Oftentimes the structure of incorporated businesses enables details to escape initial notice, as appeared to be the case with a cluster of North Carolina-based mental health facilities incorporated under the questionable name “Nutz R Us.”
Despite its garnering widespread public attention in June 2016, the unpalatable business name wasn’t newly discovered then: a February 2015 letter to the editor of Asheville’s Citizen-Times featured a missive from a local psychiatrist questioning whether her initial findings with respect to the “Nutz R Us” business name were correct:
Question: So, this inquiry comes from a psychiatrist at Broughton Hospital in Morganton, Dr. Suzannah McCuen, who a few weeks back sent us a letter questioning the name choice of a local company. “I learned today that a company in the Buncombe County area whose business it is to provide care facilities for the mentally ill is called Nutz R Us,” McCuen said. “I found that hard to believe and so Googled them and called one of their homes, White Fawn. The woman who answered the phone verified that Nutz R Us is the corporate name. She seemed to think that using a “z” in the spelling mitigated the harm, I suppose, as she pointed that out to me. An online search reveals this company runs several homes in the area. While I am grateful that this company is providing homes for the mentally ill, I find their choice of a company name offensive, to say the least. I am hopeful that some public exposure will convince them to change the company name while still endeavoring to provide much needed services and homes for the mentally ill in Western North Carolina.”
My  answer: I didn’t have much more luck than the good doctor in getting hold of someone with the company.
I left multiple messages in January and last week with the administrator and at the White Fawn home, and I’ve not heard anything back.
I don’t think McCuen is going to let this go. She’s alerted a patient advocacy organization and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Businesses often use colorful parent company names — I know one or two that would not be appropriate for a family newspaper. But this one does seem a bit tin-eared for a mental health provider.
The topic once again came to issue with a 23 June 2016 Carolina Public Press article specifically pertaining to the questionable business name:
Nutz R Us, a Buncombe County company that incorporated under that name in 2008, operates assisted living facilities catering to mentally ill adults.
Multiple officials with state and local public health agencies have told Carolina Public Press that they find the name Nutz R Us appalling.
But they also said they lack the statutory authority to do anything about it.
The parent of a mentally ill adult, whom a court-ordered guardian placed in a Nutz R Us facility, recently contacted CPP with grave concerns about the quality of care there. Some of her concerns appear supported by deficiencies recorded on the facilities’ inspections.
Even so, the homes that Nutz R Us operates are officially licensed and operating according to state law. The inspection deficiencies have led to penalties and a requirement for corrections, rather than an outright threat of more serious state intervention … CPP attempted to ask that very question of Forrestene “Tina” Muckelvene of Asheville, who founded Nutz R Us and continues to be listed the corporation’s registered agent. But she did not respond to a request for an interview prior to this report’s publication.
Carolina Public Press found that while the name considered offensive to a number of people, state agencies were neither legally nor logistically able to require the company to rename itself:
A spokesperson for the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office told CPP recently that nothing about the name violated North Carolina statutes for incorporated companies, despite its obvious offensiveness, given the type of services that the Asheville company provides.
The Secretary of State’s incorporation division doesn’t have the staff to probe too deeply about those seeking to incorporate, even if the law gave it that authority, which it doesn’t … So while Nutz R Us did what was required to operate under that name, this doesn’t mean anyone with the state has vetted the company to see how legitimate its operations as a corporation are. The name may have raised red flags for state officials, but there was nothing they could do about it.
The Carolina Public Press piece dug further into the business practices of Nutz R Us but ultimately did not find any information suggesting that the business intended to change its name. While it appears that the company occasionally contracts with the state of North Carolina, it remains privately held and uninhibited from doing business under its name of choice.