Mahalo Aloha to Urban Outfitters (or, “a2retail.scooped/by/Mark-Maynard”)

UPDATE: Russ Collins, Executive Director and CEO of the Michigan Theater Foundation, believes reports of UO’s departure are exaggerated. His post below:

MTF owns the State Theater upstairs, so Russ has particular insight. He can’t be talking about me, of course — nothing about this site should be construed as journalism — but I stand by the historical portions of my post. Please continue to treat the world-burrito-shops part as speculation. Thank you for reading, A2R.S

Wednesday night, news that Urban Outfitters is leaving State Street after about a zillion years hit the streets, from, of all places, Ypresario Mark Maynard.

I consider this a seismic shift for State Street retail. UO’s space was originally the main floor of the State Theater, a single-giant-screen movie palace built in the early forties, then converted to four screens in the late seventies. (If inside the store, I believe, the giant “URBAN” logo on the back wall is where the big screen used to be.)

Although the ground floor was completely renovated for Urban Outfitters’ opening in the early 90s, the two upstairs theaters were left as-was, and were reopened by Aloha Entertainment as a second-run bargain theater in the 90s.

“Billie Spurlin, renovating the State Theater, September 1992.” (C) The Ann Arbor News.

A few years later they pivoted to more Michigan-Theateresque indie and arthouse fare. I caught “Clerks,” “Kids,” and “The Blair Witch Project” here during their original releases. Those are the first three that come to mind. Finally, they joined the Michigan Theater Foundation and became part of their programming schedule, with additional classic midnight-movie selections.

The State is presently closed for renovation to make it ability-friendly and to restore its original 40s look. I kind of hope they fix it so you don’t have to look slightly to the left at the screen all the time.

Urban Outfitters’ space might be the first in a while big enough to open one of those too-small mini Target stores with no selection, but I can’t imagine how they will manage the deliveries. Apple could make it work, but Briarwood will never let them leave. I predict that it will be divided into at least two storefronts, and each space will be a different regional-cuisine take on the burrito or wrap sandwich. State Street doesn’t have enough sandwich places.

There’s always the possibility these days that U-M or a dot-com will take it for office space too. But I’m still betting on the sandwich places.

It is well worth your time to click through to Mark Maynard’s post, he and his commenters ask some great questions about what’s going to happen to local retail. In general, I predict a continuing shift to services and experiences, the kind of things you can’t get in a box that comes tomorrow from Amazon — though I still think a little Target store will come here eventually, for students who enjoy the shopping experience as well as the unprepared who can’t wait for Prime.

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