How I Spent My Retroactive Hiatus

Hi, welcome back. I got to take some irons out of the fire over the summer. I went on some long walks, took a trip out west, played the AADL summer game. Also OUR BOOK CAME OUT, HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT IT?!?

The book release was a really exciting time: the first run or two sold out on Amazon, and we charted shockingly high in a couple of rather specific categories for the first few days. It’s calmed down since then but is still Top 1000 in a couple of them. I’ll be sure to let you all know when the fame and fortune sets in.

“I love it when we’re cruisin’ together.” Photo of Britain and Patti at Literati Bookstore in August, by Sky.

The most fun part of the book release was doing events with Patti where we showed some more photos we couldn’t publish in the book (thanks to a series of M&As, all of the old Ann Arbor News photos are now owned by the parent company of Reddit, and they don’t come cheap). We also went deep on a few of our favorite vanished things. So many people showed up and the vast majority of them did not correct me while I was speaking, which, as a public speaker, I was very grateful for.

One event was at AADL, who recorded and published it on their site. Check it out if you want, but don’t try to play along with the quiz, because I think the link is broken now. Thanks to AADL and Literati Bookstore for hosting these events!

And thanks to the local radio stations who called on us too:

Vanishing Ann Arbor is a fascinating read about what is no longer here, places you may still long for or never even knew…

Posted by Lucy Ann Lance on Thursday, June 20, 2019

T Hetzel invited us to WCBN to join her for “Living Writers,” too.

But the one that really blew up my network was the Michigan Radio interview. I enjoy listening to Morning Edition and All Things Considered, so it would have been a dream to visit, and it hurt me not to be invited too. But if you are familiar with Patti’s history expertise, and you’re reading this, you know that she’s the expert on the kind of stuff that Doug Tribou asked about, and I would have just been sitting there saying “there was a Burger King underground. It was below Kinko’s.”

Interested in the book? Patti would love to sell you a copy signed by us! She’s on all the social medias, usually as @TeacherPatti. Or you can get it at a bookstore near you. It looks like all the Ann Arbor bookstores have a couple of copies in stock. One friend reported she even saw it at the Costco store here in Ann Arbor:

Look what I picked up at Costco. Good work, Britain Woodman!

Posted by Bridgitte Rivers on Thursday, August 15, 2019
“$13.99, are you out of your mind?” Holy cow that’s cheap. (Photo by Bridgitte Rivers)

Anyway, it’s fall again, which brings school, which brings after-school activities, which I bring my kids to, which brings me a couple of hours a week where I’m neither home nor at work and it’s a good place to write. I saw a lot over the summer, and a lot of people made sure to tell me about the stuff I didn’t see. Another part of the problem with not writing for a while is kind of the law of inertia — when you don’t write for a while, it gets real hard to do it again, especially when you’ve made a real thing your beat, because you know you’ll miss something obvious, so why bother doing it at all? I’ve never guaranteed to be anything more than an opinion column, and I’ve refused offers to monetize this blog to avoid it becoming A Responsibility, but I still kind of feel responsible for documenting this in some way.

Shake Shack finally opened in Arbor Hills Crossing, where the Brooks Brothers store used to be. I haven’t been yet because at the beginning of the summer we came into receipt of a large number of kosher hot dogs (we planned an event and had a lot of uncooked leftovers), so all my summer lunches at work involved heating and eating a couple of those every day. I DID make one exception. A couple of friends scheduled a visit to the Executive Dining Room at the Ross School of Business. It’s a buffet style restaurant where you go up and get as many servings as you care to eat and the servers keep your non-alcoholic drinks filled. The Coke machine was flat that day but the food was great and we and a lot of fun. $11, gratuity included. Anyway Shake Shack is probably great and I’ll check it out eventually, but if I’m gonna drive over to Washtenaw Ave and spend Ross Executive Dining Room money on a hamburger, I’m likely to choose Elevation Burger instead.

I think there are stores at Briarwood that sell Brooks Brothers stuff, or you can just go to Novi (Twelve Oaks Mall). When I lived near Twelve Oaks I had a Brooks Brothers jacket I really loved, wore it until the threads were bare.

Songbird Cafe announced a new concept at the west side location. Photo by Lisa.

Songbird Cafe is dropping the sandwich menu and going full into baking at their west side location (previously Great Lakes Coffee, and I think a gas station before that way back in the day). They will continue their established menu at the Plymouth Road location. In other Tales from the Northside, Bagel Fragel recently revealed their new location, on Washtenaw, and announced that they’re hiring:

Good morning bagel friends! As we get closer to to getting permits back and being able to get started on building we are…

Posted by MD Bagel Fragel on Friday, August 30, 2019

Overture Audio is preparing to move. Longtime downtownies may remember when they left Main Street a few years ago to clear way for one of those big student-apartment blocks near Madison. They moved to Stadium boulevard near the Maple Road split. It looks like they are leaving that space later this fall, according to their Facebook page:

Keith and Kiko with the newest member of the Overture Audio pack, puppy Enzo!

Posted by Overture Audio on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I’m gonna assume they’re okay until I hear otherwise. They had almost a full house last year to celebrate the birthday of a turntable.

Encore Recordings moved in August, and shortened their name to Encore Records:

Welcome to the new Encore! So much more light! Come visit us over at 208 N. Fourth Ave!

Posted by Encore Records on Friday, August 23, 2019

Count on another high rise going in at Liberty and Thompson now that Encore and its neighbor Orchid Lane are gone.

Ext. Former Vintage (formerly Chelsea Flower Shop). Photo by Sky.

A couple blocks west, Chelsea Flower Shop quietly closed over the summer and became a vintage shop. I don’t have a lot more than that right now.

The Arborland Toys “я” Us, dormant since the temporary Toy City closed after the holidays, got a new permanent tenant: Gardner-White Furniture has arrived in Ann Arbor after decades as only a distant day dream spied during commercial breaks on Detroit TV. They have freeway billboards on the outskirts of town, but, like, we all already know who they are, right? We all watch television, right? (A few people told me about this, but first spot credit goes to Ann Arbor With Kids.)

Nearby, Spirit Halloween is popping up for the season in the old Arhaus space next to OfficeMax. The Arborland Toys “я” Us space, dormant since the temporary Toy City closed after Christmas, got a new permanent tenant: Gardner-White Furniture has arrived in Ann Arbor after decades as only a distant day dream spied during commercial breaks on Detroit TV. They have freeway billboards on the outskirts of town, but, like, we all already know who they are, right? We all watch television, right?
Nearby, Spirit Halloween is popping up for the season in the old Arhaus space next to OfficeMax.

Dollar Tree has returned to the west side. They were a fixture of old Maple Village, then the landlords were like “too downmarket” and drove them out around the same time Village Pharmacy closed a few years ago. They thought Five Below would be an adequate replacement. Credit where it’s due, Five Below has a great selection of candy, t-shirts, locker furnishing, throwaway electronics, and Blu-Rays of “Vantage Point,” but Dollar Tree serves its own purpose with items Five Below will never get. I have to think public opinion had something to do with this too, considering how much social media glee welcomed Dollar Tree back. Did you know Maple Village had a dollar movie theater once too? Maybe if we all talk about it enough we can get them to bring that back too. (it occupied the space where Plum Market is now, it’s not coming back)

As far as I know, Dollar Tree is still planning a location in an outlot of Menard’s in Scio Township too. I think between Dexter, families living off the Jackson Corridor, and Scio Farms Estates, there’s enough demand to support a store there too.

The tips from A2RS Managing Editor Lex probably deserve a post all their own, but let me cover them here on my way out.

Photo by Lex, but Pete also gave me a heads-up on this. Thanks all!

South U Social House is opening at some point soon, in the space vacated by Burger Fi at South U and Forest. I hope they can keep it going, it’s a drag to see a place empty. One last plug for the BurgerFind podcast, where a group of students attempt to understand Burger Fi’s sudden closure in Ann Arbor. (I ate at one in Denver about a year ago, it’s not the chain’s fault that the Ann Arbor store closed.)

Ext. The Jagged Fork on Main Street. Photo by Lex.

Marnee Thai ended a long run on Main Street at the beginning of the summer. Recently this signage went up in its old space. I have no idea what kind of food a Jagged Fork involves, but have you ever found out too late that a spoon was in the garbage disposal? Trust me, just put it in the recycle bin. It’s too risky to eat with it.

Further up Main Street, Café Felix’s old space is about to become an exciting concept that’s allegedly “new to Ann Arbor” — a Sports-Bar. Like, they’re really out there saying that all the other bars in town have been doing sports the wrong way this whole time. The new place is supposed have a podcasting booth, which could be fun.

Exterior of Joe’s Pizza at South U and East U. Photo by Lex.

Lex was very skeptical of Joe’s Pizza, here. Its sign notes “Since 1975,” and at first we both thought it was some kind of inauthentic, manufactured-vintage charm. But MLive reports today that this is a first-of-its-kind, outside-NYC franchise of a Greenwich Village pizza place with a history that backs up that date.

I don’t know a ton of places to get the big, foldable slices around here. Pizza Bob’s were pretty flat last I ate there. Of course there is New York Pizza Depot on William, as well as Tippins Market (which I guess has an Ann Arbor mailing address, but you’re pretty much in Saline over there). Fun Fact: Tippins Market’s pizza counter started out as an NYPD location. But yeah, I reckon I’ll check this out, probably before I get to Shake Shack.

One last thing. Over the summer one day I got to thinking about the big soft pretzels my grandfather would sometimes treat us to when I was a kid. He’d buy a huge bag of them at an Italian bakery near his house, Downriver. Well, a couple of days later, I made it to DJ’s Bakery, which had recently opened on Packard near Platt — and in addition to excellent donuts, they have awesome pretzels just like those pretzels from my childhood! You can get them as the bun for a ham-and-cheese sandwich, or just straight up as I do. Like, I like these better than the donuts. See you again soon.