students and also many of my own peers agree that we need an updated name. Not because it is dated but simply because we recognize the need to have a name that shows how much the Bookstore offers, simply taking out Bookstore will fail to serve the purpose of renaming such a place.
    Humans are always resistant to change, but this change will not diminish the quality or the Pride that the Bookstore exudes. The contest actually was created to help increase the pride we students have in this day and age, and what better way to do so, than to have a part in renaming our beloved Bookstore. The very contest holds pride, and the fact that many people are resistant to change should leave them asking themselves; Does this contest really takes away from our campus or does it in actuallity add something new?
    I would like to encourage those reading this and all alumni to remember that in this world, things change. Remember how the Mustang Daily used to be called El Mustang? In my mind this renaming is the same sort of update we placed onto the very newspaper you are reading. Please see the positive aspect of this and cease hating on the very contest which will link many students current and graduated to something they can all love, be proud of and hold as their own for generations to come.

    1. I want to add that my comment and all my replies were written in the utmost respect for my alumni, I simply was disturbed at the fact that individuals would create comments that did not support or were constructive to the loving, encompassing spirit which is our University.

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