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:

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.