On the west side, this week’s big announcement: City Council approved LA Fitness joining the discount department stores, and Plum Market, at Maple Village. Their 35,000ish square foot facility will be a new build, on the site of the current English Gardens.
Longtime Detroit area residents know English Gardens is a higher-end garden shop, and Frank’s Nursery was a multi-state discount garden and craft supply chain. Frank’s folded in the late 2000s, and English Gardens assumed its space in Maple Village not too long after. With a covered but open-air area, another garden shop was a logical choice.
English Gardens, according to the Ann Arbor News, is doing great business at Maple Village, but MV’s new owner Brixmor is aggressively making it over. It’s been reported that Radio Shack’s Maple Village store was forced to close – perhaps just hastening an inevitable demise. Sofia’s Tailoring recently told the AA Observer interesting stories of dealing with the management there, as well.
English Gardens hopes to relocate in the Ann Arbor area. They have other locations throughout the Detroit area (West Bloomfield above) and I am confident they will continue their seasonal sales at Briarwood.
The impending destruction of the former Frank’s store at Maple Village signals the end of its retail footprint in Ann Arbor, after Dollar Tree moved into Frank’s old Washtenaw location across from Arborland. Below, see the store before the shopping center was reenvisioned, and its open-air section was flattened to make room on the end for DXL Big & Tall and Olga’s Kitchen.
I’m not exactly sure where the next-closest Frank’s was, or what it is now, but I recently drove past the Frank’s on Haggerty Road in West Bloomfield, and it is still occupied only by temporary stores like fireworks merchants and halloween outfitters. Three moves later, we still use many of the tools we picked up for cheap near the end of that location’s liquidation sale. The below Street View is worth clicking through if you like annoyed geese, as well as a Street View Car selfie courtesy of the store windows.
This is what our good friends in the United Association for Plumbers, Pipefitters, HVAC, etc. are seeing when they descend on State Street this month after their annual training events.
Game vendor Get Your Game On has expanded into phone repair, a niche that is likely underserved by downtown’s existing wireless carrier stores on Liberty, Main, and Fourth-Washington. (Carrier stores mostly want to get you to extend your contract and are less likely to repair existing equipment when they could offer you a new phone with a re-up.) The last phone repair store downtown was on Liberty between Maynard and Division and closed, I think, last year. You may remember its creepy rocking-mannequin porch decoration.
Joining it next door is Roasting Plant coffee, ready to try to crack the State Street block. They have an uphill battle being located between Espresso Royale, Starbucks, and the newly relaunched Michigan Creamery (formerly Stucchi’s), which incorporated Bearclaw Coffee into its new menu.
Sandwiched between them is FICO, also known as Fair Isaac. Fair Isaac is not actually Poor Richard’s fairer brother, but is in fact one of the US’ big three credit reporting agencies. I cannot vouch for the quality of their coffee, and never will.
Restoration and updates continue on the State Theater. The marquee looks shiny and new and some kind of construction is also happening:
Meanwhile, further south near 94, construction continues unabated on Whatever’s Going In Front of The New Hyatt.
I originally thought this was gonna be a restaurant, but the drive-thru lane appears to host a big concrete block with a door behind it instead of a signboard and a window, so I have this pegged as some kind of banking institution now. Most area banks have a location within a block or two of Briarwood already. A number of them are within Briarwood Circle, in fact. But I suppose one could choose a more visible location, or more convenient to the highway, for quicker getaway after a robbery. Banks are about convenience more than ever these days.
Bagger Dave's has departed the Colonnade center on Eisenhower Parkway. Ann Arbor was the second location for the chain, originally founded in Berkley (near Royal Oak). Bagger Dave's was created by a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee interested in creating their own restaurant concept. They originally opened as "Bagger Dave's Legendary Burgers and Fries," which was a little bit Will Smith and a little bit Barney from HIMYM. They had good beers, good burgers with interesting toppings like basil, and perhaps most importantly, an enchanting electric train that continuously ambled around the perimeter of the restaurant, high above our heads. We got them for takeout fairly regularly when we lived nearby, too.
Shocked to learn that Bagger Dave's in Brighton has closed. That was my first job out of high school.
In recent years, they changed their burger recipe to a single, larger patty instead of double-stacking smaller ones, and ditched Coke to offer their own "craft-brewed" sodas alongside the craft beer. They made a bad mistake on my wife's burger last time we went, and the listless service on top of that was bad enough to skip it from then on.
They are survived locally by their neighbors Moe's, whose customers will miss borrowing their wifi, and Applebee's, who continue to do the beer and burger thing next door to the Colonnade.
I like Five Guys, but I like Bagger Dave's better; unfortunately ours, if not the chain, went out of business. https://t.co/tKIEQdHyM9
(DISCLOSURE: U-M is my employer, until I cash out and sell this project to Axios or Oath or something.)
The University of Michigan is the institution of note in Ann Arbor. Its various research, medicine, and entertainment concerns bring attention from all over the world… BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!
U-M has the largest alumni association, as well as a popular sports program you might have heard of. The block-M logo is one of the most in-demand trademarks in apparel. I worked at a theme park far out of state for a while and met many visitors in U-M hats, sweatshirts, and jackets. I would always ask “Are you a student or alumni or just a fan?” (I would say “just a fan,” because it was half my life ago and I could be kind of a little jerk without even trying. They would smile and say “just a fan!”)
U-M’s sports trademarks are managed by IMG, part of superagency William Morris Endeavor. WME’s co-owner is the real-life version of Ari from Entourage, and its IMG website helpfully lists the royalty percentages its member institutions take. Michigan is at 12%, on par with other Big Ten schools and football powerhouse Alabama, and 20% higher than the College of William and Mary (10%). Lower, though, than Brigham Young University’s 14%. OSU is not represented by IMG, and who cares? They don’t give a damn about our whole state, you know. They have a song about it!
Anyway, can you blame a local store for wanting some hail-by-association?
First example: The Washtenaw Marathon
Up until the late 2000s, this looked like any other run-of-the-mill Marathon. The gable roof makes me think maybe this was a Shell before, but I can’t confirm right now because… because I won’t confirm right now. But the owners had big dreams and they rebuilt the fuel islands and convenience store with high windows, in handsome brick. They envisioned their station as the first piece of Michigan a visitor might see, I imagine. So they put a big, glorious maize block M over the entrance.
That didn’t last long. Can you blame the U for protecting their hail?
First the store owners tried to get square by changing the color to a stars-and-stripes pattern. Not enough. They ended up taking the lower blocks, but not the upper ones, off of the block-M, creating a weird little sans-serif M with shoulder pads or Bozo The Clown scalp- wings:
Shopper’s advisory: A Yelp reviewer, the self-identified “first reviewer of a gas station,” notes that this place has great booze prices.
Second example: Stadium Party Shoppe/The Big House of Liquor
This photo of the Stadium Party Shoppe and Stadium Pharmacy dates from about ten years back. I can only conclude that back then the trademark wasn’t policed so carefully. Although the Pharmacy stayed open continuously, the Party Shoppe closed for a few years and was eventually purchased and reopened by another family member, as I understand it.
Above, here it is a year ago after its reopening. The swooshes redone a little more droopy and less reminiscent of the Winged Helmet Design, and everything in a stars and stripes motif.
I don’t know how forthcoming these shopkeepers are about their signage decisions, though it would be a great thing for literally anyone else to ask them. A local business that is very forthcoming about their branding struggle is BTB Burrito, which was originally known as Big Ten Burrito until the athletic conference found out and put the kibosh on (link goes to their salty about-us page).
The Big Ten Party Store on Packard Road was named in 1939 and apparently established before having to contend with the conference attorneys.
Most people know it now as Morgan and York, the bad-weather dining room for Ricewood.