It was a lot of fun joining T Hetzel for “Living Writers” this afternoon and paying brief tribute to Mr. Rib. I’ll update this post with a link to the recording when it hits the podcast channels.
If this is your first visit, I hope you like the previous posts, and I hope to be back to posting more regularly soon (though doesn’t everyone say that)? Until then, here’s a current retail photo from Arborland’s very parking lot just about three hours ago…
Patti and I will appear at the Ypsi Book Fest on July 6 to talk about the book, and at the AADL Downtown branch on Thursday, July 25, to talk about the book some more. I will try not to repeat my anecdotes too often. For example, I will probably talk about DeLong’s next time instead of Mr. Rib.
The book has apparently SOLD OUT its first printing already?!?! No, I don’t know how many copies were printed, I admit it’s a pretty niche book, albeit a well-written and illustrated example of the sub-sub-genre. It is currently available for back-order from Amazon . If you don’t want to wait for a paper copy, you can download it immediately on Kindle (or to the Kindle app on your phone or tablet). Also, all the new-book-stores in Ann Arbor have ordered copies and will hopefully have them soon – and we’ll also have them to offer at the above events. Thanks!
If you have visited the U-M Museum of Natural History (“the dinosaur museum”) and you read this blog, you probably noticed two big changes:
The gift shop is much less of an afterthought. It’s much more eye catching than its predecessor in the Ruthven Building, and you have to get your planetarium ticket there.
Like many museums across the country, it has a restaurant.
Darwin’s is a quick service counter run by Michigan Dining that actually opened months before the museum to serve the students, staff and faculty of the Biological Sciences Building (the research and classroom complex, of which the new museum is the public face). Hot on the heels of that reopening comes this announcement of a new cafe opening next month inside the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Some of the public areas in UMMA’s expansion and renovation a decade ago were built with a cafe in mind. The gift shop has sold ready-to-drink beverages for years. This is interesting but not unprecedented. I hope this trend continues because I look forward to seeing what kind of quick-service concepts they come up with for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology (“Mummies ‘n Yummies”), the U-M Computer and Video Game Archive (“Burger Time”), and the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry (“Ensuring the Continuity of our Profession”),
BEFORE YOU CORRECT ME: I used to work in there, I know the CVGA is a no-food-or-drink environment. You can’t solve a coffee spill by taking it back out and blowing in it.
BEFORE THE CVGA CORRECTS ME: It’s bad to blow in cartridges, the moisture in your breath can corrode the contacts and circuits in the cartridges, unless you’re one of the mummies from KMA, in which case the stray sand and thousand-year-old-curses from your supernatural exhalation will mess up the game. The CVGA keeps game and console cleaning tools on hand.
The larger, vacant space at left above (formerly Party City until PC moved to a larger space within the centre) is now a possible new Old Navy location, but Old Navy wants the space to be approximately one Coney Island larger. Alpha’s plan, according to the linked article, is to move to a space nearby, closer to the Sprint Store, renovating at their own expense. I hope it works out for them, I’ve eaten some fine coney meals here. If it doesn’t work out, Mark’s Midtown is one exit over, in that little shopping center off State south of 94 where SUPER LIQUOR EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE is.
Hunter House Hamburgers recently closed quickly and quietly on Maynard Street. HHH was a mainstay of my lunch diet when I worked nearby, but I fell out of the habit when I moved across campus. Though they lasted much longer than anything in that space that wasn’t White Market, I’m still sad to see them go, especially considering the uncertain status of Hunter House’s original location in Birmingham. Get this: someone wants to knock it down and build a five story mixed-use building on the site! Who would want to do such a thing?
On a related note, South University institution China Gate is closing, and I would wager its neighbors MTVTN, Ayaka, and Jimmy John’s will follow suit in the ensuing months. South U has been not-quite-whole since the old Campus Pinball building burned down a few years back, then half of Middle Earth met the wrecking ball. Since most of South U is now high-rises or soon-to-be high-rises, I expect this will soon follow suit. Someone on this FB thread is saying it will be affordable housing, but I would wager they mean affordable-by-UM-student standards.
A little further up South University at Washtenaw, the former Mighty Good Coffee (previously Glassbox Coffee) is showing signs of life again. Will this third coffee shop be the charm? That’d be nice. It’s Vertex Coffee Roasters, who are coming from Milan to get interesting with coffee. The Vertex partners previously plied wares in Ann Arbor as Milan Coffee Works (doing pop-up events at Bløm Meadery and running a traditional coffee and pastries shop on Packard for a spell in the space currently occupied by Poçai). But these days they’re flash-freezing coffee, serving it on tap, filling growlers… FINALLY, a healthy alternative to beer for those of us who like interesting flavors but have to care for their high blood pressure.
Moosejaw may be a tiny little division of Walmart, but it’s kind of reassuring that Corporate hasn’t interfered with their writing style. I can appreciate this commitment. I’ve been trying to sell out for two years now, but I still published this post on 4/20 at 6:09.
Meanwhile, in a much classier space up the street, here’s what 315 South Main looked like a few years ago in 2014. (click through to change to an even earlier view from 2007 when Google first photographed the street!)
The new apartments and ground-floor retail are built and ready to be populated. The Life is Good store may not have had the longevity we want for a Main Street business (though it lasted four years), but Shinola is still going strong. It helps that they have a coffee shop, so that people who don’t need another wristwatch right now can still sniff the rich leather and enjoy the Shinola Experience for the low, low price of four or five bucks for a cup of coffee.
(ABOVE: a sampling of classic Big Dogs shirt designs. Courtesy BigDogs,com and ebay. No, I didn’t ask.)
The Big Dogs retail empire currently consists of a single store in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but I think it’s time they made a comeback. as you can see, most of their designs are evergreen and very reasonably priced. But eventually you’re going to collect all the Big Dogs shirts, so the store needs to stock a consumable that people will return for.
I know, you saw the date of this post and thought I was gonna say weed, but no. I’m thinking Rip It.
(Above: some sample Rip It flavors, Courtesy ripitenergy.,com. No, I didn’t ask.)
Rip It Energy Drinks are the deployed soldier’s morning coffee, after work relaxation beverage, and night-watch security blanket. They are cheap and ubiquitous on military bases around the world and they would go over like gangbusters. Where else can you get them on Main Street? (PROTIP: You can find Rip It on tap at the Meijer gas station on Jackson Road, and no, I haven’t. )
I may be an amateur retail analyst, but, given enough staff to meet demand, I firmly believe that a Big-Dogs-N-Rip-Its store in the Main Street district would make enough during Art Fair, Game Days, and Fleet Week to cover the other 354 days of the year.
This post on the Ann Arbor Townies group, observing the recent closure of Great Lakes Cycle on Stadium Boulevard, put me down a little AADL Community Collections rabbit hole trying to remember all the old bike places in town.
Michael Staebler’s Coal Office and Bicycle Shop
This one was the earliest, I think, on Washington Street near Ashley.
Though named for its founder, German-American investor and Ann Arborite Michael Staebler, it was apparently actually run by his son Edward. I’m very curious about what this store’s net carbon footprint was.
Ann Arbor Cyclery
More familiar to some is Ann Arbor Cyclery, which was a fixture for decades on Packard Road.
Sometime after the above photo was taken, it moved up the street to its final location, a site which had previously been a grocery and a pet supply store. A combination of new local competition from the REI store at Cranbrook and possible tax trouble led to its closure in 2010ish. Today it’s the Packard location of Argus Farm Stop.
On the north side of downtown, Nobilette Cycle Cellar served the athletic bicyclist. The ad above was one of their last anniversaries on North Main Street. Within a couple of years they had moved downhill to 220 Felch Street, which is today the site of Ann Arbor Distilling Company.
South of Downtown but also not far off Main Street was…
Mike Kolin’s Cycling Center Inc.
I can’t tell you much about Mike Kolin’s that these photos don’t already tell you, except that it was in the east storefront of the little building on the Hoover block that is just about the only thing not owned by a utility or the University. Soon its neighbor Purchase Radio Supply’s old building will be history. An apartment building is planned for the site; it will cater to students who love locomotive horns.
Don’t know anything about this place either, but I love the aesthetic. This site is currently occupied by McDonald’s.
Also Worth Noting
I don’t know much about any of these beyond the photos but it’s intriguing to see so many bike shops in locations I tend to associate with car traffic.
More recently we saw a few stores close:
Two Wheel Tango, with stores on the west side and east side. Closed suddenly, apparently due to pressure from its main brand and costs incurred by expanding at the beginning of the Great Recession. The west-side store is a physical therapy clinic now; the east side is occupied by Fraser Bicycle, a Detroit-area bike chain.
Performance Bicycle, a regional chain and mail-order catalog that had expanded to our area relatively recently, began a complete wind-down under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including all its physical locations and its website. Its IP was purchased at auction in February, and the site is back online under new ownership but with no relation to the physical locations.
Midwest Bike and Tandem, on Plymouth Road in the Courtyard Shops. Moved to Brighton.
Great Lakes Cycle was up and down Stadium Boulevard over the years – in Boulevard Plaza (in back behind the Arbor Farms/Barnes Ace Hardware), later in the old Ace Hardware space (most recently Advance Auto Parts), most recently in a spot close to the road between Liberty and Jackson Road. That location has closed. Oscar, the owner, sold his inventory to another local specialty chain, D&D Bicycles & Hockey, who shares retail space on Jackson Road with Sun & Snow outfitters; the space, once the very first location of national tire chain Discount Tire Company, will be occupied soon by the Wags & Wiskers pet supply store.
Besides D&D, there are a number of local stores still going strong. Presented in no particular order:
Wheels in Motion, which was around before all of these and may outlive us all. I still have a gift certificate from the early 90s for Washtenaw Cycle (its previous identity). One of these days, I’m going to try to redeem it.
I’ll add other Ann Arbor ones if they occur to me or I am corrected (I will be corrected). There are great bike stores in other nearby cities too, but it’s almost 11pm, I’ve been working on this for hours, and the name of the site is A2 Retail dot Space. Thank you.
A lot going on this month. I know I’m missing a lot but here’s what I’ve got so far:
I had some time to walk around Briarwood recently. Here are my key takeaways based on observation and some chats with various store employees:
Pandora moved to a showy new space in center court with much larger frontage.
People who are old enough to remember them still miss some of the restaurants that used to be here.
BRIARWOOD HAS AN ARCADE AGAIN, Y’ALL.
Multiple people I spoke to yesterday commented that they either remembered and missed Arby’s or wished that there was one at Briarwood now. Its previous location, convenient to the parking lot, is now part of the massive Forever 21 block near JC Penney. As a young edgy-XD man I would snicker as the cashier rung up my Big Montana (large roast-beef sandwich), large fries, and large Coca-Cola Freeze – $6.66 with tax. When this location closed, Arby’s pretty much withdrew from the south side of Ann Arbor. Now, you have to go to Washtenaw Avenue near Golfside in Ypsilanti, or to the far-west side of town, where there are two of them in close proximity – one on Jackson Road near Zeeb, and a 24-hour location inside one of the truck stops on Baker Road. (The truck stop location serves Arby’s breakfast menu. In the interest of accurate reporting, I tried the sausage biscuit one morning a little ways back, and, in a pinch, it would make a serviceable brake pad.)
Kerby’s Koney Island is a Detroit fixture (though, really, pretty much all Coney Island restaurants are Detroit fixtures). Though their locations are widespread and many are free-standing now, they used to be standard fare for every mall in the greater Detroit area. Briarwood’s was in a Sears corridor where Chipotle is now. One mall employee I spoke to used to rely on Kerby’s for breakfast before his shift began, and though Starbucks opens a couple of hours before the rest of the mall stores do, nothing has really taken Kerby’s place since it closed. Briarwood also hosted a Big Boy at the other end of this same corridor back in the day, though that has been gone for probably longer than it was there by now. Its space was initially occupied by an expansion of Eddie Bauer into a mini-anchor store, adding a home goods department to the apparel and camping equipment; the area is now the Men’s section of H&M.
I think I’ve written here about Farrell’s and Sanders, which were also both at Briarwood in the distant past.
Sanders is ubiquitous around Detroit again under the ownership of Morley Candy, but there is one Farrell’s left, in Southern California, and it’s partying like it’s 1979:
Burger King also had a location within the mall, next to the movie theater. It operated for years before its closure. I always wondered, as a young person, how the Burger King in the mall could operate so close to a free-standing location (across State Street on Victors Way), but of course they were probably serving different consumers.
There are still plenty of counter-service options in the mall, of course, though there’s no place I can think of, offhand, to get a hamburger. Or a one-dollar hot dog.
Though Briarwood was built in the early 70s before food courts became popular, they have tried to cultivate clearly defined eating districts in various parts of the mall since the 2000s. Most notably, after the fountain was removed, food-court-style stands led by Starbucks Coffee, and flexible seating, filled its void. Most of Starbucks’ center court neighbors are snack options, though you could eat dinner from Sushi Tatsu. More recently Briarwood has positioned a corridor off of the former Sears court as the Dining Pavillion, with Chipotle and Salads Up accompanying full-service mall standard like PF Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen. (A Which Wich sandwich franchise was launched here but didn’t last long.) A handful of tenants from before this initiative still remain in the area, though, so there isn’t much to eat at Hot Topic. However, the newest addition to the hall is… FunShop.
At first glance, FunShop’s two-color, compound-wordmark made me think it was a GameStop, which withdrew from Briarwood about five years ago. But no, it’s an arcade! A really small arcade. You can see the back of it from the photo above. That orange crane game is on the back wall. I feel like (read: hope) this might be a test location to gauge interest. There are a number of larger vacancies in the mall, some nearby, so if this goes well they could totally go bigger and wheel in a World’s Largest Pac Man machine.
This location was mostly crane games and skill-to-earn-a-prize games, with a couple of video arcade cabinets. I saw a ride-on head-to-head racing game and a sit-down, curtained Walking Dead action game among all the skill machines. If Google Maps can be believed, the FunShop location at Westland Mall has a wider selection.
Though there was a brief spell where some arcade games were housed in the vacant frontage of Burger King, before MC Sports came to Briarwood, most mall-rats about my age probably have memories of whiling away hours in Fun Factory, a carnival-themed arcade in a JC Penney-side corridor, exactly where Panda Express is now. The internet wasn’t as robust then, so I didn’t know (and didn’t care back then, really) that our Fun Factory was but one location of a national chain. When it disappeared in the early 2000s I thought it was gone forever, until one day circa 2006, when I happened to visit the Universal Mall in Warren. There, I found a much larger Fun Factory, containing several of the games that the Briarwood location used to have. Unfortunately, Universal Mall was on its way down (it’s an open-air shopping center now, anchored by a Target), and Fun Factory did not relocate when it closed. Turns out Fun Factory’s current locations are mostly in Hawaii, with a handful in California and the southeastern US, so at least the games probably got to retire somewhere warm.
Above is a recent photo from a Hawaii location, where the aesthetic has remained relatively unchanged from their Ann Arbor days. Not sure about that chandelier though.
Briarwood’s most recent attempts at electronic entertainment, a networked-PC-and-console-game parlor and a roped-off multiplayer VR experience in the court in front of Sears (RIP). Both of these closed recently. The network-game space is open:
And the VR area is now a trampoline attraction.
Lake Michigan Credit Union is finally open in the building in front of the Hyatt Place on State Street. You may remember that site as the one where I spent way too much time on this blog wondering what the building was gonna be. When I realized it had no drive-up window, I figured a banking use was out, but here it is. There are many local and national banks nearby, including a Comerica next door, a UM Credit Union branch a block up, and four or five in the outlots surrounding Briarwood, but LMCU is a frequent advertiser on I-94 billboards and it behooves them to have an actual presence here.
Naked Burrito is opening soon. They are going to specialize in burrito bowls and other lower-carb options, according to MLive.
Life After BP Stations, an essay in two photos
This was a BP fuel station with an auto service center. I don’t know yet what it’s gonna be. As discussed in the last post, this is the only I-94 exit for like fifteen miles that doesn’t have a Tim Hortons now, but I don’t see a drive-thru lane near here so it doesn’t seem likely that this will close the gap.
This site has lost all its BP branding and the underground tanks appear to have been removed. The new building has one or two small windows, not much like a fuel station, but possibly kind of like a dispensary. Which is what I think this will be.
Bubble Tea Franchises, an essay in two photos
Despite the general availability of bubble tea around here for about decades, two established franchises from overseas are looking to get into Ann Arbor. Chatime is coming to Tower Plaza, looking to make that one convenience store space work, and CoCo is coming soon to Courtyard Shops up on Plymouth Road near North Campus.
I loved putting together the Anaheim trip report last month, but based on likes and comments, which are the only metrics I really pay attention to, it was met with massive indifference. So here’s a warning up front: there are a couple more pictures from other cities (Michigan cities) in this post. I’ll put them at the end so you can jump off after the local content. Feel free to request a refund.
Launch Board Shop
Launch Board Shop announced its closure at the beginning of March. Launch grew out of longtime old-South-U shoe store Footprints, coming up from the basement to eventually take over Footprints’ street-level corner space with street shoes and skateboarding gear. Soon after the Ann Arbor Skate Park opened at Veterans Park, Launch opened a location nearby on Jackson Road across from Vets Pool:
…but it didn’t last long there before making way for Homes Brewery. A couple of years later Launch left South University, where it was promptly replaced by a downsized Ulrich’s Books & Spirit Shop, and reopened at Packard and Platt, where it will remain until this weekend. It is survived by a number of independently-owned shops it tagged in its Instagram announcement (closest is Olympia Skate Shop in Ypsi), and I think there’s at least one chain store in the mall that sells skating gear too.
Whose Mans Is This
The new tenant on South Industrial (where is “North Industrial,” anyway? I honestly don’t know) is Mans Lumber & Millwork. With Fingerle Lumber winding down a few miles away, this is a great opportunity for another localish-owned (Mans is from Canton) business to come to the area. This building, which most recently hosted the Ann Arbor T-Shirt Company, is nowhere near the size of Fingerle’s complex, but is probably big enough to carry some ready-to-go stock, and hold orders filled from Canton or somewhere else for local pickup. I guess. I’m not a lumber blogger.
In other Fingerle news, the owner of Vinsetta Garage (a popular spot back east) has proposed to turn one of the former Fingerle buildings into a brewery restaurant. I suppose we can always try another one and let the market decide. This building is apparently not part of the parcel U-M purchased from the Fingerle family. I believe it is the building next to the train tracks and north of Madison, also known as The Building In A2RS’ Only Known Photo of Fingerle Lumber. It is nondescript but recognized for its perennial depiction of a beaming Debbie Crispin, welcoming you into downtown, ideally in your new Chevy with your small dog.
Lisa notes that Papa John’s has disappeared from Stadium Boulevard, nearly seamlessly replaced by Toarmina’s, Southeast Michigan’s giant-pie purveyor.
Papa John’s withdrew from Ypsilanti around the same time, and their store locator now encourages Papa’s Ann Arbor children to visit him in… South Lyon? That’s Oakland County, pops!
This was a rough year for Papa John’s, the Chain. Its namesake expressed many personal opinions, which may have led to a break up with its longtime partner the NFL and significant downturn in same-store sales. Papa John is no longer president or board member, though he is still the largest shareholder. But the franchise could return and grow at any time. Why, look at Tim Hortons.
Another new Hortons location has appeared, on the far west side. The BP gas station at 94 and Zeeb converted the south side of its otherwise-generously-sized convenience store into a drive-thru and walk-up counter. If it ends up looking like the similar setup at Eisenhower and Saline Road two exits east on 94, it will have a surprising amount of comfortable seating for a gas station concession, too.
This is the latest step in Hortons’ dominance of the I-94 corridor, joining locations a stone’s throw from the highway at Rawsonville Road in Belleville, Huron Street in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan Avenue in Ypsi Twp., State and Ellsworth in Ann Arbor, and the aforementioned Eisenhower and Saline Road location. I think this may be the first Ann Arbor location to open since Tim Horton’s was acquired by RBI, the parent company of Burger King, in 2014.
Longtime Ann Arbor residents may remember Tim Hortons’ previous Ann Arbor forays, while under the corporate patronage of Burger King’s rival Wendy’s.
This led to dual-branded Wendy’s/Tim Hortons stores in Ann Arbor (I THINK the Wendy’s on Boardwalk had a Hortons counter for a while; I know there were both Wendy’s and Hortons in the basement of the Michigan League), as well as the one on Michigan Avenue and Hewitt in Ypsi Township.
How could a Tim Hortons possibly fail? Well, the locations that didn’t quite make it include a store on South University at Forest Street, open for only a year or two, as well as proposed locations on Liberty Street near Division, and at Maple Village in an outlot building that was previously Golden Chef, a Chinese restaurant, and a Hardee’s; a site currently occupied by the now-open LA Fitness.
Through all of this, a Saline location, on Michigan Avenue near The Car Plant, has chugged along in a former Hardee’s location since the early 2000s, when Hardee’s abruptly withdrew from the greater Detroit area and Wendy’s/Hortons swooped in to occupy their suddenly available spaces.
Lisa also shared this new Grand River barber shop opening nearby, across and down Stadium:
And Mr. Cynical reminds me to report that the Mystery Spot in front of the Hyatt Place hotel on State is due to be occupied by Lake Michigan Credit Union, not to be confused with Lake Trust Credit Union. LMCU’s billboards can often be spied on I-94 but this is their first Ann Arbor branch I am aware of. I thought banking branches had to have drive-thrus these days but this did not dissuade LMCU. Should be opening soon.
About once a week someone in the Townie Group on Facebook decries the loss of the center court fountain at Briarwood. Every mall these days ONCE had a fountain that is long gone and much mourned, but I know of at least one mall in the area that STILL has a water feature — Southland Center in Taylor!
Once upon a time, Southland had a grand food court with tons of natural light via a cathedral ceiling, and all the usual mall food court staples – fro-yo, pretzels, a Bourbon-Chicken-with-Rice stand, Sizzling Weasel on a Stick, the Grape Snake and Cuidado Concern, you name it, you could get it. But they all left over the years, and in 2005, Southland closed the food court, enticing Best Buy to leave its spot a few miles east at Eureka and Dix.
The rest of the mall seems fine. They were doing some work freshening up the Macy’s. The Cinemark theater is the next closest one to Ann Arbor and has an XD room, a large format screen comparable to our Ann Arbor theater’s IMAX room. The mall court in front of the JC Penney store looks like a miniature-golf-scale version of itself. Just like I remember it, but half the size. This is probably because I’m taller now.
So if you want to see a fountain in a mall again, hit up Southland. If you want to see those familiar Briarwood floor tiles, check out Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn:
Unlike Briarwood, Fairlane is still owned by the Taubman Companies (yes, the same Alfred Taubman that so many U-M schools and Michigan Medicine facets are named for), and Taubman has not updated the floors the way Briarwood’s owner, Simon Property Group, did a few years ago.
We’ll get back to Ann Arbor soon, but I got to visit Southern California recently. Orange County is commonly known as “The Ann Arbor of the West Coast” by literally nobody at all, but I have made reference to several artifacts of this area in the past, and it seemed like a good opportunity to formally document them here.
The Disneyland Target
Here’s Target #192, the Harbor Boulevard location. It’s about two miles south of Disneyland.
As I noted then, this Target is a very wide-footprint store. It has two entrances, just like Meijer. (A number of Target stores, usually in non-Midwest markets where Meijer doesn’t dominate, have larger footprints and expanded selections.) If you just look at the outside, you might think this is one such location.
But once you enter, you realize this Target is actually quite navigable on foot. It doesn’t go as far back as even the Target stores in the Ann Arbor area.
In the photo above, shot from the home furnishings section: between here and the store’s cafe in the back center of the above shot, I count about nine aisles.
Both of the Ann Arbor area Target stores basically start at their single entrance way. This Target store has a significant sales floor going past either edge of its entrances, like a Meijer. The pharmacy, as well as health and beauty items, occupy the area past the north entrance behind Food Avenue (the cafe); on the south side of the store, housewares and small appliances can be found past the Disney souvenirs and behind the Guest Services counter, across from office supplies and greeting cards.
As the closest Target to Disneyland, this store has a particularly robust selection of officially-licensed Disney souvenirs. Everything from Mickey rain ponchos (get them outside the park to save a lot of money) to matching t-shirts for everyone from Dad to Grandma. And have you ever seen a Target with seventeen checkout lanes? Me either. Full disclosure: a few of them are self-scan stations, accompanied by this free phone-charging station:
At this store, you can securely charge your phone while you shop, an amenity I have yet to notice at Ann Arbor area stores.
Viva Bargain Center
This Target store shares its corner with Viva Bargain Center, a dollar store. Alongside today’s typical dollar store fare (smaller-size name brand or grey market home, beauty, and food products), they had an interesting selection of clothing and possibly some actual marked-down closeout items. I almost shelled out the two dollars for a plastic-molded smartphone VR headset but instead I took photos of these:
In the outlets of Target, there are a fancy car wash, a party store (they don’t call them that in California, but that’s what it is), a Coco’s (California regional bakery-restaurant chain), and this delightful little Walgreens.
Walgreens #3674 (Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA)
As you can see, this Walgreens is considerably smaller than your typical Walgreens store. Several conventional Walgreens stores can be found within a few blocks, including one kitty-corner from Disneyland, sharing the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Katella Dr. with a Hyatt Place hotel (and across the street from its arch-rival, CVS).
This Walgreens boasts two drive-thru windows, exterior counterparts to their two interior counters – a drop-off counter and a pick-up counter.
It also carries a selection of over-the-counter medications and other pharmacy products, but eschews the general merchandise and beauty products that a lot of modern drugstores stock.
The store seems to serve as an alternative to the shops in the lobby of the many hotels up and down Harbor Boulevard. Prices were comparable to other Walgreens locations and discounts tied to the loyalty-card program applied to purchases (can confirm, I got 50 cents off my pack of gum).
I’m not sure whether this store was purpose-built or whether it was renovated from a similar outlet concept, although this place gave me strong once-i-was-a-bank-branch vibes.
Unlike a typical Walgreens, where the blue-vested store clerks usually suggest you add that month’s featured candy to your order, the only folks staffing this location appeared to be pharmacists or pharmacy technicians. The interior pickup counter doubled as the checkout. I had to wait to purchase my gum until a pharmacy tech finished fulfilling a drive-thru prescription pickup (the wait was reasonable). They also had a small soda cooler, and stocked some basic candy bars and a rack of Frito-Lay products, including single-serving chips, nuts, cookies, and crackers.
The Outlets at Orange, Orange, CA
This outdoor shopping center lies a couple of miles east of Disneyland. Southern California’s generally pleasant weather lends itself to an outdoor mall, especially around here, where there isn’t really a walkable downtown area. It hosts many bars and restaurants, as a substitute. (I happened to visit on like the one day of the year when it was rainy and mid-40s, which figures.)
As a fellow property of Simon, the owner of Briarwood, The Outlets of Orange shares some features with its sister in our neighborhood, including the evergreen Fancy Car Display Accompanied By A Prize Drawing In Which The Car Is Not Actually A Prize, And The Prize Drawing Is Actually An Intake Form For An Aggressive Timeshare Vacation Sales Pitch.
It also features a few local merchants amidst the tourist stuff, like the above computer sales and repair shop.
Besides the outlets and restaurants there are a few entertainment-oriented destinations, including a 30-screen AMC theater and the flagship Vans Skate Park.
When you look past the fancy vestibule and the “Film City” livery at this location, the layout isn’t that much different from other large-scale AMC locations like Livonia 20. I watched “Alita: Battle Angel” in IMAX 3D and it was fine, though I found myself wondering if I should have attended the Dolby screening instead, since I don’t think we have a Dolby theater in the Detroit area yet.
Anyway, that’s California. A state of the union, a state of mind, a state of huge screens and tiny Walgreens. I will spare you all the photos I took in, and of, In-N-Out restaurants, for now.
If you’ve been to Meijer on the south side in the past few weeks you may have noticed some huge changes, complete with progress-bar-festooned “Update in progress…” signage.
A NEW FRONT ENTRANCE. The Starbucks counter near the checkouts closed in mid-January, and soon after, they obliterated the north entrance and moved the fresh flowers out of the corner near that entrance. The bakery is there now.
The new entrance has a lit Welcome sign out front that isn’t quite lined up properly under the big Meijer sign, which leads me to think maybe it’s temporary.
A display inside the store shows that the exterior is eventually going to be completely redone to look like more modern Meijer stores:
NEW AISLE SIGNAGE. They’re ditching Meijer Gothic Demi, the sans-serif lower case type on the aisle signs, for a slightly wider, serifed font. That’s right, Meijer Gothic Demi. Meijer has their own font. Are you surprised? Everywhere else, Walmart has taken over, but Michigan is Meijer territory. Walmart actually gave up on Hartland, ceding it to Rural King, when Meijer came to town:
(Rural King often chooses former Walmarts for their new stores; my father-in-law tells me that this is because one of the Rural Royals are married to a Walton heir, but I wouldn’t testify to that fact before a rural jury)
Anyway, if you shop at the west-side Meijer store at Jackson and Zeeb, you’re used to this type already. The west-side store often receives experimental updates that may or may not go chain-wide. This store had the navy/khaki uniforms years before the other Ann Arbor stores did; it also got this signage over two years ago…
The south entrance is now closed and is undergoing heavy construction. I think it will reopen eventually, I’m pretty sure all Meijer stores will continue to have at least two entrances. (Our west side one still does.)
The fish tanks have been removed while the pet supply section moves within the store. Here’s where they used to be, right by the grocery:
Moving toys right next to grocery is a dangerous combination. I foresee many parents with no other option dragging their kids to the store to get anything in the back five or six aisles, only to find their trip hijacked by plaintive wails for stuffed critters and games about all of the funniest bodily humours.
LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT, AS SEEN THROUGH THE LENS OF THE MASS-MARKET GAMES AISLE
All that biohazard in the game aisle and yet it’s EVERYWHERE ELSE that’s currently covered in plastic sheeting:
I expect more construction over the next few weeks, especially if the Jackson Road store is any indication. The grocery is a dramatically different layout from this store. Snacks and beverages in the back by the detergent. There’ll be a lot of rearranging ahead. Not to mention a drive-up window for the Pharmacy and probably some enhanced infrastructure for the Curbside pickup. Currently the Curbside orders are shopped by Meijer employees, but I’ve heard this is being offloaded to Jyve, a contract employer that provides merchandising and shopping services to supermarkets. (Shipt will probably continue to provide to-your-door delivery services, barring something unforeseen.)
And several folks have told me that after Saline Road is done, the Ypsilanti store (at Carpenter and Ellsworth) is next! The recent Target reset next door probably makes this even more necessary. I will be very interested to see if they keep the front mezzanine above the checkouts.
Baby New Year brought a lot of bad news this time. Unless you like photos of closed stores, in which case, start your new year right and travel back in time a month.
CLOSED: Sears at Briarwood
The closing this past Sunday of the Sears store at Briarwood leaves JC Penney as the only anchor store that was there at its opening 45 years ago (Penney’s, Sears, and J.L. Hudson; Lord & Taylor followed a year later).
You could argue that Macy’s still qualifies too since they acquired the chain that acquired Hudson’s and I would say, good sir, that Macy’s is no Hudson’s, and anyway, how DARE you.
By the final weekend of Sears in Briarwood, pretty much everything was 60-80% off. Nearly all the softlines (i.e. apparel) had been consolidated to one area near the entrance to the mall, but nobody comes to sites like this to see people actually browsing through full racks of clothing, and I didn’t feel like asking people to sign releases, so here’s a bunch of empty store shots.
I bought my most recent television at this Sears, a Samsung LCD set, almost nine years ago (I wanted to watch the final episode of Lost in glorious 1080).
Although a little temperamental, the set still works and nearly all the TV content I watch still looks just fine on it, so I guess I was part of the problem.
I have very similar stories about several clothing items I bought from various Sears stores. Not the most up-to-the-minute stylish items, but well-made and still extremely wearable after a few years. Sorry I didn’t replace them sooner, Sears!
Though Lands’ End partnered with Sears to develop a huge retail footprint, the next time you visit a Lands’ End store it probably will be a store of its own. Despite their sister company’s rightsizing, they are beginning to expand their brick-and-mortar presence, though apparently their real profits come from uniform sales, most notably the cabin crews of Delta and United Air Lines.
I always wanted to fold shirts as well as they are folded at the store. But I think this mobile folding bench was missing an insert or something, so I’ll just have to keep practicing the Japanese T-Shirt Folding Trick…
The east entrance of the store was the toy department, when I was young. When I got older and Sears didn’t sell toys any more, it became the Tools department, which might have been quite appropriate if I’d been into the whole “using tools for fun” thing. I still always checked here first for my hardware needs, rare as they were.
I headed back to Briarwood a few days later, in the wake of Ed Lampert’s eleven-and-a-halfth-hour offer to rescue the bankrupt chain, just to see how things were looking post-closure.
CLOSED: Toy City & Halloween City
The Party City outgrowth added toys to the usual Halloween pop-up concept, filling the closed Toys R Us store at Arborland Mall from early fall until Christmas. Now, the store stands still and dark at the end of the Arborland block.
Though it carries no posted hours and its website suggests all locations are now closed, they seemed to be in no hurry to clear out of the old TRU shortly after the new year when I stopped by. I took the above shot through the clear glass front door.
CLOSED: Smoke’s Poutinerie, South U and Forest
Who would have thought that this would fail? Smoke’s is an Ontario-based chain of quick-service restaurants whose broad array of flavors (from gochujiang to curry to BBQ) all come on top of the traditional Quebeçois base of fries, gravy, and chunks-o-cheese. Surely a quick, cheap comfort food like this would take off, so close to campus? Besides, Detroit is north of Canada! I enjoyed Smoke’s several times, generally with coupons and in-app discounts, but, I mean, fries, gravy, and cheese. That’s three of the best worst things (I’m told, I really don’t like cheese much). There’s nothing you can put on top that makes it a healthy entree, not even celery.
The space had a bar attached from its previous lives as World of Beer and Dick Tyler’s; as Smoke’s counterpart, the bar became the Beaver Trap. (Between this and Quickie Burger, I think winking-mascot double-entendre bar names are just about done in A2.)
What will this location become next? It seemed to be doing okay as World of Beer, but then the WOB chain decided to pivot to a full-menu restaurant that just happened to have a zillion taps and this space was too small for that (when this WoB closed, a full-kitchen location opened in Canton near Ikea, and still seems to be doing fine there). So the kitchen is too small to make, like, dinners. Maybe someone takes it back to basics and opens a dive-y bar in it? This corner is where Bicycle Jim’s/Cactus Jack’s/Mitch’s Place thrived for years. But the Landmark landlords may not want that, or may expect a higher rent than a cheap-beer bar can afford. Since I haven’t predicted it in a long time, I’m gonna go with Jamba Juice. Or they tear out all the food prep and a Verizon dealer opens here.
STILL CLOSED: Burger Fi, South U and Forest
Yes, both of the corner restaurants at South U and Forest are closed. Kind of a bleak look.
If you have a few minutes you might enjoy listening to BurgerFIND, a tongue-in-cheek investigative podcast produced by a group of students who trace the sudden closure of the restaurant and its obscure out-of-town ownership through hearsay, speculation, and finally a digital approximation of some good old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. The upshot is that Burger Fi’s corporate office doesn’t seem to have problems. In fact, I got to visit a Burger Fi in Denver over the summer and it seemed to be doing more like Burger-FINE. (slidewhistle)
CLOSED: Kosmo Deli at Kerrytown
This is kind of a huge deal for people who lived or worked or went to school in Kerrytown. As Kerrytown’s quirky quiche shops gave way to more upscale dining, Kosmo Deli still stayed relatively affordable, even as the diner-style counter expanded to a space with actual tables in recent years. At some point in the past two decades, Yong Skeen sold Kosmo Deli to a fellow who actually goes by the name “Kosmo,” and Kosmo has moved the Bi Bim Bop and Tempura to a space of its own on Ashley street. (He left the great burgers behind in the move, presumably since he’s next door to Blimpyburger now.) According to Lisa the space is soon to become Loomi Cafe. Sounds promising!
OPEN: URBAN RIDER Cargo Bikes
And according to Lex, there is an electric cargo bike dealer opening soon in Kerrytown:
CLOSED: Burger King on Stadium
It looks like as soon as the Zeeb Road BK reopened from its renovation, the Stadium Blvd store closed permanently. I could be wrong, maybe they’re just going to aggressively make it over, but they took the logo out of the road sign. Seems somewhat final. All the other fast-food or fast-casual places along this stretch are relatively new (Noodles & Co) or recently updated (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway) and this BK was a little run down compared to its contemporaries. (The Victors Way BK is timeless and flawless, of course, and do not @ me)
Finally, blog friend Joel reports seeing a Budweiser truck stocking the new Circle K at Packard and Stadium, and today I noticed that the coolers were full of product. Between this and the installation of digital signage over the soda taps, I think it’s actually going to open soon. Maybe even before the Packard Dairy Queen opens for the season. You’ll hear it here fir… who am I kidding, probably last. You’ll, uh, hear it here BEST?
Hello readers! A lot happened over the past few weeks, and and I’m sure I’ve missed some things, including an entire number + two point updates of WordPress. (I had to go from 4.9.9 to 5.0.2! This new editor… I’m sure I’ll get used to it.) So I’m probably going to miss some things, but maybe I saw some things that you didn’t see, so hopefully this won’t be a complete waste of your time.
The ongoing rightsizing of Sears continues. The latest store closings announced last Friday include a location upstate and the Twelve Oaks Mall store, a two-floor anchor near Apple Twelve Oaks. The Westland and Livonia Marketplace (formerly an anchor of Livonia Mall) stores remain open.
I had the chance to visit the Sears at Briarwood today, because it was raining and parking was available relatively close to the building. There were a number of bargain hunters picking over what was left, mostly clustered in the large Lands’ End and women’s apparel area near the entrance to the mall. Further back in the store there was a few racks of leftover tools and batteries, a handful of large treadmills and other fitness machines, and a couple of tired older folks just sitting in chairs to rest. (I don’t have any photos of this because my phone wasn’t working, which frankly, was why I had the chance to visit Briarwood today — but I may try to return and snap a few photos before the store closes for good on Sunday.)
More bad news:
The Electric Eye Cafe closed. It was a coffeehouse at Main and Depot streets, where there is not a ton of foot traffic that I am aware of. I think they may have had some art and performance programming that I sincerely regret never experiencing, though .
Fingerle Lumber is looking like it will close for good in February. It eventually leaked out that U-M was the buyer for the site. There is no word yet on what U-M will do with the site, though it is both:
in the floodplain
directly adjacent to the Athletic Campus
So your guess is as good as mine for now.
Performance Bicycle has begun its closing sale. My favorite pair of shorts for most of my college years was a pair of grey canvas shorts from Performance Bicycle – pockets deep enough to hold everything I needed, but they managed to keep a low profile. Its parent company struggled under debt, though, and now all of its brick-and-mortar stores are closing.
Performance formed bookends with Outback Steakhouse at Village Centre, at Ann Arbor Saline Road and Waters Road — it was the second occupant of the northeasternmost space in the center, a space originally occupied by Video Watch (and later its successor, Hollywood Video).
Bike retail is apparently a difficult business – Ann Arbor had a locally-owned store called Two Wheel Tango that suddenly closed both locations when it couldn’t afford to pay its main vendor, the bike brand Specialized. But other locally owned dealers continue, including Wheels in Motion on Washtenaw, Student Bike Shop downtown, Great Lakes Cycle on Stadium (current occupant of the very first location of Discount Tire), and a location of the Detroit area chain Fraser Bicycle – as well as Ann Arbor’s location of REI (full disclosure: my spouse is a member-owner of REI, but that isn’t an affiliate link or anything).
Exterior signage indicates that 7-Eleven will soon join Wild Poke as an occupant of Foundry Lofts’ street-level retail space on Huron Street between Division and State.
Friend and reader Jennifer tells me that Trader Joe’s is scouting for a west-side location on Jackson Road that would serve West Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and the TJ’s headz in Dexter and Chelsea, which makes sense considering how overwhelmed TJ’s Stadium Blvd parking lot is, nearly all of the time. (I seriously only go to TJ’s after 8pm if I can possibly help it, and I recommend it to all of you.)
In a congruous story, ALDI Nord, the parent company of Trader Joe’s, has apparently had plans for a while to expand to Carpenter Road on the east side. Across from Kroger. I guess that’s still supposed to happen someday. Probably sometime after the Circle K opens at Stadium and Packard:
In November, I was told that the management would receive the keys to the new Circle K store at the end of the month. It’s been a few weeks since then, and it’s clear that, though not quite complete, the location is almost ready to be stocked and staffed. I took this article’s photos through the windows.
Twenty four taps? That’s bonkers. I am very curious what the four unlabeled taps in the middle will be. Syrup shots? Limited seasonal flavors? Bespoke artisan sodas? Shut he front door AND the back door.
The cost of the base-level Polar Pop has gone up since this store closed, from 69 to 79 cents. There’s a 44 ounce size (99 cents) that has appeared at other stores, that will hopefully pop onto the menu here too.
I have been to many Ignite Ann Arbor events before, and as you may know, I love to speak to groups! I was terrified to attempt an Ignite talk because the Ignite format means surrendering control of your slides. I love a tasteful fade, and most importantly, I love controlling when that fade happens. Ignite format demands you submit your slides as a PDF that autoadvances. Originally, I tried to subvert this by just filling the deck with a couple of historical shots of the site from AADL’s collection, then, in a sort of slow-mo time lapse, my own photos of the construction of the Circle K site.
At my first practice talk with the Ann Arbor Toastmasters, I petered out a few slides short. The Toastmasters encouraged me to go wider and show more of the vintage photos that you see in the final. The talk became less about one site and more about all the service stations along Packard Road – from 12 in the late 70s to 5 now.
I also got to have a chat with the fifth and sixth graders (47 minute video) in Ko and Jason’s class at Ann Arbor Open School! They had a lot of good questions about what Ann Arbor used to look like but I also got to talk about my blog and… The Book.
I may have alluded to The Book in the past, but I can now tell you that:
The Book is a project I undertook last year with Patti Smith, who is Ann Arbor’s preeminent living historian