Over the past few days I had noticed lights on within the cozy confines of the Packard Road Dairy Queen store, a sure sign it was preparing to begin another season.
The Packard Road location stays open weeks after other seasonal locations close and traditionally opens up right about now, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see people at the window as I drove home from work tonight. Here, I’ll let my favorite social-media-savvy cryptid (Northern Division), the North Campus Turkey, explain:
Dairy Queens in Michigan are majestic beasts that often hibernate for the long winter months. Some of the stronger bulls will burn stored fat to stay open, while the more diminutive of the species grow a protective shell. Those ones regain their plumage around this time of year.
I called the store after dinner, as soon as I had a minute alone, to confirm it really was open and this wasn’t some kind of softlaunch or something. The person on the phone confirmed it was true and the season had begun!
My next step was to go to my last Dairy Queen email. I had a coupon for BOGO Blizzards, and I wasn’t going to go without it, BUT:
By now, I just wanted a Blizzard, as did my spouse. And we didn’t care if we had to pay for both of them.
I identified myself as the guy who had called to make sure, welcomed DQ back to the neighborhood, and told them what the website said. It turns out that franchised stores can specify whether they’re open or not on the corporate website, and in fact, MUST do so — otherwise nearby customers who place orders for ice-cream cakes would have their orders routed to this store. Which makes perfect sense.
Anyway, in Southeastern Michigan, we love standing outside in 40 degree weather for ice cream, if there’s a store nearby that will do it. And this one will.
I paid full price for both our blizzards. This was not a paid post. I can’t be bought. This is not ACTUALLY true, I can totally be bought, but nobody has bought THIS (points to self) yet. can you believe it? me either.
And I joke about how insipid this is, but lately it feels even more insipid. So that, plus the twelve inches of snow, then the subsequent twelve inches of water on the ground when it got warmer and rained, have kept me from my usual rounds. Sorry these updates are not illustrated, but I’ll at least try to make them read good.
The Carpenter/Ellsworth section is starting to see changes. The Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores are beginning their closing sales, but I’ve only really noticed the typical going-out-of-business trappings at Babies R Us, where there is a huge banner next to the building sign and those guys who stand at the nearest intersection holding and subtly waving “30% OFF” signs. Remember that these 30% OFF prices are not necessarily based on the store’s original prices, but on prices set by the firm that’s running the sale.
A friend who knows management at an area R-Us store tells me that business actually isn’t that bad at Arborland, but that the rent was too high. (The initial list of R-Us store closures hinted that some locations might not close if lower rents could be negotiated with landlords. Reality-TV entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis made lease re-negotiations like this a daily drama when his firm acquired Gander Mountain; he updated various locations’ status every day on his Twitter account.)
Anyway, my friend-of-a-friend says TRU hopes to return to Ann Arbor in a co-branded TRU/BRU store with a more favorable lease.
In the outlot of Babies R Us, there’s an AT&T sign on the outlot building where Pier 1 was and Aspen Dental now is; but the inside still has a long way to go. Not sure if this is a move or new competition for the existing AT&T reseller store on the end of the strip next to Target, Lane Bryant, and Fun 4 All.
Across town, a friend on the west side says Sun & Snow Sports seems to have closed on Wagner Road. As part of AADL’s dramatic Westgate Branch + Sweetwaters expansion, Sun & Snow exited Westgate and split into two nearby locations; the Wagner Road store would concentrate on swimming and water recreation, while the Jackson Road location near the Quality 16 theater would serve the skiing and snowsports community. A bicycle shop would eventually join S&S on Jackson Road, rounding out its offerings and serving customers left without a nearby option since the sudden closure of Two Wheel Tango.
In about the past year, a national sporting-goods chain (Sports Authority), a regional chain (MC Sports), and a specialty chain (Total Hockey) have all imploded, so without the volume these chains could take advantage of, you’d better be creative to survive. You also have to keep overhead low, and differentiate yourself with service and attention to the customer.
Or you could just can your lifers, like Barnes & Noble did this week.
Barnes and Noble just fires almost every single receiving manager as a cost cutting measure. I worked with them for over 17 years and my weekly Storytimes are massively popular. And in the blink of an eye, I'm fired.
Something something “interesting times.”
Here’s a shot of Old Carolina, one of my very first posts, as seen this past weekend:
I’m tired, but feel free to tell me what you think below, or Facebook or tweet me. I’ll read it in the morning.
I haven’t noticed a lot new in the past few days, sorry for the lack of updates. But I really wanted to write and post something, so here are some photos I recently resurfaced of the closing of the Kroger store at Stadium and South Industrial, circa 2014.
At the time of its closing, South Industrial was the smallest Kroger store in town and probably one of the very smallest in the Detroit metro area. Small enough that it only had a single entrance/exit. Small enough that you could get from one end to the other in a minute or less without rushing. Too small to survive in the era of ever-larger-footprint Kroger stores. The Traver Village store, on Plymouth Road, was the largest store in the Kroger chain at its 1992 opening; though it has only grown larger from there, other territories have Kroger stores that dwarf it. Some take a run at Meijer or Walmart and stock general merchandise.
The South Industrial Kroger was the closest supermarket, and nearly the closest business, to nearly all of the U-M athletic campus, including all the stadia and arenas, a truth reflected in its decor. Each corner of the store had a mural depicting Wolverines excelling in a particular sport.
I personally liked this Kroger because it was very conveniently located between my work and my house, it was open until at least 11 most nights, and it was priced competitively with other grocery stores in the area despite being conveniently located and small enough to quickly navigate. Did I occasionally accidentally buy something that was past its freshness date? Sure, but they always cheerfully exchanged it.
You get the idea. This was a small Kroger.
I was still sorry to see it go. So were many other people who sent farewell cards, and signed a giant banner on the front of the store.
In the ensuing weeks and months, the building would be debranded. Here it was soon after it closed, but before the announcement of its future tenant, Lucky’s Market.
And here we are today. Lucky’s has been a reasonably good neighbor. Their prices, especially their sale prices and private-label items, are often competitive with larger supermarkets, and they have a pretty good beer and wine selection. Not to mention, you can walk around with a dang glass of beer, if you feel like that helps you shop (it does).
I’m sure it is not a coincidence that Kroger owns a share of Lucky’s Market. Thanks for reading!