Making fun of someone's name is childish at best, but you can't really hide the fact that Gottschalks (NYSE:GOT) doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Investors in the California regional department store company, however, didn't mind a little gutturality yesterday: Their company's shares rose nearly 9% in Wednesday trading following upbeat fiscal second-quarter (ended July 31) financial results news.

Investors were happy because the company reported net income of $350,000 -- break-even on a per-share basis -- up from $25,000 a year ago. Six-month net losses, meanwhile, fell substantially year over year. Same-store sales are up slightly year to date, while revenues are about flat, even as Gottschalks is operating substantially fewer stores than it was a year ago.

Gottschalks hasn't exactly been wowin' 'em in recent years. In a market environment during which department stores such as May (NYSE:MAY), Federated (NYSE:FD), and J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) have struggled to maintain market share amid competition from discounters such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), warehousers such as Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and segment powerhouses such as Gap (NYSE:GPS), and Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) -- and compounded by general economic uncertainty -- the company has seen full-year revenues and gross profits slump in recent years.

Minimal capital expenditures and under-control debt have kept the company solid financially, however. And management now appears to be turning its eye to careful inventory management, with its CEO indicating that he was OK with sacrificing some gross margin in favor of markdowns and lower inventory levels -- seemingly a logical strategy with sales growth hard to come by, especially in the traditionally challenging first half.

Besides treading water, meanwhile, the company is testing a new store concept highlighting upscale brands. Given all this, perhaps it's no surprise that Gottschalks has quietly crushed the S&P 500 over the last 12 months.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.