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!

OPEN: URBAN RIDER Cargo Bikes

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?

2 Replies to “How We Like Our Poutine”

  1. Thanks for this somewhat funereal contribution. You made me recall the mourned losses in an earlier Kerrytown. For years the basement Pastabilities was my go-to lunch spot. They served cafeteria-style, with rotating sauces, soups, always a nice green salad and a nice crusty bread. Also sold pasta by weight from a retail counter. And before that Kerrytown Bistro, a wonderful brunch spot where eves eventually took root. Kerrytown is now somewhat of a food desert for non-vegans. Yes, I know, except for the fish specials.

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