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

Washed Away

Where do you get your car washed downtown? Nowhere, anymore. There are barely even gas stations, and those are trying to appeal to foot traffic.

After the coin-operated manual car wash on Liberty closed to make way for more apartments, the Soft Cloth Car Wash on Main Street was the last bastion. But then nearly the whole block, from Madison to Mosley Street got bought to build… yup, more apartments. The Clark station was allowed to stay for some reason, but everything else came down.

The Back Alley Gourmet, By The Pound, Anthony’s Pizza, and San Fu all closed instantly, which eliminated half the lunch options near my office (By the Pound and Anthony’s moved to new locations on South Industrial and Packard Road; the family who owned San Fu retired from the restaurant business; Back Alley Gourmet is now catering-only, I guess). I didn’t manage to get photos of those, but I was walking past the Car Wash one day after it had closed and thought it looked eerie:

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Yes, I took these photos like a year before I started the blog, because I thought I would do… something… with them someday.

Teardown of 111 E. Mosley through its front window, facing Main Street. (C)A2RS

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Timelapse of the 111 E. Mosley teardown as seen from Clark parking lot. (C)A2RS

The construction of the complex is ongoing. Here’s a shot from last summer:

I assume cars go in here. (C)A2RS

On the other hand, the Shell station at William and Main has relaunched as a Mobil station. Here it is forty years ago as “Grapp and Reed’s Amoco:”

“Grapp and Reed’s Amoco, 1975.” AADL (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here it is a little later in color. Remember when service stations fixed cars?

“Amoco station (year unknown).” AADL (CC BY-NC-SA)

See below for when it was a BP, click through to see it as a Shell last year:

The new convenience store does not have a soda fountain, but it does have — get this — beer taps, where you can bring a growler and fill up:

Actually, all of my best miles were Train Hopper miles. (C)A2RS

There are still a few places to get your car repaired downtown, but you pretty much have to get out to Packard or Plymouth to get a shine on it.

A2RS Trip Report: Park City, UT

Until this site achieves its ultimate goal of being acquired by Univision and being folded into a vertical under Deadspin for the storied “dot-com bucks,” I have a career that finances my family’s needs for food, potable water, and lip-dub videos. Sometimes this career sends me to beautiful places with colleagues who are empathetic, but do not know about this blog, and therefore do not understand why Oh My God Look At That 7-Eleven Over There, I Need To Go See It.

This fuel island roof is more sturdy than some entire gas stations in Michigan. (C)A2RS

You may have noticed that although the convenience store is a 7-Eleven, they sell gasoline from Shell Oil and therefore participate in Kroger Fuel Rewards, here known as Smith’s Fuel Rewards. Kroger is based in Columbus, Ohio — actually a suburb of Ann Arbor — but they achieved a nationwide footprint by acquiring many other comparable chains in other regions, like Ralph’s, King Soopers, and Fred Meyer, which is no relation to Frederik Meijer. If you go into any of these I bet you a 2-liter of Big K Cola that it looks just like one of the four Kroger stores in Ann Arbor. This is an easy bet because they will have Big K, no matter what their local name is. They have a consistency of presentation that limits creativity, but is efficient and comforting to travelers.

The sign seems more old-westy to me than ski lodge but whatever. (C)A2RS

Much like Dillon, CO (as reported here last summer), Park City has community standards that result in everything from banks to Walmart pretty much looking like a ski chalet. Gaylord, in the upper lower peninsula of Michigan, is another good example of this phenomenon, as is probably every city with a ski resort in the known universe.

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When you go on a ski vacation, you want a break from feeling, all the time, like you live in a mashup of “Idiocracy” and “Minority Report.” You want to feel like you’re a carefree outdoor adventurer, stepping away from the danger and excitement of skiing or minding the bonfire to run into town for some peanut butter, eggs, and dice. Anything that takes you out of that is reality, infringing on your downtime. So even Mister Goodwrench is gonna have some cedar accents over the big rolly door.

How much for the firelogs? Wooden you like to know? (C)A2RS

The thing you notice first is that this doesn’t look a whole lot like a 7-Eleven on the outside. The green box that squares up the 7 logo is missing, as is the red bars on either side that stretch across the storefront. Probably the most distinctive thing about this 7-Eleven is its foyer, not usually found in 7-Eleven stores. Usually you open one door and you’re in. I imagine it gets cold quickly without one in a windy, elevated place like this.

“We left out the ‘C’ for Cu-wality.” That’s a slogan they can have for free. (C)A2RS

The Big Gulp dispenser in this store does not have flavor syrups. The syrups are in Monin pumps next to the machine. The soft drink station at the professional event I was attending, as well as the fountain at Maverik, a Utah convenience chain comparable to Speedway in Michigan, also had these coffeehouse-style pumps. Is this a regional thing? It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as the Pilot syrup.

Monin syrup pumps by the Big Gulp machine. (C)A2RS

The creamers and extra-caffeine shots all looked slightly inflated. I suspected this was a side effect of the altitude and lower air pressure in Park City.

Bursting with non-dairy goodness. (C)A2RS

I wondered how the snack bags must look, and was not disappointed:

At 7,000 feet above sea level, “Puffs” becomes a verb. (C)A2RS

This station was conveniently located near the Park City bus line, which gets you free to all the nearby resorts as well as to downtown Park City. It’s a short walk up those steps to a Cabriolet, an open-air bucket ride like the Cedar Point Sky Ride, that gets you part of the way up the mountain to Canyons Village, one of several ski resorts on these mountains.

The buses are free, but “Donations encouraged and appreciated.” (C)A2RS

Some other things we discovered about Park City:

You will find the Wasatch Brewery up at the end of this street, and the climb will make you feel like you have EARNED a “Polygamy Porter.” Yes, they went there. (C)A2RS

The downtown area is basically Mackinac Island near the docks, only instead of fudge, there are lots of outerwear stores, and instead of horses, there are cars allowed.

If you idle for longer than sixty seconds, an idle Park City officer will ticket you. (C)A2RS

The city has limits on idling, which you can’t really place on horses, so on balance, I would say it smells a little better than Mackinac Island near the docks.

Park City is perhaps most famous for the annual Sundance film festival, so of course we looked for a movie theater, but there were none to be found. (I think there was a multiplex out on the edge of town.) The only theater we noticed in the downtown area was the Egyptian, a live performance space like The Ark in A2. We asked, and it turns out that during the festival, in January, they turn anything with a wall bigger than a TV into a screening room.

A Park City Library branch. A bunch of people probably watched a movie you really love in here, once. (C)A2RS

I watched “Blade Runner” in a generator-powered screening tent one night during Burning Man a while back, so I assure you that with the right preparation, improvised projection is not a bad way to see a film.

Snowboard tables at a fro-yo stand inside the local Rite Aid. (C)A2RS

Here’s a bonus 7-Eleven nestled in a residential neighborhood. No gasoline at this location and the sign is particularly wordy by 7-Eleven standards, in case you just flew in from Russia, Africa, or Europe and don’t know what a 7-Eleven is:

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But it wasn’t all skis and Slurpees, Park City has the same problems any city has:

(இ﹏இ`。) maeks u cry everytim. (C)A2RS