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.

State and Packard intersection getting another change with Craft Breww City

(EDITED Wednesday to add details about the previous uses of this space.)

Looks like the large-ish restaurant space on State and Packard is changing hands/brands again. The Happy's Pizza signage is down and "Craft Breww City" is coming soon, according to new banners facing State and Packard Streets.

This appears to be a second location for a popular Farmington Hills spot. CBwwC opened about three years ago at 12 Mile and Orchard Lake road, formerly home to a beloved but dive-y place called Roosevelts. The right idea at the right time, I think. There are no shortage of places to find great beers in Ann Arbor, but it can't hurt to have another, especially if they can get some rare ones. (Website promised a Founders barrel-aged series, so that seems promising.)

They will need to have a great hook to be able to sustain business outside of football Saturdays. There's no parking, save for street parking, anywhere near this intersection. Before Happy's came to this space, it was the unexceptional Packard Pub. Before that it was Artisan Bistro, and before that it was an Atlanta Bread Company franchise. Before that, Espresso Royale had a location here. If you want to go even further back, there was an arcade here called Double Focus in the 80s and early 90s. They stubbornly insisted on tokens, until Pinball Pete's took over the space and converted the machines to legal tender, and added their then-ubiquitous 25 cent automatic fountain-pop and snack vending machines.

I don't know why CBC spells Breww with two W's. I suspect it was easier to trademark and also carries a mystique, like how Buffalo Wild Wings was originally called "bw-3." (It's because they served sandwiches on Weck rolls, another Buffalo-specific food item. "Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck.")

Downtown thoughts and opinions

I spent some time downtown this week, thanks in part to NerdNiteA2, so here’s what’s doin’ down that way.

Work is progressing on whatever they’re building in the middle of the Main Street block between Liberty and William. The eye doctor owns it, because of course he does, and it’s gonna be wonderful of course. I predict a Hard Rock Cafe. (I’m just kidding! I think! Maybe the M Den will move back in.)

Be Hair Now (the third best Oasis-named hair salon in town, besides “Don’t Look Back In Bangs” and “Whatev-hair”) has sadly disappeared from Ashley and Miller. The space is becoming a cycling studio. My daughter was in the car and cannily asked how they were gonna do cycling in a building so small. I agreed and told her to “imagine a bike, like, on a treadmill.”

It’s summer and the Beer Grotto has expanded its seating to the boulevard, that is to say, the area between the sidewalk and the curb. Not a moment too soon.

Finally, we went and got Blimpyburger, as a victory lap after my NerdNiteA2 talk. It was like ten after nine, and we walked right up to the counter and they still gave me crap for not immediately grabbing a tray, and made my brother apologize for not saying cheese when he was supposed to say cheese or something.

Look, I get the rules during lunch rush, when you are most efficient if you can keep a consistent routine, but giving people a hard time at 9pm when nobody’s here? Do you want to ensure nobody will continue to be here? I feel like they’re high on their own reputation. The weirdest part is that the whole “order right or we’ll roast you” routine is a relatively new conceit. I don’t remember it like this when I was a kid, or a student. It was when they got nationwide famous when this Ed Debevic’s routine started. Ed’s is just a website now, guys. Still love your fried broccoli, just maybe dial it down.

(If they ever read this, I’m sure I’ll get booed out of there ever after, and THEN where will I get my fried broccoli?)

Cinder Block Grey is the color of May

On Main Street this week, the owner of 116 S. Main removed the metal paneling on the side of the building, expecting to find some brick to refurbish.

No dice:

Cinder block facade was behind metal panels on the old Kai Garden. (C) MLive.
Just a wall of cinder blocks. They plan to put some office space in here, so expect some complementary new-brick going up. Further details at MLive. (Personally, I wish this would have happened to a less-sympathetic landlord, like the eye doctor, while preparing to put a Big Johnson shop in here, but what can you do? Thanks Pete for the tip!)

Meanwhile, across town, another building, another facade, more cinder block.

Above, please observe the former Chi-Chi’s restaurant at State Street and Airport Circle. It closed suddenly in 2004 alongside its entire chain, after a deadly bacteria spread through cilantro served in some of its sister restaurants, wiping out consumer confidence. Licensed products continue to be available in supermarkets; the salsa tastes just like I remember, fine with whatever chips you got. There are also a handful of franchised restaurants outside of North America. I have a friend who visited one when she was in Luxembourg. I got the impression it might be worth visiting if you were already in Luxembourg.

Subsequent tenants kept the adobe-pyramid exterior, with modifications. Cherry Blossom added some square accents; Passport, a “world foods” restaurant, painted the whole thing a royal blue. (Click through the image to see Passport.) Coming up next: Black Rock Bar & Grill, where the steaks are served on a 700+ degree heated mineral, and the old facade is gone. I’ll update this with a photo next time I drive by.

(Update: here it is!)