TЯU AWOL И A2

After a holiday season in bankruptcy, Toys Я Us has announced they are closing nearly 200 stores nationwide, bankruptcy court permission pending — including both the Arborland TЯU store and the Babies Я Us on Carpenter Road. (Babies Я Us sells baby clothing, toys, accessories, and furniture, as well as consumables like formula, diapers, and baby food. Once in a while they carry a hot toy with crossover potential, like the Nintendo Wii.)

TЯU promised the footprint consolidation would lead to co-branded stores in some markets, but according to a PDF in the linked article, they are giving up on Ann Arbor entirely. Which is poignant, because TЯU C∃O David Brandon is a Michigan Man:

David Brandon as a Michigan Wolverine in 1973. (C) U-M Athletics
Your author, pictured here in the Brandon Center at U-M. (C)A2RS

Though every aisle of the store was a well-stocked treat — I even grudgingly respected its selection of toys for EEEEW, GIRRRRLS — my favorite memories of TЯU as a kid involved visiting the massive wall of video game box photos, flipping them up to see the photo of the back of the box, then grabbing a ticket to buy the game. Once in a very great while I would even take the ticket to the register and buy the game, though most of the time I would just take the ticket home and glance at it from time to time, because games cost $49.99 back then and while I could usually rely on one for a birthday or Christmas present, I rarely had that much lettuce gathered at once.

“Toys R Us, Marshalls, and Bed Bath & Beyond at Arborland,” October 1999. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

In the late 90s, Arborland was “de-malled.” After decades as an enclosed mall, nearly all the structures were demolished and paved for parking, and the remaining stores relocated to the big boxes you shop today. (The building that houses OfficeMax, Jos. A Bank, and Potbelly is the sole holdover from that era. Toys Я Us originally sat in the space currently unoccupied by a furniture store, directly north of OfficeMax.) Its current big-box location is so far back from Washtenaw Avenue, and obscured by the empty furniture store, that you might not even know it’s there. That can’t help things. In recent years I have occasionally visited to buy a toy or gift that was on special or clearance; they sometimes had good deals on iTunes cards. Last year I was looking for Dixit card expansion packs and TЯU had nothin’ for me. (I ended up buying local at Fun 4 All on Carpenter Road.)

Still from a TV ad for “Kids R Us.” (C) …somebody, probably.

Old people with long memories like me may remember when TЯU branched out into apparel with Kids Я Us stores. As a young person, I was kind of jazzed when they first opened, and then confused when the store had not even one aisle of toys. Who needs that? Ann Arbor’s KЯU store was on Eisenhower at the Cranbrook Shopping Center. After KЯU folded, the building began its second life as Office Depot; it has recently reopened as Airtime Trampoline Park.

Arborland’s original developer, John J. Sharemet, shared his vision with the Ann Arbor News upon its 1959 announcement: “a one-stop center where all consumer items may be purchased.” With that in mind, the exo-“Ɑ”-us of Toys Я Us is a major setback to the center’s assortment — but Sharemet could probably never have conceived of a store like Five Below.

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