Things to Come (and Gone)

I made it to the movies this past weekend to see “The Incredibles 2” with my family. We’ve watched the original many, many, many times — the DVD has been a road tip fixture in each family vehicle. I still remember the first time I saw it in the theater, when it was released.

Britain w/lit tree

The photo above was taken about two years before I saw “The Incredibles.” I apparently packed a Negativland “Copyright Infringement” shirt for my honeymoon, in case you question my credibility.

I honestly can’t imagine how past-me would react if I could visit him now, ambling out of a cavernous AMC multiplex in Columbus, and confront him with these actual facts about the sequel:

  • You’re gonna get three movies starring Owen Wilson as a talking racecar, four more Johnny Depp pirate movies, and twelve movies starring Marvel superheroes out of Disney, before they give you another Incredibles movie
  • They’re gonna start the movie with a short live-action anti-piracy segment featuring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brad Bird assuring you this film was worth waiting fourteen years for
  • They’re gonna be right, it’s a fun movie and the action scenes make the first movie look like a Game Boy game, and it’s well worth the 3-D upcharge
  • Oh yeah, 3-D is back in movie theaters again, though it’s already come and gone at home
  • You will purchase the tickets by touching a glass rectangle that is also your telephone, at four in the morning, and choose your seats in the movie theater like you’re buying concert tickets
  • The seats will be motorized La-Z-Boy styled recliners with discrete armrests
  • You (Britain) will enjoy the film while drinking a zero-calorie version of Coca-Cola that you can still tell the difference between, but it’s close enough, especially if you mix in a couple ounces of regular Coke
  • People are depicted conversing on landline telephones, cars look like sixties cars, and people watch television on picture-tube sets; but there are also flat panel displays and very modern-looking other kinds of vehicles, so I can’t exactly tell when this movie is actually supposed to take place

Anyway, in a nearer, more mundane future, I (and some friends of the site) caught glimpses of some future stuff that’s happening to places I’ve discussed recently.

Front entrance of Target Ann Arbor store. (C) A2RS

While I was obsessively photographing the dramatic changes to the east side Target store, the west side Target was already getting some updates inside the store. The photo counter and Target Mobile section by the front door are now a Customer Service and Order Pickup desk.

Exchanges, refunds, and packs of gum. (C)A2RS

The one checkout lane that was also a customer service desk is now a row of self-checkout stations, as have been appearing in newer Target stores.

A2RS regrets the error.

And how about the store’s tiny, vertical CVS Pharmacy sign, set far away from the store entrance?

“Hey everyone, I’m here too!” (C)A2RS

I believe it’s Target’s attempt to reconcile a contractual signage obligation with CVS, and the shopping center management’s restrictions on exterior signs.

In other news, Meijer stores on both sides of town have decommissioned the belt-drive U-Scan machines, encouraged for shoppers with 12-items-plus orders, and replaced the lanes with a mix of the smaller U-Scan machines intended for U12 orders and staffed checkout lanes.

The shiny new kiosks still run Windows 7. Credit for the crash goes to John, security expert and friend of A2RS

This decision is welcomed by people who view self-checkout as robbing a human of a wage-earning position, this writer included. But to be frank, it’s not an improvement to put more humans at these lanes if they don’t know how to bag groceries. I always group like items on the belt — milk with yogurt, beef with bacon, Dranō with “Mountain Dew Pitch Black.” But I think sometimes the cashiers are taught to place items in the bags to fill them and use fewer bags.

Bags are probably a major consumable expense for grocery stores and this kind of efficiency is probably welcomed in areas where the bags carry a surcharge. Thanks to Lansing, though, Ann Arbor isn’t one of those places, and I swear to you, nary a plastic shopping bag goes to waste in our household. (We have pets, enough said.) Don’t crush my delicate beer with a bag of dinner rolls!

I think this blog was first, and only so far, to report the changes at Speedway on State and Ellsworth. The signs are up all around town at other Speedway stores, looking for employees to staff the new Speedy Cafe. (They may have their work cut out for them.)

“Inventory Low Due to Remodel” at Speedway, State and Ellsworth. Courtesy of Pete.

Late last week I visited the store and encountered employees and contractors hard at work emptying the shelves and racks during the morning drive time. I was too shy to take a photo then, but A2RS friend Pete was not:

Panorama of the emptied, pre-renovation Speedway store, courtesy of Pete. I remember when the Blockbuster Express DVD kiosk was riiight over ☞ there. It was like a Redbox, but it was blue.

At the time these photos were taken last weekend, Pete reports, the store was out of “most pop flavors and all straws.” I haven’t been by since then to see what it’s like now, but apparently the store will stay open throughout the project to sell gasoline and smokes.

“Toys ‘n Kay-Bees: Resurrect Dead Chains,” or “More Blogs about Buildings and Food”

The other day I was so excited about the big Target Reno on Carpenter Road, that I forgot to take note of a couple of other changes there.

Ext. Babies “Backwards R” Us, now closed. (C) A2RS

Babies “R” Us has completed its liquidation sale. Soon its facade will be just as bare as its sister store’s labelscarred front on Washtenaw, as seen below. Some TRU stores in other areas of the United States are expected to remain open until midsummer.

Exterior, Toys “R” Unable To Type The Backwards R On An iPad Keyboard, June 2018. (C)A2RS

TRU Canada will remain in business following its sale to a Canadian bank. The nearest location is in Windsor, across the street from Devonshire Mall, so get your Enhanced Driver’s License ASAP. It’s not too much to pay too late! (I said that wrong.)

On the other hand, it seems possible that Kay-Bee Toys will be back in malls for the holiday shopping season. The IP firm that holds the KB trademark (and has reintroduced Bonkers Fruit Chews and Hydrox Cookies) is hoping to start with 1000 stores across the country this holiday season, then negotiating leases and maintaining the best performers beyond the holiday.

Ext. Mattress Firm & AT&T, Carpenter Road. (C)A2RS

Mattress Firm also showed up in the outlot building where Pier 1 used to be. (This Firm store opened nearly at the same time as its sister store on Eisenhower. That location’s former tenant, Old Carolina BBQ, was one of the first locations I wrote about here.) I don’t know what it is with mattress stores, it seems like a very volatile business always on the verge of being eaten by those foam-mattress companies that ship you one all smooshed up. But I guess if you’re good the rewards are worth it. Like, I don’t know, nearly all businesses.

The AT&T franchise moved out from next-to-Target to that outlot building as well, surprise surprise. I hope this leads to an expansion for Fun4All, purveyor of fine board and card games, among many other items.

Also, up Carpenter Road, UMCU is building a brand new bank branch next door to the Regent Hotel. This is a big improvement, because UMCU’s presence on the east side has been a little weak. I think they gained a branch in central Ypsilanti when they acquired the EMU Credit Union, and I sometimes use the CU Family Service Center at Glencoe for deposits, when I want to hand my checks and bills to a real person. But it’ll be nice to have a proper branch out this way.

Exterior of Mast Shoes with addition at Westgate Shopping Center. (C)A2RS

Mast Shoes at Westgate is more than doubling in size. It’s nice to see a local, family-owned store expand in a healthy way. I don’t exactly recall what was here before Mast took it over, but I’m pretty sure it was “Hit or Miss” or another women’s chain clothing store. Avenue? Bueller?

The Speedway at State and Ellsworth was looking remarkably spacious today. Many of the shelves (including the Arctic Coke machine) were empty, and most of Speedway’s free-standing waist-level coolers near the checkout line — the ones that say “here’s a couple bottles of Dew and/or a 24oz can of malt liquor, you know, FOR THE ROAD” — were not on the Plano. The clerk told me that the store was about to undergo a renovation, but that the side with the registers would remain open throughout. She also assured me that I would still be able to get to the soda pop fountain.

This Speedway building barely opened a couple of years ago, maybe three at the latest. That development was a refresh of a site Speedway originally took over from Total Petroleum of France decades ago — it doubled the number of pumps and introduced a brand new store building. It’s already very modern by Speedway standards. So I reckon it’s going to get the ready-to-eat selection (like Sheetz and Wawa, popular regional fuel station chains that offer prepared sandwiches) that more Speedways near a highway are starting to get. (EDIT 9:30AM: Confirmed by another clerk!) Examples nearby of this concept include US-23 and M-59 in Hartland; off US-23 in Dundee near Cabela’s; and the Merriman Road Speedway, just across I-94 from Metro Airport.

Finally: guess what, suckers, I have A Source and they told me that the former gas station site on Stadium between Burger King and HotPot Chen — I mean, Ponderosa — is going to be an office building, so I don’t know where you’re gonna get your Kerosene now.

Bullseye

The Target store on Carpenter Road is getting a significant refreshing. It got a minor upgrade a few years ago, to move the electronics to the back of the store and introduce the expanded grocery, but it looks like bigger stuff is happening. Now that I think about it, the roadside signage that was updated over the winter was probably an early clue:

Roadside sign for Target #1285, Ann Arbor East. (C)A2RS

The new sign emphasized the Target logo but lower-cased the name. This is consistent with Target’s current visual identity, but not with anything at the existing Carpenter location. That appears set to change, since a big chunk of the parking lot is now fenced off and filled with shipping containers.

For my money, the coolest use of shipping containers is still Flynn’s house on the dock in the movie “Tron Legacy.” But that’s been covered to death in other blogs, so let’s get back to the retail.

Exterior Entrance, Target #1285. (C)A2RS

That square patch is almost certainly going to be a larger bullseye logo, probably with “Target” below it, as seen in other more recently built Target locations.

Here’s the most exciting prospect: I think this will take advantage of the seldom-used parking in this stretch of the shopping center and become a second entrance to the Target store. Although other markets have had giant-size Target stores with two entrances for years — the closest local example I can think of is the Coolidge Road store in Troy — Target announced a new store concept at a conference a year ago in which one entrance would maintain the typical “come in for three things and walk out with fifty things” that people love about Target, but the other entrance would be a convenience entrance where you can pick up an online order or get just, like, a gallon of milk. The grocery is so far from the current entrance right now that the bananas are 39 cents a pound, but if you pay an extra $20, you can receive a medal and a souvenir moisture-wicking t-shirt.

Next closest Pizza Hut is a block away. (C)A2RS

They’re also doing something with the little food place up front. Hard to say what this will entail, but more recent Target locations in other areas group the Starbucks counter with the ready-to-eat meals counter and also include a seating area with natural light.  Here’s what it looked like before, as seen at a very similar location in Mansfield, Ohio:

Keeping watch over the café

And here’s what a more modern storefront looks like. The windows below the Target sign help bring natural light into the seating area:

Target Indianapolis IN

Detail of the tarp covering the ready-to-eat counter at Target #1285. (C)A2RS

Can we anticipate this here? I think that would be nice. For now, the Starbucks counter remains open in its current spot on the other side of the entrance, and will not close for the day on May 29 as corporate-owned Starbucks stores are slated to do.

That was more than I expected to write about this. I tend to forget than nearly any chain store you ever really liked has a Flickr pool devoted to it and it was good to draw on that for a couple of the Target shots.

The original Ann Arbor Target store, which opened like thirty years ago at Oak Valley Shopping Center on Saline Road, has a new roadside sign that’s JUST THE LOGO with NO LETTERS (sorry, no photo at the moment), so I can’t wait to see how they subvert the common storefront language Oak Valley has had since its inception.

Target Flexible Format, Forest Hills, Queens, NY

Finally, many Ann Arbor downtown dwellers continue to hold out hope that Target will try its flexible-format concept in a space near them. Where is there available space that could hold even this, though?

 

Senioritis Stadium Site Synopsis (2018!!!)

Hey, young world. It’s been an exciting month filled with actually wanting to be outdoors some of the time, and also with speaking at Penguicon. Attendees of the talk learned about the budget for this project (it is smaller than you can possibly imagine) and about some things that inspired me to write this (Found Magazine, Uni Watch, “Stopped. Watched.” from the old Ann Arbor Chronicle). I also performed a reading of the Mcity article with the photo illustrations. And I got a discount on my registration, so all four of us won! Sigh.

Anyway, it’s been quiet here, mainly because of work (you can catch a glimpse on Twitter of what I’m doing when not blogging) but also because I just haven’t seen a lot going on lately, until this week. Let’s take a leisurely drive down Stadium Boulevard — quickly, before football season starts again. We’ll start at Stadium and Packard, where construction has ramped up on the Circle K.

Demolition of Circle K store at Packard and Stadium, January 2018. (C) A2RS

When it closed in November, the signage targeted an April reopening, but we really never got April. We got December, Apruary, and now Maypril. They didn’t even knock the old building down until a couple of weeks into the new year. Now that it’s not freezing every day, they’re putting in a lot of work.

New sheltered pump islands at Circle K site, Packard and Stadium. (C)A2RS

Eight pumps very close to Stadium Boulevard, which frankly is gonna be kind of a hike from the actual building once Apruary is upon us again, and the rain is cold and the air is dark.

You think maybe they’ll stretch an awning or something out to the pump islands? (C)A2RS

The convenience store building is crammed into the corner of the lot near Packard Road and backs up close to the backyards of the houses on Iroquois Street. Hopefully it will not be very lit back there, to reduce light pollution. The new building appears to have a similar footprint to the old building, but will likely be much more efficiently laid out and has a much taller roof than the old store. It also appeared to have a basement, from what I could glimpse when the foundation was dug during the winter.

The Circle K convenience store as seen from Packard Road. Iroquois Street backyards are directly behind this building. (C)A2RS

This Circle K Brand Story video was created by its Quebeçois parent company, the multinational convenience cartel Couche-Tard, and narrated by a pleasant voice of indeterminate origin. It is a lot of fun, if examining every frame of a brand video and imagining what kind of alternate-reality game you would create behind it is your idea of fun. This three-minute motion graphics logo-development video is also pretty interesting, even if I could have summed it up in ten seconds as “we made the K not-puffy, and the orange stripe is from our overseas counterpart’s logo. For the people of the world.” Call me sentimental, but I really hope a new-style Circle K store figures in a time-travel scene in the new-style Bill & Ted movie.

Further down Stadium, another former gas station convenience store site is also seeing new construction. Here’s the old Sunoco (before that, a 76 station with a Hop-In store, if I recall correctly) on Stadium Boulevard. Seen here from the parking lot of its neighbor, Hot Pot Chen restaurant:

Stadium Blvd Sunoco site, leveled, December 2017. (C)A2RS

Here it is this week, with construction in full swing:

Something’s finally going up on this space. Only a couple of tall walls, so far, so it’s difficult to guess right now what this will ultimately be and whether it will have Kerosene and DVD rentals.

They leveled the site but left the sign up, just like Circle K. (C)A2RS

Finally, a reader asked me in person, as readers often do, whether I had any idea what was going into the remaining empty storefronts at Maple Village. I just noticed Tuesday that another retailer has been announced as COMING SOON:

Intersection, North Maple Road and Maple Village shopping center, as seen from Veterans Park. (C)A2RS

COMPUTER, ZOOM IN AND ENHANCE.

It’s… it’s… (C)A2RS

…it’s strip-mall stalwart ULTA BEAUTY?!? People who like funny, streaming-only TV shows may remember the final story arc on Hulu’s “Difficult People,” where the entire block of Dee’s restaurant was targeted to build a giant Sephora. Meanwhile, Ulta has established eyelash caches, bases for foundations, and bulkheads against blackheads on three sides of town so far — Arborland, Eisenhower, and now Maple Village. NO ONE IS READY FOR ULTA.

While I do accept suggestions, postings are mostly based on what I notice as I travel around town on errands and such. I hope and anticipate that more frequent updates will resume as family schedules become increasingly busy and I have to drive more places. I have a couple of trips planned this summer too so there may be a “trip report” or two if I see anything worth posting. As always, thank you for reading.

If you crave more hyper-local reporting and have already finished with Mlive’s articles, don’t forget to check out Edward Vielmetti’s Vacuum, TreeDowntown, and the Michigan Daily.

Join A2RS at Penguicon 2018

Exciting news: I am speaking at Penguicon 2018, in Southfield, MI, at the Westin Southfield-Detroit, on May 4 at 6pm. I am happy to sign printouts of various posts, or the entire website, following the talk and throughout the weekend. Please bring your own printout, I will try to carry pens.

If you happened to make it to Nerd Nite A2 last summer at LIVE, this talk will be similar to that one, but since I am not sharing the evening with two much smarter scientists, I will read an additional post, and pause for questions. (Also, if this is like my last talk at Penguicon a couple of years ago, a few guys in the audience who know more than me will politely correct me throughout the hour… who am I kidding? Nobody knows more than me about A2RS.)

If the time slot seems significant to you, it is because the Penguicon opening ceremonies will be happening in another room at the same time. I implore you to attend my talk instead, and skip the opening ceremonies. In fact, skip the entire event, it peaked a few years ago and has been getting more and more corporate ever since. If you don’t believe me, get there at 4:30 and try to find a good spot for the Penguicon Opening Ceremonies, hosted by Chris Hardwick on the Bud Light Lime Stage*.

Seriously though, come see me at 6pm in the Nicolet Room. And if you can’t make it, check out my slides on the Penguicon web site after the conference.

*this is not actually true

Better The Union U Know

Profile, Michigan Union, April 2018. (C)A2RS

Saturday’s U-M Graduation ceremony brought the end of the Winter 2018 term, and with it, the closure of the Michigan Union for two years of renovation. Although the ground level of the Union was renovated only five years ago, and the first floor’s University Club was closed only a couple of years ago to introduce another franchise to campus, U-M has decided to make sweeping changes to future-proof the Union complex.

North entrance to the Michigan Union. Doesn’t look like much, does it? (C)A2RS

One of the most dramatic plans is to open up this north entrance to the Union. Expect more windows and lots of natural light. This will complement the new LSA Opportunity Hub next door and make the most of Michigan’s six to eight weeks of sunlight each year.

This digital sign was set to a poignant black to commemorate the closing of the Union, totally not turned off to save energy, and why would you even say such a thing? (C)A2RS

They also plan to improve accessibility and eliminate some of the multiple small flights of steps, like the ones you see right after you enter that north entrance. This historic building is riddled with twisty steps and tiny landings that hearken back to a time when everything was designed for bipeds.

Interior entrance to Michigan Union. Only three more stairs to go! (C)A2RS

The sign above the second set of doors at the end of the third set of steps tells the story. The ground floor of the Union, at its close, was host to a Barnes & Noble campus bookstore, a convenience store operated by U-M Dining, the Computer Showcase, a U-M Credit Union Branch, and a passel of quick-service restaurants. Open computer stations ringed the edges of the dining area, although their numbers have dwindled as personal devices have become more common. (Incidentally, the only part of the Union to remain open during this construction is the Union Computing Site, which is actually located in a basement area shared with West Quad.)

Ext. Subway, still serving until the very end, Apr 2018. (C)A2RS

The Subway franchise in the basement of the Michigan Union is the Busiest Subway Restaurant in North America, a title held by the Subway franchise at Michigan State, Notre Dame, UC Irvine, and basically any R1 institution. Go ahead, ask any of them.

Ext. Second Subway Counter, Apr 2018. (C)A2RS

The Second Subway Counter debuted as part of the 2012 Renovation and, if we’re being honest, has seldom been used since. I imagine the stock explanation is that the original counter has been streamlined and optimized to meet increased demand, but honestly, have you seen Wendy’s Twitter?

Ext. Wendy’s, Apr 2018. Note Freestyle machine at right. (C)A2RS

And here she is. A chain based in the heart of Buckeye Country is the only mass-market burger joint in the heart of Ann Arbor. It is a fitting bookend to the heartwarming story of the Columbus Domino’s and could only be more poetic if it turned out Urban Meyer was a partner in the franchise.

Ext. Panda Express gone dark. (C)A2RS

Panda Express premiered following the 2012 reno, but was only the latest in a string of local and franchised “Asian cuisine” takeout concepts within the Union. Previous purveyors of parabolic-pan-fried protein with sweetened sauces and sticky starches included Bangkok II, about which I don’t recall much more; and Magic Wok, which continues to thrive in Northwest Ohio, Downriver, and, uh, Bahrain.

Ahmo’s Gyros, Apr. 2018. (C)A2RS

Ahmo’s is the Issa family’s successful pivot away from convenience stores into dining and is something like a local fixture now. This Ahmo’s location did street tacos on its other counter and I think also offered a fro-yo bar.

Ext. U-Go’s Convenience Store, Apr 2018. (C)A2RS

This U-Go’s used to offer sixty cent fountain refills if you brought your own cup, which was apparently too cheap to last forever. They also had tons of other ready-to-eat snacks and a bulk section. Now that this is gone and By The Pound has moved to South Industrial, People’s Food Co-Op is about the only place you can purchase precisely 1.25 pounds of yogurt pretzels.

Exterior, Barnes & Noble College Bookstore at Michigan Union. (C)A2RS
Ugh, I can see my reflection in the chrome sign stand. I should have shot this more off-center. (C)A2RS
UMCU Branch at Michigan Union. Way back in the day, this was a video arcade. (C)A2RS

UMCU loses a convenient point of presence with the Union’s closure – a full0-service branch right on central campus. Remember when those video teller consoles with the vacuum tubes were gonna be the future of banking? They mounted iPads in front of the video monitors a few years ago, and I haven’t seen them in use in a while at all.

Front entrance for the Computer Showcase at the Union. (C)A2RS

Like several of the other stores mentioned in this article, the Computer Showcase has another location on North Campus. But unlike the others, the Showcase will maintain a presence nearby during construction. The first floor of the Shapiro Library (“The UGLi”) has been fortified with point-of-sale infrastructure and secure storage to host computer and peripheral sales, which makes me kind of glad I don’t work for the Library, because the only thing that would be more fun than a gadget store in my building, would be a gadget store that silently deducts the payments right out of my check.

Display window for U-M Computer Showcase at the Union. Through it you can view the Tech Repair service desk and ITS walk-in support desk. (C)A2RS

That takes care of the Ground Floor – this leaves only two retail establishments upstairs, Starbucks and Au Bon Pain.

Main entrance to Au Bon Pain at Michigan Union. (C)A2RS

I have no idea whether Au Bon Pain is working out for campus. I do know that, since this location opened, the chain has been acquired by Panera Bread, which has had a location at North U and Thayer for years. These two stores seem a little bit close together to me…

Exterior, Starbucks Coffee at Michigan Union. (C)A2RS

…although this Starbucks franchise replaced Amer’s Deli a few years ago and seems to always be working, despite three other locations (State & Liberty, South University Galleria, and Ross School of Business) within two blocks.

I should have gotten a photo of the Billiards Room, I realized this weekend it’s gone for good:

A2RS Predictions:

  • The Union is scheduled to reopen for Winter term 2020, and I expect Wendy’s, Subway, and Starbucks to be back and largely unchanged when it returns.
  • I expect the bookstore to be smaller, with textbooks stored offsite.
  • I’m pretty sure that an unmanned convenience store will be attempted. It could be an Amazon Go or a Market Twenty Four Seven.
  • Jamba Juice, calling it now. Could be a corporate store, might be a franchise operated by Picasso like the one in UHospital.
  • I do not expect the tap room to return to the Union, though that would be pretty cool.

Go ahead, tell me what I screwed up, that’s why I keep the comments turned on.

Buildouts and teardowns at Maple Village

You may recall that English Gardens closed after the holiday season. If you don’t, there’s a lot of stuff about it on Mlive and other reputable sources. My previous article had a number of exterior shots of former Frank’s stores, but A3RS never had a cutaway view… until this weekend:

Checkpoint Frankie… I mean, the English border. (C)A2RS

The fence is there for our protection, but there’s a gap just big enough to squeeze an arm through and shoot a pano:

Click above for a closer look, 1900×644. (C)A2RS

The east portion of the lot is where Hardee’s was when we were young, later Golden Chef. At one point I think this was going to be a Tim Horton’s but that never came to fruition (but Timmy’s isn’t a fruit place, it’s a donut shop — so, it never came to donution?).

East portion of future LA Fitness lot. (C)A2RS
Interior of partially-demolished former English Gardens store at Maple Village. (C)A2RS

Now, maybe you think I anthropomorphize inanimate objects too often — and this too-smart-for-its-own-good computer I’m typing on would probably agree with you — but the Westgate sign popping over the wall like a noisy neighbor in the below shot just slays me every time.

Partially demolished store and west lot of future LA Fitness location at Maple Village. “OHAY GUYZ, IT’S ME WESTGATE. WHATCHA DOOIN?” (C)A2RS

As a freestanding garden center comes down, the site of the former Kmart’s garden center is now being built upon with something else, as though the HomeGoods on Kmart’s site was born with a phantom limb and is now making the curious sensation real:

Exterior of new construction in southwest corner of Maple Village shopping center. (C)A2RS
A close look into the gaping maw of the new construction. (C)A2RS
HomeGoods entrance shown for scale and location cue. (C)A2RS

What do I think is going in here? Well there’s no AT&T store at Maple Village yet and there’s a shopping center on the east side with TWO AT&T stores. So that’s, I would say, a shoo-in.

You know what this shopping center DOES have though? Johnny Leggs is in the house:

Exterior of east outlot building at Maple Village — formerly Radio Shack, formerly the Kmart Tire and Auto Center. (C)A2RS

I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the other outlot building gets a makeover to match the above building’s aesthetic:

Could be a while though. This building contains a number of useful, profitable businesses, and also a GNC. (C)A2RS

This space below — formerly Village Pharmacy — looks ready to put something in. I don’t know what. I would suggest a Kirkland’s, but that’s literally next door already.

Old Navy? There’s a Five Below nearby too, so, synergy, I guess. (C)A2RS

A Secretary of State office and a self-storage complex continue to operate at the back of the shopping center, and Plum Market is well into its second decade up front. One of these days I’ll finish the post I began a while back, about the movie theater that used to be here.

Fourth and Br…iarwood?

The temporary wall is up at the old Pearle. I anticipated an expansion last week, and I was correct. But not the expansion I anticipated. The Apple Store will still be minuscule. Instead, it’s the neighbor on the other side, the M Den, that’s expanding.

“Hail to Style.” Victors Collection coming soon, Briarwood Mall. (C)A2RS

If you’ve visited the flagship M Den on State Street, you have probably wandered into its upscale storefront, The Victors Collection. Maybe even on purpose. Victors eschews Jordan, Champion, and the other mass-market sportswear brands that the M Den moves, to stock business-casual and semi-formal apparel with the block M, along with Wall Street-y specialty items like a ballcap with both the Block-M and the New York Yankees logos. So basically the aesthetic I hope to maintain once I get the big check, and A2RS joins Maxim Magazine and Steak-N-Shake in the Biglari portfolio.

Empty building at Stadium and Main. (C)A2RS

Speaking of spiritwear,  the corner across from the Big House is still open and seems like an obvious choice for a U-M apparel shop to me…

SiteA2RS SpeculationWhat It Became
The Thing at State and Ellsworth Behind Jimmy John'sQuizno's, Hair Salon, Vape ShopEmpty
Pearle Vision, BriarwoodApple StoreVictors Collection
Hyatt Place Outlot BuildingDrive Thru restaurantEmpty
Babies-R-Us OutlotNot fast-food Aspen Dental and an AT&T Wireless dealer

But I wouldn’t bet on A2RS’ predictions. Anyway, this site was previously a Sprint authorized retailer. Before that it was an art studio that hosted parties, and before that it was Schneider’s Amoco:

“Schneider’s Standard Service, 1974.” Ann Arbor District Library (CC BY-NC-SA).

(…who later dropped the gasoline sales and became Schneider’s Party Store, where I bought glass bottles of soda while waiting for my transfer school-bus home.)

Speaking of things that have sat empty for a long time, the Burger Fi restaurant on the ground floor of University Towers is still preserved in time and now there’s an investigative podcast about it. It’s called BurgerFIND, it’s produced by a group of U-M students who still mourn its closing, and it’s a lot like “Missing Richard Simmons,” only this time, THE HOSTS are the ones who wear pajamas in the daytime.

Exterior of Aunt Agatha’s Mystery & Crime Book Shop. (C)A2RS

Speaking of mysteries, Aunt Agatha’s recently announced its closure at the end of the summer. They are offloading their inventory and moving online. They are closing up in the face of downloads. They are selling The Big Sleep from a storefront that never closes.

Unique stores like this help us feel better about our community and we are sorry to see them go. At least it isn’t sudden, they will be around through Art Fair, the union electricians’ training, and I think the union plumbers/pipe-fitters’ training too. I would love to see the pipe-fitters/mystery buffs Venn diagram.

Speaking of bookstores, there is a new used bookstore opening on Ellsworth. This isn’t exactly Ann Arbor, but enough friends of the blog have commented on this (and also I recently did a post about Utah, so clearly I don’t care that much) that I want to mention Think Outside The Books, which also offers games, collectibles, and many photos like this one below, which together document the store’s genesis from the shell of a Blockbuster.

Speaking of busted blocks, here’s Fourth Avenue between Washington and Liberty, where only the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase is able to thrive.

Fourth Avenue north of Liberty, facing west. (C)A2RS

Speaking of nightlife, there’s a DJ coming to Packard and Platt. DJ Bakery. That’s literally all I know right now.

Exterior of “DJ Bakery,” coming soon. (C)A2RS

This site was most recently a dealer of leaf guards for residential gutters. Before that, it was a laundromat and Craft Appliance, a beloved, locally-owned appliance store.

Speaking of local craft, Lucky’s Market has a bar with four or five local or regionally-brewed beers for $2 a pint every day ($1.50 on Thursdays).

Lagunitas Pils glass at Lucky’s Market. (C)A2RS

They also sell slices of pizza, and other various hot entrees on different days. The deli section of Lucky’s is not exactly Bill’s-Beer-Garden level ambience, but you can’t beat the price, and you can actually hold a conversation in there, unlike many popular watering holes.

These are beer tanks… right? (C)A2RS

Speaking of watering holes, back to Fourth Street for a second. Here’s a look inside the window of the ground floor of Courthouse Square Senior Apartments, formerly the Ann Arbor Inn. Looks like fresh beer is coming. Hopefully this will raise the boats of extant Arbor Brewing, Haymaker, and Blue Tractor, all nearby.

Transitions; Lenses

Spotted at Briarwood the other morning (Starbucks opens hours before the rest of the mall): the longtime Pearle Vision store has closed in the JC Penney corridor.

I bet someone at Apple Retail is figuring out how to expand the store into the empty Pearle and that firehose hallway right now. “Annex the firehose” is the 2018 version of “just make it thinner.” (C)A2RS

If you have read this site for a bit you probably figure this is in anticipation of their move out to State and Ellsworth. but But BUT:

A site for sore eyes, hot-cha-cha-cha (C)A2RS

This location is right in center court. If you had a good arm you could probably throw a rock from the old location, skip the rock off the roof of the Starbucks, and hit the new one. What does this mean?

I have driven past that State and Ellsworth shopping center recently, and it appears complete from the exterior but still unbranded. Maybe Pearle backed out in favor of this new mall space (this was a jewelry shop, a Body Shop, a wireless accessory store, and I think a fancy sock store, at various points in recent history). Maybe Pearle is going to have two locations, one in the mall and one outside the mall. Pearle is but one of many brands of the world’s largest eyewear firm, one with several other retail locations already in Briarwood. (And it’s not like people’s eyes are getting better or anything. Although Wired has to make up their minds.)

The Michigan Union is closing for two years for a dramatic renovation, only five years after the downstairs MUG food court was renovated and less than that since the University Club buffet restaurant was closed and Au Bon Pain opened in its first-floor space. During the MUG closure a few years back, we came to depend on the Wendy’s location in the Michigan League for our Frosties.

What will we do now that the Union is closed again?

Get a mylar balloon, I guess. (C)A2RS

Immediately after Wendy’s closed a couple of years ago, the spot became a guest restaurant counter with a different area restaurant (Palm Palace, Satchel’s BBQ, Jamaican Jerk Pit, etc.) each day. Now it is the offices of SORC, the Student Organizations Resource Center, offering support to student groups and societies, apparently including decorative favors.

The guest-restaurant concept continues at the adjacent counter, which used to be the fabled Michigan League Taco Bell. (Don’t miss this guide to healthy Taco Bell items {PDF} that someone at MHealthy was at one time compelled to create.) You can see the guestarant’s menuboard as a digital sign on the wall adjacent to the counter — today it was Ray’s Red Hots.

Across town, the old Creekside Grill on Jackson Road is open — or about to open — as The Standard, a bistro-y kind of place with a chef who came from Zingerman’s.

Just your Standard windshield shot. (C)A2RS

As I understand it, this restaurant is owned by the same group that runs The Sports Bar, down Jackson at Zeeb Road. A long time ago this was a bar called Paul Bunyan’s — after that it was Banfield’s Westside, a second location for the longtime South Packard gathering place.

The Sports Bar owners kept the excellent neon “Westside” sign all these years, but I have heard rumors — RUMORS, MIND YOU — that the Westside is destined to fall to make way for a major chain fueling station. On the one hand it seems like a great idea — this is the closest spot to access 94 East, much closer than either the Meijer or the Citgo a block or so west of Zeeb on Jackson Road. (The Meijer in particular is set back from the road and takes a little more getting-to than other Meijer gas stations in town.) But on the other hand, it’s gonna be a drag getting out of there.

Basically the only way is to go west on Jackson, then turn around in front of Meijer and go east on Jackson, then cross Zeeb, then turn around at Weingartz and go west on Jackson again, then turn right onto Zeeb to get back to 94.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Carpenter and Packard Speedway has a similarly byzantine traffic pattern, enforced by concrete dividers that prevent you from turning left onto either street at its intersection. After stopping at the Carpenter Speedway, I usually turn right onto Carpenter, drive into the Kroger parking lot, then come back out of the Kroger parking lot at its traffic light so I can turn left onto Carpenter. A little piece of my soul dies every time I do this, so I try not to stop at that Speedway unless I’m not on my way home.

If you made it this far, congratulations. Here is a photo of the Jamba Juice counter at University Hospital. Although operated by a franchisee and nearly inaccessible unless you’re walking between buildings at UHosp, this is the only place you can get an actual Jamba Juice smoothie in Ann Arbor.

I have never had a Jamba Juice, I only talk about it here because everywhere else seems to have them. (C)A2RS

Also, Vogel’s Locks closed on Washington Street last week. Sounds like they were nice folks who stayed there as long as they did because they owned their building, and probably got an offer from Dr. Lasik or Smashburger or something that they couldn’t refuse.

I never went there. (I can’t afford to live in Ann Arbor and shop downtown very often, apart from catching a bus to central campus from my office. Parking is a nontrivial expense for me, and there are only so many hours in the day you can park in bank parking lots after they close.) But many friends of the blog mentioned it to me, so here it is.

First Day of Spring (observed)

Here’s the scene in front of the Packard Dairy Queen at 9:40pm on Wednesday night, March 20. The store officially closed forty minutes ago and its signs are turned off, but is apparently serving a dozen or so people still standing outside in sub-freezing weather waiting for a free soft serve cone.

You people are nuts*, and I appreciate you.

*nuts not included in free cone offer