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