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.