A2R.S Road Trip: Dillon, Colorado Exorcises Its Authority (groan)

I wrote last week’s update about Craft Brewwwww City on the way out of town. I shot the photo of their coming soon banner literally out of the AirRide bus window (only TWELVE DOLLARS!).

I was headed to a work conference in the mountains west of Denver, about eight thousand feet up. I was fortunate to attend this conference last year too. The area is best known for its ski resorts (Keystone, A-Basin, Breckenridge) but in the summer it’s a quiet and lovely place to relax and learn about the latest innovations in instructional technology.

Last year when I attended this conference I misjudged the dress standard and packed slacks. I quickly realized that it was less business and more casual and regretted not bringing some shorts. On the way in, I had noticed a Sports Authority on Route 6.

That’s it above, in the boom times of 2008. Unlike Ann Arbor, Google doesn’t send Street View trucks into the mountains every couple of years.

By the time I arrived for my conference, the Sports Authority chain was well into its bankruptcy sale, but there were still some decent men’s shorts to be had for a pretty good price. I think I paid $16 for two pairs. Still wear them all the time.

I drove the same route this year and was happy to discover that this big box was quickly renovated into an REI store, the first in the area (the next closest location is 67 miles away in Denver – read the linked article for some of that local sporting goods retail drama you crave).

Another fun thing about this area is that everything looks like a ski lodge. I assume there is municipal guidance to ensure this. (There is! Kudos to A2 Commr. Weatherbee for pointing me to Dillon’s documentation. Checking it out is worth the 56k-esque download time.)

Here’s City Market, next door to REI:

City Market is a division of Kroger and once you get inside this store it looks like every other Kroger you’ve ever seen. Same layout, Kroger brand products. I even swapped my Kroger Plus keytag for a City Market one, with a big red strawberry. It is the most mundane souvenir I have ever taken from a trip, but I think of the mountains every time I go to Kroger now. (PROTIP: If you just hand your keys to the clerk at your local Kroger, they won’t necessarily recognize a City Market keytag as, but it scans just fine. It appears in my Kroger account as a “Sooper Card,” derived from another Western Kroger division, King Soopers, but again, it is totally valid in Ann Arbor.)

Here’s a Target for good measure.

As I always say, I sure wish Ann Arbor had a few mountains in the distance, but we do okay in terms of rivers and lakes.

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.")

More new things on State near I-94

Looks like they’re cramming in one more building off of the State and Ellsworth roundabout, behind the recently opened Jimmy John’s and Belle Tire.

This looks a little too wide and narrow to be one thing, and there doesn’t appear to be a drive-up window. Given the proximity to new hotel development and current business presence, I’m going to guess it’s a small strip mall, and it’s going to have a Quizno’s, a hair salon, and a vape shop. FreezingColdTakes, come at me in a few months.

North of I-94, the Hyatt Place is just about complete. Its outbuilding, less so. Still not sure what this building is gonna be:

Squarish. Slightly higher ceiling in back. Drive Thru signboard facing State Street. Probably a fast food restaurant.

No logos or design elements that I recognize. Maybe it will be a new concept to the area, but it seems more likely that a familiar name is getting a new location nearby.

The Wendy’s on Boardwalk Drive exists within this block, albeit not necessarily connected by a driveway.

It’s existed largely unchanged for decades, albeit with minor branding updates. It has a huge queue area for the counter, though I imagine it’s full most weekday lunch times.

The Burger King on Victors Way is not far away, around the corner. It’s a very unique building, especially for a fast food restaurant.

Ringed with conifers, exposed rafters, porthole windows, and an atrium help distract you from the usual fast-food-restaurant molded plastic furniture. At one point the BK regional headquarters was attached to the back, though it’s offices for an insurance firm now.

Am I really telling you to go eat a Whopper just for the building? If we’re being honest, I would have told you to go eat one anyway, because I give terrible advice. But this location is still worth checking out before they inevitably conform it to current brand guidelines.

Some Stuff to Taco Bout, Maynard Street, and Finally Getting Round to a Proper Squarewell


Exterior of Taco Bell on Jackson Road. (C)A2R.S

Taco Bell has made a triumphant return to Jackson Road on the west side. None of its area locations are exactly what I would characterize as outdated, but this store closed for a dramatic renovation that has made it look like a real-life version of the Taco Bell mobile app.

Chela’s is expanding downtown! Coming-soon signage spotted on Fifth Ave. between the old Jerusalem Garden space and Earthen Jar. I really enjoy the steak and chorizo combo tacos from their original location at Liberty and Maple, and the owner, Adrian, was very nice to my kids last time I took them, so I’m happy to see Chela’s growing.

On Maynard a couple of times last week, and took the opportunity to examine the small convenience store at the base of Tower Plaza. The most recent incarnation did not survive long, despite having an eye-catching brand with arguably the street’s best use of Microsoft Word’s “Word Art” zoom.

Set in Courier, no less. (C)A2R.S

There are a glut of similar stores in these two blocks, including two national drug chains experimenting with take-and-go meals, and the venerable Diag Liquor. Just across the street in Nickels Arcade, babo also recently threw in the towel. I’m not an expert, but I think you need to be able to sell booze if you’re gonna survive here.

Are those new network cables hanging from the drop ceiling? (C)A2R.S

I hope they’re coming up with an interesting new use for the storefront, and that they announce it really soon, so I have something else to write about. There’s no shortage of new neighbors. The new owners of Maynard House apartments literally taped a new name over the old sign. They didn’t even get Clippy’s help like the people across the street did.

“It looks like you’re attempting a hasty and generic rebranding campaign.” (C)A2R.S

Speaking of Nickels Arcade, they are currently celebrating their hundredth anniversary. The current merchants are hosting little exhibits of signage and collateral from tenants of yore. And the front door of each store tells you who was there before. Gonna stop typing because my thumbs are sore.

Closeup of Apples & Oranges’ door. (C)A2R.S

One last disappointing update. A few weeks ago I spoke at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor about starting this blog and some other previous projects in this vein, and I shared a few photos I had taken of Circle Cube, a golden sculpture that used to stand in one of the public areas of Briarwood Mall, but which I hadn’t seen since its renovation was completed a few years ago.

It hurts me to see you like this buddy. (C)A2R.S

Next morning, I got a hot tip from a current mall employee that CC was still on premises, still in the shipping crate it’d been packaged for sale in years before. I headed over at lunchtime and there it was:

A few days later I got word that CC had been destroyed and disposed of.

Nothing gold can stay.

Arbor Hills Crossing: Not Your Father’s Buick Dealer


Have you been to Arbor Hills Crossing? If you haven’t been in town for a few years, you might not know what I’m talking about. Arbor Hills Crossing is an outdoor shopping center on Washtenaw and Platt, near Whole Foods Market and the county recreation center.

“Auto Firm Begins New Building Work,” Ann Arbor News, August 21, 1963. (C) The Ann Arbor News.
The Arbor Hills Crossing site is a composite of several sites that originally hosted Ann Arbor Buick (which eventually also sold Cadillac and Saab before its closure), a car and truck rental, an independently owned furniture store, a pet daycare, and a small shopping center that contained, at various times, a Stucchi’s ice cream, an Edward Jones investment office, and a Doughboys Bakery. (Doughboys was a beloved, long-gone locally-owned chain of bake shops.)

“Ann Arbor Buick – 3165 Washtenaw, June 1964.” (C) The Ann Arbor News.
Nearly all of the stores that moved into Arbor Hills Crossing were chains that had not otherwise been in Ann Arbor before. They include Brooks Brothers, Lululemon, Anthropologie, The North Face, Sur La Table, Madewell, and Evereve (a maternity store originally known as “Hot Mama”). Arhaus Furniture had been in Ann Arbor for a few years, at Arborland down the road, but left Arborland to move to AHC. Arhaus’ building at Arborland was eventually relabeled “Arbor House Furniture,” but the space has never been occupied since.

(Click through above to see the space in Google Street View. Go back to 2011 and before to see the old buildings I mentioned at the beginning of the article — except the Buick dealer, which was gone by the time Google began cruising Washtenaw.)

The locally-owned stores include longtime staple Running Fit, My Urban Toddler (baby clothing, supplies, and a playspace), and the restaurants. They include Bigalora (a hot-fast pizza place as is the current rage but with an exceptional tap and drink selection); Zola Bistro (from the owners of downtown breakfast spot Cafe Zola); and Mighty Good Coffee.

The Mighty Good Coffee shop was originally a Glassbox, a high-end coffee and juice shop. It, and its sister location at Washtenaw and South University, both closed suddenly a year or two ago when their backer pulled out. Mighty Good quickly acquired the locations and expanded. As far as I know, this is the closest thing to a failure this shopping center has experienced.

That’s pretty much everything I know about this place. I drove through the parking lot once without stopping. Honestly, I haven’t been able to afford any of these stores since I had kids. Feel free to tell me what I’m missing below.