We’ll get back to Ann Arbor soon, but I got to visit Southern California recently. Orange County is commonly known as “The Ann Arbor of the West Coast” by literally nobody at all, but I have made reference to several artifacts of this area in the past, and it seemed like a good opportunity to formally document them here.
The Disneyland Target
Here’s Target #192, the Harbor Boulevard location. It’s about two miles south of Disneyland.
As I noted then, this Target is a very wide-footprint store. It has two entrances, just like Meijer. (A number of Target stores, usually in non-Midwest markets where Meijer doesn’t dominate, have larger footprints and expanded selections.) If you just look at the outside, you might think this is one such location.
But once you enter, you realize this Target is actually quite navigable on foot. It doesn’t go as far back as even the Target stores in the Ann Arbor area.
In the photo above, shot from the home furnishings section: between here and the store’s cafe in the back center of the above shot, I count about nine aisles.
Both of the Ann Arbor area Target stores basically start at their single entrance way. This Target store has a significant sales floor going past either edge of its entrances, like a Meijer. The pharmacy, as well as health and beauty items, occupy the area past the north entrance behind Food Avenue (the cafe); on the south side of the store, housewares and small appliances can be found past the Disney souvenirs and behind the Guest Services counter, across from office supplies and greeting cards.
As the closest Target to Disneyland, this store has a particularly robust selection of officially-licensed Disney souvenirs. Everything from Mickey rain ponchos (get them outside the park to save a lot of money) to matching t-shirts for everyone from Dad to Grandma. And have you ever seen a Target with seventeen checkout lanes? Me either. Full disclosure: a few of them are self-scan stations, accompanied by this free phone-charging station:
At this store, you can securely charge your phone while you shop, an amenity I have yet to notice at Ann Arbor area stores.
Viva Bargain Center
This Target store shares its corner with Viva Bargain Center, a dollar store. Alongside today’s typical dollar store fare (smaller-size name brand or grey market home, beauty, and food products), they had an interesting selection of clothing and possibly some actual marked-down closeout items. I almost shelled out the two dollars for a plastic-molded smartphone VR headset but instead I took photos of these:
In the outlets of Target, there are a fancy car wash, a party store (they don’t call them that in California, but that’s what it is), a Coco’s (California regional bakery-restaurant chain), and this delightful little Walgreens.
Walgreens #3674 (Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA)
As you can see, this Walgreens is considerably smaller than your typical Walgreens store. Several conventional Walgreens stores can be found within a few blocks, including one kitty-corner from Disneyland, sharing the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Katella Dr. with a Hyatt Place hotel (and across the street from its arch-rival, CVS).
This Walgreens boasts two drive-thru windows, exterior counterparts to their two interior counters – a drop-off counter and a pick-up counter.
It also carries a selection of over-the-counter medications and other pharmacy products, but eschews the general merchandise and beauty products that a lot of modern drugstores stock.
The store seems to serve as an alternative to the shops in the lobby of the many hotels up and down Harbor Boulevard. Prices were comparable to other Walgreens locations and discounts tied to the loyalty-card program applied to purchases (can confirm, I got 50 cents off my pack of gum).
I’m not sure whether this store was purpose-built or whether it was renovated from a similar outlet concept, although this place gave me strong once-i-was-a-bank-branch vibes.
Unlike a typical Walgreens, where the blue-vested store clerks usually suggest you add that month’s featured candy to your order, the only folks staffing this location appeared to be pharmacists or pharmacy technicians. The interior pickup counter doubled as the checkout. I had to wait to purchase my gum until a pharmacy tech finished fulfilling a drive-thru prescription pickup (the wait was reasonable). They also had a small soda cooler, and stocked some basic candy bars and a rack of Frito-Lay products, including single-serving chips, nuts, cookies, and crackers.
The Outlets at Orange, Orange, CA
This outdoor shopping center lies a couple of miles east of Disneyland. Southern California’s generally pleasant weather lends itself to an outdoor mall, especially around here, where there isn’t really a walkable downtown area. It hosts many bars and restaurants, as a substitute. (I happened to visit on like the one day of the year when it was rainy and mid-40s, which figures.)
As a fellow property of Simon, the owner of Briarwood, The Outlets of Orange shares some features with its sister in our neighborhood, including the evergreen Fancy Car Display Accompanied By A Prize Drawing In Which The Car Is Not Actually A Prize, And The Prize Drawing Is Actually An Intake Form For An Aggressive Timeshare Vacation Sales Pitch.
It also features a few local merchants amidst the tourist stuff, like the above computer sales and repair shop.
Besides the outlets and restaurants there are a few entertainment-oriented destinations, including a 30-screen AMC theater and the flagship Vans Skate Park.
When you look past the fancy vestibule and the “Film City” livery at this location, the layout isn’t that much different from other large-scale AMC locations like Livonia 20. I watched “Alita: Battle Angel” in IMAX 3D and it was fine, though I found myself wondering if I should have attended the Dolby screening instead, since I don’t think we have a Dolby theater in the Detroit area yet.
Anyway, that’s California. A state of the union, a state of mind, a state of huge screens and tiny Walgreens. I will spare you all the photos I took in, and of, In-N-Out restaurants, for now.
If you’ve been to Meijer on the south side in the past few weeks you may have noticed some huge changes, complete with progress-bar-festooned “Update in progress…” signage.
A NEW FRONT ENTRANCE. The Starbucks counter near the checkouts closed in mid-January, and soon after, they obliterated the north entrance and moved the fresh flowers out of the corner near that entrance. The bakery is there now.
The new entrance has a lit Welcome sign out front that isn’t quite lined up properly under the big Meijer sign, which leads me to think maybe it’s temporary.
A display inside the store shows that the exterior is eventually going to be completely redone to look like more modern Meijer stores:
NEW AISLE SIGNAGE. They’re ditching Meijer Gothic Demi, the sans-serif lower case type on the aisle signs, for a slightly wider, serifed font. That’s right, Meijer Gothic Demi. Meijer has their own font. Are you surprised? Everywhere else, Walmart has taken over, but Michigan is Meijer territory. Walmart actually gave up on Hartland, ceding it to Rural King, when Meijer came to town:
(Rural King often chooses former Walmarts for their new stores; my father-in-law tells me that this is because one of the Rural Royals are married to a Walton heir, but I wouldn’t testify to that fact before a rural jury)
Anyway, if you shop at the west-side Meijer store at Jackson and Zeeb, you’re used to this type already. The west-side store often receives experimental updates that may or may not go chain-wide. This store had the navy/khaki uniforms years before the other Ann Arbor stores did; it also got this signage over two years ago…
The south entrance is now closed and is undergoing heavy construction. I think it will reopen eventually, I’m pretty sure all Meijer stores will continue to have at least two entrances. (Our west side one still does.)
The fish tanks have been removed while the pet supply section moves within the store. Here’s where they used to be, right by the grocery:
Moving toys right next to grocery is a dangerous combination. I foresee many parents with no other option dragging their kids to the store to get anything in the back five or six aisles, only to find their trip hijacked by plaintive wails for stuffed critters and games about all of the funniest bodily humours.
LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT, AS SEEN THROUGH THE LENS OF THE MASS-MARKET GAMES AISLE
All that biohazard in the game aisle and yet it’s EVERYWHERE ELSE that’s currently covered in plastic sheeting:
I expect more construction over the next few weeks, especially if the Jackson Road store is any indication. The grocery is a dramatically different layout from this store. Snacks and beverages in the back by the detergent. There’ll be a lot of rearranging ahead. Not to mention a drive-up window for the Pharmacy and probably some enhanced infrastructure for the Curbside pickup. Currently the Curbside orders are shopped by Meijer employees, but I’ve heard this is being offloaded to Jyve, a contract employer that provides merchandising and shopping services to supermarkets. (Shipt will probably continue to provide to-your-door delivery services, barring something unforeseen.)
And several folks have told me that after Saline Road is done, the Ypsilanti store (at Carpenter and Ellsworth) is next! The recent Target reset next door probably makes this even more necessary. I will be very interested to see if they keep the front mezzanine above the checkouts.
Baby New Year brought a lot of bad news this time. Unless you like photos of closed stores, in which case, start your new year right and travel back in time a month.
CLOSED: Sears at Briarwood
The closing this past Sunday of the Sears store at Briarwood leaves JC Penney as the only anchor store that was there at its opening 45 years ago (Penney’s, Sears, and J.L. Hudson; Lord & Taylor followed a year later).
You could argue that Macy’s still qualifies too since they acquired the chain that acquired Hudson’s and I would say, good sir, that Macy’s is no Hudson’s, and anyway, how DARE you.
By the final weekend of Sears in Briarwood, pretty much everything was 60-80% off. Nearly all the softlines (i.e. apparel) had been consolidated to one area near the entrance to the mall, but nobody comes to sites like this to see people actually browsing through full racks of clothing, and I didn’t feel like asking people to sign releases, so here’s a bunch of empty store shots.
I bought my most recent television at this Sears, a Samsung LCD set, almost nine years ago (I wanted to watch the final episode of Lost in glorious 1080).
Although a little temperamental, the set still works and nearly all the TV content I watch still looks just fine on it, so I guess I was part of the problem.
I have very similar stories about several clothing items I bought from various Sears stores. Not the most up-to-the-minute stylish items, but well-made and still extremely wearable after a few years. Sorry I didn’t replace them sooner, Sears!
Though Lands’ End partnered with Sears to develop a huge retail footprint, the next time you visit a Lands’ End store it probably will be a store of its own. Despite their sister company’s rightsizing, they are beginning to expand their brick-and-mortar presence, though apparently their real profits come from uniform sales, most notably the cabin crews of Delta and United Air Lines.
I always wanted to fold shirts as well as they are folded at the store. But I think this mobile folding bench was missing an insert or something, so I’ll just have to keep practicing the Japanese T-Shirt Folding Trick…
The east entrance of the store was the toy department, when I was young. When I got older and Sears didn’t sell toys any more, it became the Tools department, which might have been quite appropriate if I’d been into the whole “using tools for fun” thing. I still always checked here first for my hardware needs, rare as they were.
I headed back to Briarwood a few days later, in the wake of Ed Lampert’s eleven-and-a-halfth-hour offer to rescue the bankrupt chain, just to see how things were looking post-closure.
CLOSED: Toy City & Halloween City
The Party City outgrowth added toys to the usual Halloween pop-up concept, filling the closed Toys R Us store at Arborland Mall from early fall until Christmas. Now, the store stands still and dark at the end of the Arborland block.
Though it carries no posted hours and its website suggests all locations are now closed, they seemed to be in no hurry to clear out of the old TRU shortly after the new year when I stopped by. I took the above shot through the clear glass front door.
CLOSED: Smoke’s Poutinerie, South U and Forest
Who would have thought that this would fail? Smoke’s is an Ontario-based chain of quick-service restaurants whose broad array of flavors (from gochujiang to curry to BBQ) all come on top of the traditional Quebeçois base of fries, gravy, and chunks-o-cheese. Surely a quick, cheap comfort food like this would take off, so close to campus? Besides, Detroit is north of Canada! I enjoyed Smoke’s several times, generally with coupons and in-app discounts, but, I mean, fries, gravy, and cheese. That’s three of the best worst things (I’m told, I really don’t like cheese much). There’s nothing you can put on top that makes it a healthy entree, not even celery.
The space had a bar attached from its previous lives as World of Beer and Dick Tyler’s; as Smoke’s counterpart, the bar became the Beaver Trap. (Between this and Quickie Burger, I think winking-mascot double-entendre bar names are just about done in A2.)
What will this location become next? It seemed to be doing okay as World of Beer, but then the WOB chain decided to pivot to a full-menu restaurant that just happened to have a zillion taps and this space was too small for that (when this WoB closed, a full-kitchen location opened in Canton near Ikea, and still seems to be doing fine there). So the kitchen is too small to make, like, dinners. Maybe someone takes it back to basics and opens a dive-y bar in it? This corner is where Bicycle Jim’s/Cactus Jack’s/Mitch’s Place thrived for years. But the Landmark landlords may not want that, or may expect a higher rent than a cheap-beer bar can afford. Since I haven’t predicted it in a long time, I’m gonna go with Jamba Juice. Or they tear out all the food prep and a Verizon dealer opens here.
STILL CLOSED: Burger Fi, South U and Forest
Yes, both of the corner restaurants at South U and Forest are closed. Kind of a bleak look.
If you have a few minutes you might enjoy listening to BurgerFIND, a tongue-in-cheek investigative podcast produced by a group of students who trace the sudden closure of the restaurant and its obscure out-of-town ownership through hearsay, speculation, and finally a digital approximation of some good old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. The upshot is that Burger Fi’s corporate office doesn’t seem to have problems. In fact, I got to visit a Burger Fi in Denver over the summer and it seemed to be doing more like Burger-FINE. (slidewhistle)
CLOSED: Kosmo Deli at Kerrytown
This is kind of a huge deal for people who lived or worked or went to school in Kerrytown. As Kerrytown’s quirky quiche shops gave way to more upscale dining, Kosmo Deli still stayed relatively affordable, even as the diner-style counter expanded to a space with actual tables in recent years. At some point in the past two decades, Yong Skeen sold Kosmo Deli to a fellow who actually goes by the name “Kosmo,” and Kosmo has moved the Bi Bim Bop and Tempura to a space of its own on Ashley street. (He left the great burgers behind in the move, presumably since he’s next door to Blimpyburger now.) According to Lisa the space is soon to become Loomi Cafe. Sounds promising!
OPEN: URBAN RIDER Cargo Bikes
And according to Lex, there is an electric cargo bike dealer opening soon in Kerrytown:
CLOSED: Burger King on Stadium
It looks like as soon as the Zeeb Road BK reopened from its renovation, the Stadium Blvd store closed permanently. I could be wrong, maybe they’re just going to aggressively make it over, but they took the logo out of the road sign. Seems somewhat final. All the other fast-food or fast-casual places along this stretch are relatively new (Noodles & Co) or recently updated (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway) and this BK was a little run down compared to its contemporaries. (The Victors Way BK is timeless and flawless, of course, and do not @ me)
Finally, blog friend Joel reports seeing a Budweiser truck stocking the new Circle K at Packard and Stadium, and today I noticed that the coolers were full of product. Between this and the installation of digital signage over the soda taps, I think it’s actually going to open soon. Maybe even before the Packard Dairy Queen opens for the season. You’ll hear it here fir… who am I kidding, probably last. You’ll, uh, hear it here BEST?