Fall is for Flowers, Fouls, and Fertilizer (or “A2pumpkin.spice”)

Are we truly at the limits for pot-related businesses in Ann Arbor? Seems like regional hydroponics retailer The Cultivation Station had barely moved into the old S-G Auto Parts space, but it’s gone now:

Exterior, The Cultivation Station. Window sign advises customers to visit Allen Park (“the closest”). (C)A2RS

I mentioned the closing of Moe Sport Shops previously but here’s the North University storefront:

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Once upon a time, Moe sold sporting goods and uniforms. In recent years, it had pivoted to U-M spirit wear, and was acquired from Bud Van De Wege by local print shop Underground Printing. Parallel to this, UGP was developing its own boutique-y brand based around Bo Schembechler. UGP sold Moe to U-M’s official store The M Den last year, and it was basically just another storefront for them. Finally, downtown will get its Jamba Juice. (I don’t know, I just guess)

Another report from A2RS field agent Lex, who goes downtown when I can’t:

Ext. Schakolad on Washington Street. Courtesy of Lex.

Schakolad, the boutique chocolate, recently closed on Washington Street. I think they raised the rent. The Observer reports that the franchisee is interested in returning to A2 sometime (when time travel is invented, probably sometime prior to the bubble).

Exterior Schakolad on Washington Street. Courtesy of Lex.

Meanwhile, at Liberty and Thompson, half of Orchid Lane is now a yoga studio!

Ext. Red Yoga at Liberty and Thompson. Courtesy of Lex.

You can see Orchid Lane on the left there – still open! It was supposed to close permanently over the summer, but they negotiated a one-year extension with their landlord and are continuing the business until August 2019.

Ext. Orchid Lane and Red Yoga, at Liberty and Thompson. Courtesy of Lex.

Longtime townies remember this space as Thano’s Lamplighter, a Greek & pizza restaurant, and Eric’s Action Sports, a soccer-supply store. If you don’t remember them, it’s hard to believe we had so many stores with specific purposes. I’m thinking of course of Eric’s, but also of The Bead Gallery (RIP), and Honig’s Whistle Stop, a referee-supply store which used to be out on Jackson Road. Sounds awfully specific, I know, but think about all the sports that are played here. U-M, Eastern, Concordia all have athletic programs; Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, and surrounding townships all have recreational leagues; I’m sure there are many other leagues I am not aware of.

Honig’s Whistle Stop in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 crash incident. (C)AnnArbor.com/Honig’s

Honig’s Whistle Stop ran the leading outfitter for sports officials, as a mail-order catalog and a physical retail store with fitting rooms, in an otherwise unassuming building on Jackson Road in Scio Township for over 30 years. Here’s a fun ESPN profile of Dick Honig to commemorate his retirement. Honig sold the business to another referee, who operates it entirely online now.

For decades, nearly half a million sports officials purchased their gear and supplies from a business in Ann Arbor — but maybe not all of them used the gear on field? A long time ago I was an IT contractor at General Motors, working on the new Intranet. I worked nearby a permanent EDS employee who had somehow managed to skirt GM’s business-casual dress code with the shiniest black-on-black Nikes I had ever seen:

What are THOOOOSE? Nike referee sneakers, that’s what. (C)Zappos

It wasn’t until years later that I realized Todd (not his real name) was wearing referee sneakers to work every day. This story brought to you by the beautifully broken English labeling at the State Street 7-Eleven:

“Big and Glup Cup” (C)A2RS

In related news, and finally, here’s the latest on the Circle K at Packard and Stadium:

Ext. Circle K as seen from Stadium Boulevard. (C)A2RS

The islands are nearly ready for the fuel pumps. The corner of the rain shelter has been restored to the proper angle (previously it looked like a truck hit it), so the complete red and orange cladding is probably coming any day now. Inside the building there are high signs over each station promoting “Polar Pop” (fountain drinks), “Really Good Coffee,” and “Froster” (the Circle K version of a Slurpee or Icee).

I have been selected to “go deep” on the Circle K at Ignite Ann Arbor on November 2 at AADL. I have dreamed for years of doing an Ignite talk, so this is a huge thrill for me. If you’ve been to an Ignite, you know I only have five minutes to “go deep,” and there are a number of other brilliant presenters, so it will still be worth your time.

I would like to thank the selection committee:

A Masterclass in Circular ThinKing

Ext. Mast Shoes at Westgate. (C)A2RS

This week sees the triumphant reopen of Mast Shoes in Westgate:

Mast is a longtime Westgate occupant (that also had a downtown location, on Liberty Street, long ago). The new Mast store is right next door to the old one, in a space where a succession of women’s clothing stores used to be. There is an impressive array of shelves and stacks there now to better show off their inventory.

“Top men, Dr. Jones… TOP. MEN.” (C)A2RS

On Stadium, the Circle K is shining up. The curbside sign displays a “Now Hiring” banner. I hope they’re getting some of the pre-rebuilding employees back too, they were nice folks.

Ext. Circle K build at Stadium/Packard. (C)A2RS

I visited another Circle K and it looks like, while this one was closed, the chain’s fountain tap selection has changed. The other location has some weird Mountain Dew variants, including Voltage (Raspberry), Ice (basically caffeinated Sprite), and some kind of Strawberry Goji blend that somehow doesn’t have an aggro name. These could be had for 79c for the 20 or 32oz. cup, which makes their new “Epic” cup (44oz./99c) all the more of a bargain. (Though this facebook post from a former Circle K fan implies it is actually a two-pounder.)

Anyway, I was thinking some more recently about this still-empty building by the State-Ellsworth roundabout and why it has had trouble filling up.

Ext. of empty plaza near State & Ellsworth. (C)A2RS

And then I realized why when I tried to visit it: the only way in is through the Jimmy John’s driveway next door.

Same place as above photo but looking left. (C)A2RS

At certain times of day, you can hardly even get into the Jimmy John’s drive-thru, much less get past it to drop off your dry cleaning, or get your bowling ball polished, or whatever they hope to put in there. The lot that Tim Hortons and Belle Tire share has plenty of room, but is not only not connected to the new plaza, but there’s actually, like, a drainage ditch there, so they can’t even connect them now.

Some planner was SALTY when this was idea was conceived and so — I am an amateur retail analyst at best, but — it doesn’t look great for this center. I mean, maybe a pizza delivery place could come in here and hope to get some business during non-lunch hours. There is the Staybridge Suites hotel nearby. Or maybe I’m overreacting — this building is still so new it’s not on Google, Bing, or Apple Maps. (Google embedded above because at least they had the empty lot.)

But you know what place has plenty of room to expand around it and a lot of easy in-out lanes? Bronner’s. I visited recently on the way back from a weekend at Mackinac:

All lost in the supermarket (C)A2RS

School, Spirit

Latest from Maple Village: I had some business to conduct at the Secretary of State office (it’s Michigan’s equivalent to the Department of Motor Vehicles). And although I have a marvelous device with me at all times to help me survive a wait in such an office, I didn’t need to wait today.

Mi-TimeLine is awkwardly named, but worked a treat. I “checked in” after lunch, received a spot in the virtual line, with text updates estimating when to arrive. They adjusted their estimate about 45 minutes sooner over the afternoon. I arrived at the final estimated time and found my number at #1 on the “next” board. I was out with my new plate and tags five minutes after walking in. It was as close to joy as I have ever experienced in an SOS office. It’s a good thing they didn’t take my ID photo, I would have done the Calvin Smile.

There is nothing going on yet in this corner spot adjacent to T-Mobile:

Empty storefront in outlot of Maple Village. (C)A2RS

Near the main driveway into Maple Village, this is the site along Maple Road that mall management is trying to get a restaurant for:

I don’t think Kmart was ever busy enough to justify parking this far out. (C)A2RS

Still no sign of Ulta Beauty. I think Ulta will go into that empty spot near Dunham’s, if it doesn’t go into the empty spot near Kirkland’s.

Here’s the latest work on the enormous LA Fitness box going up on the south end of the site. Longtime visitors will remember a Hardee’s restaurant here where the building starts (old-school Hardee’s, before they merged with Carl’s Jr. and became their midwest twin down to the star logo), later replaced by Golden Chef, a Chinese restaurant that eventually burned down.

The LA Fitness building backs right up to Maple Road. (C)A2RS

Rumor had a west-side Tim Horton’s going on the site, but those rumors never came to fruition. Hardee’s neighbor was Frank’s, a beloved nursery and craft supply store headquartered in Troy that wound down in the late ’00s (previously on A2RS).

I think the front of LA Fitness is gonna be here, adjacent to the drive-thru of the PNC Bank branch. (C)A2RS

Another Michigan chain that used to be in Maple Village is Church’s Lumber Yards, long ago a fixture in the back corner behind the Village Pharmacy (also gone). When I was young, Church’s was a fixture around the Detroit area — a lumber yard with a hardware selection. When big-box lumber and hardware chains Builder’s Square, HQ, Home Depot, and Lowe’s all rose to prominence, Church’s vanished. But unlike Frank’s, they didn’t die out. They achieved the “right-sizing” that so many chains try to nail when they close stores. Church’s is now two locations north of Detroit, focusing on projects and professionals.

After Church’s deconstructed the space became an Anytime Fitness franchise. That Anytime location recently moved to a renovated space on Jackson Road between the I-94 on-ramps, which opened this space up for… go ahead and guess. I mean it’s almost September, what are we missing now besides pumpkin spice?

Yup, seasonal Halloween pop up stores! They’re coming, y’all!

Exterior of Spirit Halloween, previously Anytime Fitness, née Church’s Lumber, fka logs. (C)A2RS

Spirit Halloween will be here in Maple Village. I didn’t want to take photos in the windows, because there are literally workers setting up displays right now, amidst some abandoned Anytime Fitness design accents.

Blogfriend Dan will be pleased to hear that Spirit is also coming to Briarwood, joining its sister chain Spencer’s on the JC Penney side of the mall.

Just around the corner from their sister chain, Spencer Gifts (C)A2RS

This space most recently held a pop-up bounce house activity center, before its bisection, to open a nail salon with direct entry to the parking lot.

Dan also discovered on a recent excursion that Halloween City, the pop-up sister of Party City, is moving into the recently vacated Toys R Us store at Arborland and, post-Hallows, will remain longer as Christmas City. I am uncertain whether this is a holiday decorations concept or part of Party City’s excursion into pop-up toy stores to fill the void left by TRU.

People have occasionally asked me what was going on with that corner by Michigan Stadium. Well, now you all know it’s a tanning salon with a membership model. (Maybe they all have membership models, I wouldn’t know, because I don’t tan — at least, not with intent.)

Deep in the comments, someone mentions in the Ann Arbor Townie Group that the MDen owns that corner, but only really needs it to locate a pop-up store for home football games, to add to their permanent stores within Michigan Stadium and Crisler Center — so it wouldn’t make sense to open a permanent location there. (Is it hearsay if it’s attributed to an actual person?) It is much smaller than any of their other locations I have visited, and the large windows mean they can’t hang clothes on that wall (unless they put racks in front of the window, making the space even smaller and filling the window with the back of clothes racks). I also anticipate the stock space is probably very roomy for a mobile phone retailer, but would quickly become cozy with garments.

Here’s what MDen feels they need — a new storefront at Briarwood filled with upscale Michigan gear from the likes of Brooks Brothers and Vineyard Vines. I don’t have any photos but hit up that MLive link, there are all the photos your rheumy eyes can stand. This is connected to their longtime Briarwood store next door, much like their State Street location.

Aunt Agatha’s closed a few days back. They had sales on their remaining stock the last few weeks, then offered for free what was left over on the last day. Soon after that, a photo of a rollaway full of books made the townie-book rounds. It’s really hard to get rid of old books that nobody wants. It’s difficult to recycle them due to fabric book covers, old glue in the binding, etc. I don’t think Aunt Agatha’s had a lot of choices.

Finally, from South Industrial, two exciting pieces of news:

  • Pileated Brewing is expanding its hours. Pileated has made major strides since its opening toward the back of the small office and retail space most famous for hosting the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop. Both businesses support the schools at least indirectly – Pileated is co-owned by two AAPS teachers. Traditionally they had a limited schedule where they were closed on school nights, but they recently hired help to work the taps, so they’ll be open Tuesday through Saturday this school year. They also installed some softer lighting in the seating area and stopped using the industrial-ish fluorescent tubes.
  • Ann Arbor T-Shirt Company, the print-on-demand apparel operation, is moving from across the street to ?, if the for-lease sign can be believed:

    Ext. Ann Arbor T-Shirt Co, South Industrial. (C)A2RS
  • Ricewood’s season ends Saturday with tacos. Here’s the Thursday lunch crowd avoiding the last-day lines::
    Oh you know, just trying to avoid the rush on the final day. (C)A2RS

    The line moved pretty fast, they had three men in the truck, and I managed to get brisket, so, you know, yay me. I think the plan is still to move them inside Morgan & York, who now serve beer and wine by the glass, and put a taco truck here. Frank, Ricewood’s owner, just opened Poçai a few blocks up Packard, and is starting over with a new crew at Ma Lou’s, his waffle place chicken joint in Ypsi.

Happy end of summer!

Brief Briarwood Update

I got out to Briarwood the other day, and there are some things you should know about.

The space where MC Sports was has been bisected. The parking lot entrance is home to a nail salon and spa:

Exterior, Signature Nails & Spa. (C)A2RS

I don’t know what the overlap of services is between Signature and Tricho, which is directly opposite Signature on the other side of the Briarwood corridor entrance. Signature is the first Briarwood store I have ever seen not to have an internal entrance for customers.

Earlier this year, the MC Sports space was occupied by a bounce-house operator who is probably renting all their equipment out now for outdoor events.

Interior of former MC Sports store at Briarwood. Note the shoe and boot racks are still attached to the wall. (C)A2RS

Cinnabon is closed and walled off, with a literature stand attracting potential franchisees to run a Cinnabon in the mall.

So meta-bon (C)A2RS

I don’t know if they’re updating this one or if they just would rather have a blank wall than a closed Cinnabon. I’ve never run a mall, apart from when I worked at the mall and my friends used to say such as, “yeah, Britain basically runs this mall.”

Best Buy Mobile is gone. This was basically a tiny Best Buy store that only offered mobile phones and phone accessories, like bluetooth speakers and headphones and cases and cables. It matched the big-box Best Buy location across 94 for prices and such, but was more convenient if you were already at the mall. I think both parties, ultimately, will survive.

This lonely void’s lifeforce has been sapped by the throbbing pink one adjacent. (C)A2RS

Meanwhile, T-Mobile managed to double-size, by taking over the Aldo shoe store that was next door:

It looks like Apple and VS PINK had a hideous neon baby. (C)A2RS

There’s a similarly large Sprint store directly facing this T-Mobile store. If the Sprint-T Mobile merger actually happens this time, there’s gonna be a helluva reckoning here.

Finally, I wanted to remind you that Olga’s Kitchen is still a viable business. Although they recently closed up on Plymouth Road, the Briarwood location appears to be prosperous-ish:

/?attachment_id=992″> Exterior, Olga’s Kitchen at Briarwood. Click on me to go big and follow along with the below comment. (C)A2RS

I had to get this

[/caption]I had to get this photo because a.) nobody was in it and 2.) it showcases three distinct Olga’s logos from their corporate journey.

The illuminated sign over the doorway dates from their years as a funky little locally owned chain.

The New Century Schoolbookish wordmark on the “Our Host Will Seat You” sign mounted to the counter dates from the late 90s and 2000s when they were trying to modernize.

The current logo, where they are still locally owned and still a chain, but probably not funky, can be faintly glimpsed on the standing sign in the mall corridor. I don’t really care what they do with the logo, as long as they leave the bread alone.

Gas Station Convenience Update

I was near Eisenhower and Saline Road the other day and noticed that the A2 Gateway Shell at the corner has upgraded their Coke fountain to a tiny Freestyle designed to sit on an existing counter:

All the freaky flavors, half the height. (C)A2RS

Worth noting:

– Unlike a full-size Freestyle, this machine has both a tap to dispense the beverage AND a chute to dispense the ice

– The graphical user interface is more animated and slower than the full-size Freestyle machine

– After this was installed, the price for a 44oz drink shot up from $1.29 to $1.99

– The normal Pepsi fountain machine remains on the other side of the counter. It has like six or eight taps

South of here, at State and Ellsworth, the Speedway has completed its transformation into a Speedy Cafe, Speedway’s take on a Sheetz or Wawa type of quick-service food concept.

Interior of a Speedy Cafe much like the one that just opened here. (C) Marathon Patroleum.

As with the ones I’ve visited in Dundee and Hartland (and apparently at Walt Disney World now), you order your sandwich, pizza, burger, hot dog, or wrap on a touch screen, then the Cafe crew member makes it. I’ve tried the burgers in the past and they were okay for the price and convenience factor. This time I tried a toasted steak sub sandwich. I enjoyed the bun and the peppers and lettuce were pleasantly crisp, but the steak definitely seemed prepackaged, especially when I realized it had onions already in it (I definitely didn’t request onions, but there they were).

My favorite feature of this store is that since the pizzas are made to order, they don’t have the rotating oven heating individual slices by the fountain machine, and hence you don’t get hit with the chemical-burning slice oven smell when you open the door.  I haven’t taken photos inside yet because that would be super conspicuous, but trust me, it looks a lot like the ones from their website, linked above.

Now seems as good a time as any to pay tribute to Ann Arbor’s oldest Speedway location, at Carpenter and Packard. Specifically its roof.

Nearly seamless. (C)A2RS

Unlike nearly any other gas station in town, the roof of this classic Speedway station goes out of its way to protect you, the consumer, from rain and snow. Newer builds don’t have this roof.

Full protection. (C)A2RS

This Speedway station even predates the wide expansion Speedway undertook in the Ann Arbor area when its parent company acquired Total Petroleum’s US convenience-store business.

“LEONARD becomes TOTAL Station, 1971.” (C)The Ann Arbor News

Above, here’s the TOTAL station on Stadium across from the Post Office. In the photo it was transitioning from Leonard to TOTAL. In the early 2000s, Tota would exit the US market and license its trademark to a fuel retailer called Diamond Shamrock, who would eventually sell their stations in our market to Speedway, a subsidiary of Marathon based in Ohio.

State & Hill Shakedown Got Me Thinking About Records

Two fixtures of the Packard/State/Hill triangle recently closed their doors somewhat quietly.

Quickie Burger went quickly into the night in July. Quickie originally succeeded Tubby’s Submarines in the State/Hill corner spot about a decade ago. It was initially criticized for its signage – a woman riding a hamburger — along with predictable risqué puns in its advertising.

“Come in for a Quickie,” or something, I don’t know. (C)Quickie Burger, stolen from their ghost town of a Facebook.

It was an ok burger/beer place, if a little expensive. Recent weeks had seen store signage hinting at new management, a new menu, and the elimination of alcohol. (If you go way back, you may remember this restaurant as Geppetto’s Pizza.)

Around the corner, PJ’s Records suddenly closed when their landlord immediately terminated their lease. I learned about this disappointing news through Arwulf, Ann Arbor’s most beloved radio personality:

Screencap’t from Theodore Grenier (Arwulf’s) Facebook; click through to see the original post.

It’s hard to imagine a time when so many used and new record stores thrived in this town. State Street alone boasted PJ’s, Wazoo, Discount Records, State Discount (a chain variety store located in a number of college towns, with a music selection alongside the simple apparel, food, and household supplies you would find now at CVS or Walgreens), as well as Schoolkids In Exile during its brief run. Of those, Wazoo is the sole survivor.

“Stephen Bergman & Others Inside Schoolkids’ Records, September 5, 1998.” (C)The Ann Arbor News

Liberty Street had the original Schoolkids Records, SKR Classical, Borders 01, Encore Recordings, and the relative newcomer, now stalwart, Underground Sounds. (Full disclosure: I am fond of Underground Sounds and spent a lot of money at its sister stores as a young person with more income and fewer expenses.)

South University had Michigan Wherehouse Records, in the second-floor space above Good Time Charley’s now occupied by Cantina; as well as a brief presence from Royal Oak’s Play It Again Records and a franchise of Disc-Go-Round. I bet I’m forgetting some others. Of course, most people probably think of Tower Records when they think of music stores on South U, but a handful of locals may remember that the Galleria, Tower’s home, originally opened with Tracks, a different chain record store, on the ground floor. They closed pretty quickly after Tower moved in upstairs. Tower probably deserves another post of its own.

Mainly In Different

I was on Main Street recently to meet my friend and collaborator Patti Smith for tacos. (Inviting me to lunch is an excellent way to ensure up-to-date coverage of a particular area.)

Renaissance has come home to Main Street, in the… (mall? Let’s call it a Mall) at 806 South Main. Previously closer to William, the longtime downtown fixture for grownup clothes moved to Division Street a few years back and spent some time on the street level of the Google building downtown. The discontinuation of Renaissance’s presence at Towne Centre seems to dovetail nicely with Google’s move to the north side. But I’m glad to see them back on Main Street with Le Dög and CW Petersen Jewelry, maker of our wedding rings!

I have no idea what’s going in across the street but they’re really moving on that new building. Does the eye doctor own this? I assume it will be too expensive for anyone but Michigan Parents to actually shop at.

“Coming soon: Warby-Hammer, prescription tabletop miniatures for the hip young professional.” (C)A2RS

Down the way, The Ark prepares for the coming flood of singer-songwriters, folkies, and acoustic-ish rockers. Big renovations happening in this, the season when it’s fun to listen to music outdoors.

Wear your hard hat and watch for dropping fiddle grooves. (C)A2RS

And I noticed Underground Printing has debranded Moe’s from its Main Street store, which previously had a UGP AND a Moe Sport Shops banner. MDen has been running the old Moe space on North U as basically a satellite MDen store for some time. I think the North U store is due to close soon, if it hasn’t already, since MDen already has a massive presence on State Street. Apparently you used to be able to buy actual sporting goods there, but I’m pretty sure that was before my time.

You’ve heard of ‘Shoeless Joe,’ now get ready for Moe-less UGP. (C)A2RS

 

A2faiRnesS: Equal Time for Walmart

Drawing the Carpenter Target arc to a close: the changes are largely completed. I was in there a few days ago and found a few things out.

I wish there was another logo over the other side of the entrance. Then it would look like you were shopping in Domo-Kun’s mouth. (C)A2RS

The new facade matches the modern design on Target’s blog, though without the second entrance they suggest will be the future of new stores – the area north of the entrance is probably going to be some kind of carside delivery area.

They just put some wood panels here to keep it going across the whole front, I guess. (C)A2RS

It was temporary restrooms when I last visited, while the front ones were being renovated — but I think online orders will be delivered to vehicles from there. These online orders could be shopped and prepared for curbside by Target team members, or by shoppers from SHIPT, the retail delivery firm that got a foothold in Detroit as a Meijer partner before being acquired by Target. So far it sounds like SHIPT shoppers in Detroit are still only getting Target orders for delivery to customer premises, though in some other markets they may receive offers to compile an order instore and then prepare it for pickup.

Drive-up lanes for online orders at Carpenter Road Target. (C)A2RS

As a Target team member recently confirmed here on the blog, the Pizza Hut/Food Avenue restaurant is gone, leaving only the Starbucks counter. (The former photo lab has been converted to a seating area for Starbucks.)

The whole store in general seems a little less red and a little more light grey. There are more displays and fewer rows of shelves along the high-traffic corridors. You still have to walk past Literally Everything in the Known Universe to get to the grocery, though.

This is the end of Carpenter Target coverage for now, unless something really photoworthy happens — but if you aren’t sick of reading about Target yet, hit up this Fast Company article about the Mock Store on the third floor of Target HQ in Minnesota.


Meanwhile, up the street at the Carpenter Road Kroger, they’re rolling out Scan-and-Go. Thanks friend of the blog Josh for this photo of the display:

Scan-and-Go device display at Kroger, Carpenter Road. Courtesy of Josh, all rights reserved.

This is intriguing to me. Stores like Sam’s Club and Apple have offered similar systems for years. As much as I eschew the U-Scans to seek out a real clerk, I would consider this some nights. I like being trusted, and it would make checkout a lot quicker, especially for just a couple of items. But I still use coupons often enough that I wouldn’t be ready to leave them behind. I STILL WANT 50 CENTS OFF THESE POP-TARTS, DANGIT.


A few days back I made a remark about how Blockbuster Express offered DVD kiosks that were “like Redbox, but blue.” Turns out Redbox also has redboxes, but blue:

Redbox disc rental at Walmart, Saline, MI. (C)A2RS

Like all vending machines in front of all Walmarts, the Redbox is blue, the better to match Walmart’s visual merchandising guidelines. Their social game is (fire emojis) too:

Also Walmart has a fashion cross-promotion with Lord & Taylor, formerly the snootiest store at Briarwood, now a subsidiary of Hudson’s Bay, the Oldest Firm in Canada.

And if you’ve ever wondered what the heck the mythical Platt Road location in Saline looks like, it’s actually a Walmart-managed pharmacy attached to a clinic inside the Toyota Technical Center, for Toyota employees. Walmart.com totally lets you use it as a pickup site for orders from their site, though! Are you are a Toyota employee who has purchased an item on Walmart.com, and chose pickup at the Walmart Pharmacy inside the Toyota Technical Center, to save yourself a drive to Walmart? You could be a guest on the A2 Retail Show! Get in touch with us here at 888-45-MAURY. Bonus: a free Paternity Test!


Circle K store at Stadium and Packard, June 2018. (C)A2RS

This week while in Ohio I happened to catch a commercial for Circle K convenience stores that featured a modern store design that might give us a clue as to how the Stadium and Packard store will look when it’s completed.

I can’t find that commercial now, but I did happen across this walkthrough of a newly opened Circle K store in Ashtabula that probably contains strong indications of what the new Ann Arbor store will be like.


Finally, if you are a longtime subscriber to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Nixle alerts system, the two frequent alerts that numbed you to its harbingers of doom probably included Fairfax Manor in Superior Township (an assisted living facility that managed to frequently lose its residents) and the old Bank of America branch at the Packard/Eisenhower gore point (a bank branch that was always gettin’ robbed). Bank of America left the building over a year ago, but recently major work has occurred within:

Lots of construction inside and a big ol’ dumpster outside. (C)A2RS
“CONTRACTOR: K-4 Medical and Dental Const.” (C)A2RS

It appears that a clinic or dental office is coming to the space. If you look closely in the windows (not pictured) they are building many small rooms inside, likely to be exam rooms.

 

Things to Come (and Gone)

I made it to the movies this past weekend to see “The Incredibles 2” with my family. We’ve watched the original many, many, many times — the DVD has been a road tip fixture in each family vehicle. I still remember the first time I saw it in the theater, when it was released.

Britain w/lit tree

The photo above was taken about two years before I saw “The Incredibles.” I apparently packed a Negativland “Copyright Infringement” shirt for my honeymoon, in case you question my credibility.

I honestly can’t imagine how past-me would react if I could visit him now, ambling out of a cavernous AMC multiplex in Columbus, and confront him with these actual facts about the sequel:

  • You’re gonna get three movies starring Owen Wilson as a talking racecar, four more Johnny Depp pirate movies, and twelve movies starring Marvel superheroes out of Disney, before they give you another Incredibles movie
  • They’re gonna start the movie with a short live-action anti-piracy segment featuring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brad Bird assuring you this film was worth waiting fourteen years for
  • They’re gonna be right, it’s a fun movie and the action scenes make the first movie look like a Game Boy game, and it’s well worth the 3-D upcharge
  • Oh yeah, 3-D is back in movie theaters again, though it’s already come and gone at home
  • You will purchase the tickets by touching a glass rectangle that is also your telephone, at four in the morning, and choose your seats in the movie theater like you’re buying concert tickets
  • The seats will be motorized La-Z-Boy styled recliners with discrete armrests
  • You (Britain) will enjoy the film while drinking a zero-calorie version of Coca-Cola that you can still tell the difference between, but it’s close enough, especially if you mix in a couple ounces of regular Coke
  • People are depicted conversing on landline telephones, cars look like sixties cars, and people watch television on picture-tube sets; but there are also flat panel displays and very modern-looking other kinds of vehicles, so I can’t exactly tell when this movie is actually supposed to take place

Anyway, in a nearer, more mundane future, I (and some friends of the site) caught glimpses of some future stuff that’s happening to places I’ve discussed recently.

Front entrance of Target Ann Arbor store. (C) A2RS

While I was obsessively photographing the dramatic changes to the east side Target store, the west side Target was already getting some updates inside the store. The photo counter and Target Mobile section by the front door are now a Customer Service and Order Pickup desk.

Exchanges, refunds, and packs of gum. (C)A2RS

The one checkout lane that was also a customer service desk is now a row of self-checkout stations, as have been appearing in newer Target stores.

A2RS regrets the error.

And how about the store’s tiny, vertical CVS Pharmacy sign, set far away from the store entrance?

“Hey everyone, I’m here too!” (C)A2RS

I believe it’s Target’s attempt to reconcile a contractual signage obligation with CVS, and the shopping center management’s restrictions on exterior signs.

In other news, Meijer stores on both sides of town have decommissioned the belt-drive U-Scan machines, encouraged for shoppers with 12-items-plus orders, and replaced the lanes with a mix of the smaller U-Scan machines intended for U12 orders and staffed checkout lanes.

The shiny new kiosks still run Windows 7. Credit for the crash goes to John, security expert and friend of A2RS

This decision is welcomed by people who view self-checkout as robbing a human of a wage-earning position, this writer included. But to be frank, it’s not an improvement to put more humans at these lanes if they don’t know how to bag groceries. I always group like items on the belt — milk with yogurt, beef with bacon, Dranō with “Mountain Dew Pitch Black.” But I think sometimes the cashiers are taught to place items in the bags to fill them and use fewer bags.

Bags are probably a major consumable expense for grocery stores and this kind of efficiency is probably welcomed in areas where the bags carry a surcharge. Thanks to Lansing, though, Ann Arbor isn’t one of those places, and I swear to you, nary a plastic shopping bag goes to waste in our household. (We have pets, enough said.) Don’t crush my delicate beer with a bag of dinner rolls!

I think this blog was first, and only so far, to report the changes at Speedway on State and Ellsworth. The signs are up all around town at other Speedway stores, looking for employees to staff the new Speedy Cafe. (They may have their work cut out for them.)

“Inventory Low Due to Remodel” at Speedway, State and Ellsworth. Courtesy of Pete.

Late last week I visited the store and encountered employees and contractors hard at work emptying the shelves and racks during the morning drive time. I was too shy to take a photo then, but A2RS friend Pete was not:

Panorama of the emptied, pre-renovation Speedway store, courtesy of Pete. I remember when the Blockbuster Express DVD kiosk was riiight over ☞ there. It was like a Redbox, but it was blue.

At the time these photos were taken last weekend, Pete reports, the store was out of “most pop flavors and all straws.” I haven’t been by since then to see what it’s like now, but apparently the store will stay open throughout the project to sell gasoline and smokes.

“Toys ‘n Kay-Bees: Resurrect Dead Chains,” or “More Blogs about Buildings and Food”

The other day I was so excited about the big Target Reno on Carpenter Road, that I forgot to take note of a couple of other changes there.

Ext. Babies “Backwards R” Us, now closed. (C) A2RS

Babies “R” Us has completed its liquidation sale. Soon its facade will be just as bare as its sister store’s labelscarred front on Washtenaw, as seen below. Some TRU stores in other areas of the United States are expected to remain open until midsummer.

Exterior, Toys “R” Unable To Type The Backwards R On An iPad Keyboard, June 2018. (C)A2RS

TRU Canada will remain in business following its sale to a Canadian bank. The nearest location is in Windsor, across the street from Devonshire Mall, so get your Enhanced Driver’s License ASAP. It’s not too much to pay too late! (I said that wrong.)

On the other hand, it seems possible that Kay-Bee Toys will be back in malls for the holiday shopping season. The IP firm that holds the KB trademark (and has reintroduced Bonkers Fruit Chews and Hydrox Cookies) is hoping to start with 1000 stores across the country this holiday season, then negotiating leases and maintaining the best performers beyond the holiday.

Ext. Mattress Firm & AT&T, Carpenter Road. (C)A2RS

Mattress Firm also showed up in the outlot building where Pier 1 used to be. (This Firm store opened nearly at the same time as its sister store on Eisenhower. That location’s former tenant, Old Carolina BBQ, was one of the first locations I wrote about here.) I don’t know what it is with mattress stores, it seems like a very volatile business always on the verge of being eaten by those foam-mattress companies that ship you one all smooshed up. But I guess if you’re good the rewards are worth it. Like, I don’t know, nearly all businesses.

The AT&T franchise moved out from next-to-Target to that outlot building as well, surprise surprise. I hope this leads to an expansion for Fun4All, purveyor of fine board and card games, among many other items.

Also, up Carpenter Road, UMCU is building a brand new bank branch next door to the Regent Hotel. This is a big improvement, because UMCU’s presence on the east side has been a little weak. I think they gained a branch in central Ypsilanti when they acquired the EMU Credit Union, and I sometimes use the CU Family Service Center at Glencoe for deposits, when I want to hand my checks and bills to a real person. But it’ll be nice to have a proper branch out this way.

Exterior of Mast Shoes with addition at Westgate Shopping Center. (C)A2RS

Mast Shoes at Westgate is more than doubling in size. It’s nice to see a local, family-owned store expand in a healthy way. I don’t exactly recall what was here before Mast took it over, but I’m pretty sure it was “Hit or Miss” or another women’s chain clothing store. Avenue? Bueller?

The Speedway at State and Ellsworth was looking remarkably spacious today. Many of the shelves (including the Arctic Coke machine) were empty, and most of Speedway’s free-standing waist-level coolers near the checkout line — the ones that say “here’s a couple bottles of Dew and/or a 24oz can of malt liquor, you know, FOR THE ROAD” — were not on the Plano. The clerk told me that the store was about to undergo a renovation, but that the side with the registers would remain open throughout. She also assured me that I would still be able to get to the soda pop fountain.

This Speedway building barely opened a couple of years ago, maybe three at the latest. That development was a refresh of a site Speedway originally took over from Total Petroleum of France decades ago — it doubled the number of pumps and introduced a brand new store building. It’s already very modern by Speedway standards. So I reckon it’s going to get the ready-to-eat selection (like Sheetz and Wawa, popular regional fuel station chains that offer prepared sandwiches) that more Speedways near a highway are starting to get. (EDIT 9:30AM: Confirmed by another clerk!) Examples nearby of this concept include US-23 and M-59 in Hartland; off US-23 in Dundee near Cabela’s; and the Merriman Road Speedway, just across I-94 from Metro Airport.

Finally: guess what, suckers, I have A Source and they told me that the former gas station site on Stadium between Burger King and HotPot Chen — I mean, Ponderosa — is going to be an office building, so I don’t know where you’re gonna get your Kerosene now.