A2RS Trip Report: Anaheim, CA

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.

Exterior, Target #192, Garden Grove, CA. (C)A2RS

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.

View from the back wall of the sales floor toward the front of the store. Target #192, Garden Grove, CA. (C)A2RS

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.

Target #192, Garden Grove, CA. View from patio and home section toward the south wall of the store. (C)A2RS

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.

Target #192, Garden Grove, CA. View from front of store, near Guest Services and checkout #17. (C)A2RS

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:

“ChargeItSpot” secure phone charging kiosk at Target #192, Garden Grove, CA. (C)A2RS

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:

At Viva Bargain Center, these insoles were available only in Michigan State Spartans, Louisiana State, and Oregon State logo/colorways. (C)A2RS
“The Mach 6 is secretly the Mach 5’s older brother car, who drove away from home years ago, and almost made it to Disneyland.” (C)A2RS

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)

Walgreens #3674, as seen from Harbor Blvd. (C)A2RS
Profile, Walgreens #3674, as seen from parking lot. (C)A2RS

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).

Rear of Walgreens #3674. (C)A2RS

This Walgreens boasts two drive-thru windows, exterior counterparts to their two interior counters – a drop-off counter and a pick-up counter.

Interior view from entrance of Walgreens #3674. (C)A2RS

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.

Interior of Walgreens #3674, featuring cold remedies. (C)A2RS

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).

View from the north wall of the store toward the south wall, pickup/cashier counter. (C)A2RS

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.

View outside from the entrance of Walgreens #3674. (C)A2RS

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.)

Fancy car/unrelated timeshare display at The Outlets at Orange. (C)A2RS

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.

Exterior, “Mac Bros Computers.” (C)A2RS

It also features a few local merchants amidst the tourist stuff, like the above computer sales and repair shop.

Corridor between Forever 21 and an art-themed cafe in which carefully placed windows render this reclining nude “safe.” (C) A2RS
I hadn’t been in a GameStop in like a year before entering this one, and it looks like all they sell now are surprise boxes and Switch games. (C)A2RS
Another typical corridor at The Outlets at Orange. As you can see, the stores are not exclusively Outlets, although there are a few. (C)A2RS

Besides the outlets and restaurants there are a few entertainment-oriented destinations, including a 30-screen AMC theater and the flagship Vans Skate Park.

The lobby of the AMC 30 at Orange. (C)A2RS

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.

The entrance to the Dolby-certified Theatre 15 at the AMC Orange uses digital projections to differentiate itself from the other screening rooms’ entrances. It’s probably better in other ways too, I guess, but I’ll have to take your word for it. (C)A2RS

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.

Meijer Ground

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.

Meijer bakery. This used to be the fresh flowers and balloons area. (C)A2RS

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.

This was soon after the entrance opened on February 3. (C)A2RS
Here it is on February 6. (C)A2RS
They’re carving it up like a $5.99 rotisserie chicken. (C)A2RS
“A Meijer Coming Soon sign in Illinois that matches the render for the Saline Road store. “Borrowed” from the Chicago Tribune.

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:

Panorama of Rural King store (formerly a Walmart Supercenter), Hartland, MI. (C)A2RS

(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…

Interior, west side Ann Arbor Meijer store, November 2016. (C)A2RS
This used to be the south entrance, adjacent to the Pharmacy. It is currently closed during its renovation. (C)A2RS

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:

Formerly the Pet department. Fishtanks were right here. (C)A2RS
Same spot right now. No longer pet supplies, now toys! (C)A2RS

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.


All that biohazard in the game aisle and yet it’s EVERYWHERE ELSE that’s currently covered in plastic sheeting:

The beer aisle. Over half of the beer cooler is closed, so all the craft is warm. The functional cooler is all Miller Coors beer, PBR, some of the cheapo brands like Natty, and the beery cocktails like Lime-A-Rita and hard seltzers. Oh, and ciders. It’s weird. (C)A2RS
At right was the low meat cooler. At left: beverages and what used to be the bakery. (C)A2RS
The electronics section. You can still get it FIRST here, for now, but I imagine this will be made more uniform soon. (C)A2RS

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.

How We Like Our Poutine

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

Exterior of Sears Briarwood on its final weekend. (C)A2RS
Sears Briarwood HR office. This door was between the Auto Center and package pickup, across from the fitness equipment area. (C)A2RS

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.

Here’s the exterior of Sears in 2013, bidding Circle Cube a fond farewell and never suspecting that a scant five years later it too would be preparing to leave these confines. (C)A2RS
Here, Sears provides the backdrop to a jolly holiday diorama. The Spirit of Good Will Toward Man appears courtesy of Lexus of Ann Arbor. (C)A2RS
One springtime in the mid-ought-tens, the Sears court in Briarwood hosted a symbol of rebirth and redemption, as the former Radio Shack space was quickly reoccupied by Gold-N-Gems. And there was a bunch of Easter stuff here too. (C)A2RS

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.

Final weekend of Sears Ann Arbor. All the apparel that would have been in the background is in the other room to the left. I don’t know where the hardlines are, maybe they were all shipped to Livonia. (C)A2RS
Foreground: merchandise racks for sale. Background: fornerly the shoe department and Sears Optical. (C)A2RS
Although this Sears stopped selling large electronic items a year or more ago, they left the electronic brands on the wall until it closed. (C)A2RS

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.

This extremely literal banner from the final day of operation provided courtesy of Mrs. A2RS

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!

This empty men’s department provided courtesy of Mrs. A2RS.
(Why yes, we’ve been married for over a decade.)

(Wait, why exactly does that surprise you?)
Jewelry and sunglass racks and other store furniture ready to be sold the day before Sears closed forever at Briarwood. (C)A2RS
The remains of the Watch Repair counter at Sears Briarwood. (C)A2RS
These signs on the Watch Repair counter encourage shoppers to visit them at the Twelve Oaks Sears (slated for closure in March) and the Livonia Marketplace Sears (still apparently a profitable store, despite sharing a shopping center with Walmart). (C)A2RS
On its final weekend, the Lands’ End boutique inside Sears Briarwood hosted a selection of retail furniture. (C)A2RS

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.

Is this “Hardlines?” It’s definitely the remains of the bedding section the day before Sears Briarwood closed. (C)A2RS
Exterior of Sears Optical at Briarwood. It closed about three weeks before the rest of the store. (C)A2RS
Since I know you were dying to know what that little paper “IMPORTANT” sign with the fine print said, it was legal weasel words for some merchandise leasing plan that Sears had cooked up. (C)A2RS
This door, propped open behind the former shoe department, was a breakroom for the skeleton crew still on deck the last weekend (I think). (C)A2RS
“Mobilefold” shirt folding bench for sale at Sears Briarwood on their last weekend. IC)A2RS

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…

In the Seasonal section, two weeks after Christmas, a handful of holiday items and one lonely tree greet visitors to Sears Briarwood. (C)A2RS

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.

By the final weekend, the Tools department was basically a bucket of odd Allen wrenches and these leftover chemicals and paints. (C)A2RS
The former Tools department hosted the last few exercise devices, in its final days. What was in the exercise department? You’ll see a little further down. (C)A2RS
The former Fitness department hosted, among other things, more retail furniture, as well as a few appliances already sold and waiting for pickup. (C)A2RS
Even the store office was in on the “fun,” selling its leftover supplies. If you needed clipboards, pushpins, thumb tacks, power strips, binders, or those metal racks you stick folders in, this was your place. (C)A2RS
A Miracle-Ear™ hearing aid counter, a mannequin bust, and more office supplies. Basically everything but Milton’s red stapler, cash-and-carry. (C)A2RS
Good ol’ Ryan and Brittany, pleasing people to the very end. (I think at least two of these people were the same person.) (C)A2RS

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.

Exterior north wall, Sears Briarwood. Note the wall scars from the missing Sears logo above the green-lit section. (C)A2RS
Exterior of drive-in lane at Sears Briarwood. The next day, the signage would be removed. (C)A2RS
Close-up of drive-up merchandise pick up entrance at Sears Briarwood. (C)A2RS
Lovingly labeled “NO PARKING” sign adjacent to Sears package pick-up entrance. If I were still in college I probably would have stolen this, but now I take only photographs. (C)A2RS
South wall of Sears Briarwood. Much like the other sides, its SEARS logo was removed immediately after the store closed. (C)A2RS
Back in 2013 when I took this, it wasn’t goodbye, but now… (C)A2RS

CLOSED: Toy City & Halloween City

Not the Halloweentown Embassy. (C)A2RS

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.

When u see the backwards Яs on the back wall 😧 (C)A2RS

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.

Glad you asked — without cheese. Does that make me part of the problem? (C)A2RS

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.)

The place had like fifty taps, but as far as I know The Trap didn’t do anything too special with them. I mean, even the little bar inside the Whole Foods at Cranbrook has tap takeovers and stuff. (C)A2RS

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.

Interior of the former Burger Fi space. They’re really tearing it up – is it gonna be another restaurant? Who knows? (C)A2RS

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)

So it turns out there were TWO Discount Records stores downtown until at least the mid-70s. One of them was in the corner space where BurgerFi was! Every copy of our book, “Vanishing Ann Arbor,” comes with a coupon to issue me one smug correction of an error like this one. (ad from the Ann Arbor Sun, May 3, 1974; courtesy AADL)

CLOSED: Kosmo Deli at Kerrytown

“COMING SOON… Loomi Cafe” Courtesy Lisa (@lisibit)

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!


And according to Lex, there is an electric cargo bike dealer opening soon in Kerrytown:

Ext. Urban Rider Cargo Bikes at Kerrytown. (C)A2R

CLOSED: Burger King on Stadium

Burger King site as seen from across Stadium Boulevard. (C)A2RS

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)

Ext. rear of Circle K at Stadium and Packard. (C)A2RS

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?