Back in Michigan

I loved putting together the Anaheim trip report last month, but based on likes and comments, which are the only metrics I really pay attention to, it was met with massive indifference. So here’s a warning up front: there are a couple more pictures from other cities (Michigan cities) in this post. I’ll put them at the end so you can jump off after the local content. Feel free to request a refund.

Launch Board Shop

(from Launch Board Shop’s Instagram)

Launch Board Shop announced its closure at the beginning of March. Launch grew out of longtime old-South-U shoe store Footprints, coming up from the basement to eventually take over Footprints’ street-level corner space with street shoes and skateboarding gear. Soon after the Ann Arbor Skate Park opened at Veterans Park, Launch opened a location nearby on Jackson Road across from Vets Pool:

Ext. Launch Board Shop Jackson Road. “borrowed” from Dug S.‘s review of Launch Board Shop on Yelp

…but it didn’t last long there before making way for Homes Brewery.
A couple of years later Launch left South University, where it was promptly replaced by a downsized Ulrich’s Books & Spirit Shop, and reopened at Packard and Platt, where it will remain until this weekend. It is survived by a number of independently-owned shops it tagged in its Instagram announcement (closest is Olympia Skate Shop in Ypsi), and I think there’s at least one chain store in the mall that sells skating gear too.

Whose Mans Is This

Exterior of future Ann Arbor location of Mans Lumber & Millwork. (C) A2RS

The new tenant on South Industrial (where is “North Industrial,” anyway? I honestly don’t know) is Mans Lumber & Millwork. With Fingerle Lumber winding down a few miles away, this is a great opportunity for another localish-owned (Mans is from Canton) business to come to the area. This building, which most recently hosted the Ann Arbor T-Shirt Company, is nowhere near the size of Fingerle’s complex, but is probably big enough to carry some ready-to-go stock, and hold orders filled from Canton or somewhere else for local pickup. I guess. I’m not a lumber blogger.

In other Fingerle news, the owner of Vinsetta Garage (a popular spot back east) has proposed to turn one of the former Fingerle buildings into a brewery restaurant. I suppose we can always try another one and let the market decide. This building is apparently not part of the parcel U-M purchased from the Fingerle family. I believe it is the building next to the train tracks and north of Madison, also known as The Building In A2RS’ Only Known Photo of Fingerle Lumber. It is nondescript but recognized for its perennial depiction of a beaming Debbie Crispin, welcoming you into downtown, ideally in your new Chevy with your small dog.

Readers write:

Lisa notes that Papa John’s has disappeared from Stadium Boulevard, nearly seamlessly replaced by Toarmina’s, Southeast Michigan’s giant-pie purveyor.

Exterior Toarmina’s Pizza, formerly Papa John’s. (C)Lisa

Papa John’s withdrew from Ypsilanti around the same time, and their store locator now encourages Papa’s Ann Arbor children to visit him in… South Lyon? That’s Oakland County, pops!

This has nothing to do with local Papa John’s, I just thought this Branson Reese comic was funny. (C)Branson Reese. (I didn’t ask him either)

This was a rough year for Papa John’s, the Chain. Its namesake expressed many personal opinions, which may have led to a break up with its longtime partner the NFL and significant downturn in same-store sales. Papa John is no longer president or board member, though he is still the largest shareholder. But the franchise could return and grow at any time. Why, look at Tim Hortons.

Exterior BP fuel station on Zeeb Road with partially hung Tim Hortons signage. (C)A2RS

Another new Hortons location has appeared, on the far west side. The BP gas station at 94 and Zeeb converted the south side of its otherwise-generously-sized convenience store into a drive-thru and walk-up counter. If it ends up looking like the similar setup at Eisenhower and Saline Road two exits east on 94, it will have a surprising amount of comfortable seating for a gas station concession, too.

This is the latest step in Hortons’ dominance of the I-94 corridor, joining locations a stone’s throw from the highway at Rawsonville Road in Belleville, Huron Street in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan Avenue in Ypsi Twp., State and Ellsworth in Ann Arbor, and the aforementioned Eisenhower and Saline Road location. I think this may be the first Ann Arbor location to open since Tim Horton’s was acquired by RBI, the parent company of Burger King, in 2014.

Longtime Ann Arbor residents may remember Tim Hortons’ previous Ann Arbor forays, while under the corporate patronage of Burger King’s rival Wendy’s.

This particular store is in Ontario, but the local ones look more or less like this. Image from Wikipedia, who says that the company was also known as “Tims Horton,” like “Attorneys General.” Uh-huh, Wikipedia, sure it was.

This led to dual-branded Wendy’s/Tim Hortons stores in Ann Arbor (I THINK the Wendy’s on Boardwalk had a Hortons counter for a while; I know there were both Wendy’s and Hortons in the basement of the Michigan League), as well as the one on Michigan Avenue and Hewitt in Ypsi Township.

All the dual-branded locations had this prominent photo of the CEOs Dave Thomas (right) and Ron Joyce (left) grinning at you, because they owned your breakfast AND your lunch. Image (C) Wendy’s, used with permission. (Just kidding, I didn’t ask them.)

How could a Tim Hortons possibly fail? Well, the locations that didn’t quite make it include a store on South University at Forest Street, open for only a year or two, as well as proposed locations on Liberty Street near Division, and at Maple Village in an outlot building that was previously Golden Chef, a Chinese restaurant, and a Hardee’s; a site currently occupied by the now-open LA Fitness.

Through all of this, a Saline location, on Michigan Avenue near The Car Plant, has chugged along in a former Hardee’s location since the early 2000s, when Hardee’s abruptly withdrew from the greater Detroit area and Wendy’s/Hortons swooped in to occupy their suddenly available spaces.

Lisa also shared this new Grand River barber shop opening nearby, across and down Stadium:

Ext. Grand River barber shop. (C)Lisa

And Mr. Cynical reminds me to report that the Mystery Spot in front of the Hyatt Place hotel on State is due to be occupied by Lake Michigan Credit Union, not to be confused with Lake Trust Credit Union. LMCU’s billboards can often be spied on I-94 but this is their first Ann Arbor branch I am aware of. I thought banking branches had to have drive-thrus these days but this did not dissuade LMCU. Should be opening soon.


About once a week someone in the Townie Group on Facebook decries the loss of the center court fountain at Briarwood. Every mall these days ONCE had a fountain that is long gone and much mourned, but I know of at least one mall in the area that STILL has a water feature — Southland Center in Taylor!

The bridged fountain at the entrance to Best Buy, Southland Center, Taylor. (C)A2RS

Once upon a time, Southland had a grand food court with tons of natural light via a cathedral ceiling, and all the usual mall food court staples – fro-yo, pretzels, a Bourbon-Chicken-with-Rice stand, Sizzling Weasel on a Stick, the Grape Snake and Cuidado Concern, you name it, you could get it. But they all left over the years, and in 2005, Southland closed the food court, enticing Best Buy to leave its spot a few miles east at Eureka and Dix.

Pretty much the only way you wind up with a ceiling like this in a Best Buy. (C)A2RS

The rest of the mall seems fine. They were doing some work freshening up the Macy’s. The Cinemark theater is the next closest one to Ann Arbor and has an XD room, a large format screen comparable to our Ann Arbor theater’s IMAX room.
The mall court in front of the JC Penney store looks like a miniature-golf-scale version of itself. Just like I remember it, but half the size. This is probably because I’m taller now.

So if you want to see a fountain in a mall again, hit up Southland. If you want to see those familiar Briarwood floor tiles, check out Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn:

The classic Taubman hexagons, as seen in Dearborn last month. (C)A2RS

Unlike Briarwood, Fairlane is still owned by the Taubman Companies (yes, the same Alfred Taubman that so many U-M schools and Michigan Medicine facets are named for), and Taubman has not updated the floors the way Briarwood’s owner, Simon Property Group, did a few years ago.

Really want to get nostalgic? Fairlane still has a Cinnabon AND a Burger King. (C)A2RS

5 Replies to “Back in Michigan”

  1. I confess that I’m glad the fountains are gone from Briarwood. They were really loud so sitting near them was uncomfortable plus the increased humidity in centercourt during the summer was gross.

  2. The center of Briarwood is now just Liberty Square with burnt coffee and massage chairs. And calendars. Thank heaven there’s at least one mall with the right floor tiles. Tim Horton makes the worst donuts you can buy outside of a prison commissary. Canada’s worst export.

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