Taking DTW to The New York

Welcome to a photo-packed update about busted restaurants, bus-friendly zoning, and bus-powered computer accessories.


Last month, for the first time since March 2020, I went on a work trip. I got to visit one of the regional campuses of my new employer and meet my team in person. The company office, and my hotel, are both in the Denver Tech Center, so there really wasn’t much retail there to speak of; and they didn’t want us to rent cars, so I couldn’t go to a mall or pull off and gawk at a shopping center. So this isn’t gonna be that kind of Trip Report.

There was a Micro Center (previous coverage) about a mile from the hotel, so one of the days I had the Lyft drop me off there, because I needed parts for a project in my spouse’s classroom. You hear a lot of stories about school teachers purchasing their own supplies, but precious few of those stories involve the teacher’s spouse wandering Micro Center asking if the source device’s HDMI bus will provide sufficient energy for this adapter. It didn’t, which means I now have to go to Madison Heights to return or exchange the one I bought. If you take nothing else away from this post: make sure the one you buy has a Micro-USB port on the side you can plug a phone charger into if you need it. Even if the website says it does, check the thing you actually purchase to make sure.

Anyway, I figured I would just walk back to my hotel from Micro Center. It was only a mile. But I didn’t take into account that I was in Denver, the Mile High City, so it would up being a real Vascular Adventure. I cut a minute or two off from my phone’s directions by cutting through parking lots of other hotels and office buildings, and in the end, well, I didn’t die.

By now, you’re probably wondering when the Trip Report is gonna start, so we can get it over with. I didn’t take any pictures of the Micro Center. It had no natural light. Its aisles were claustrophobic. It did the job, but our Madison Heights one is much more aesthetically pleasing.

What I did take a few photos of, was the McNamara Terminal at Metro Airport, the big one, with the tram, that you fly to/from if you take Delta or one of its partners. You know all the news reports about how Air Travel Is Back, Baby? Don’t believe ‘em. There is a renewed interest in flying and it was not slow or empty by any means, but the carriers aren’t flying as many places, at as many times, as pre-Covid, which means I had to leave the day before and come home the day after to save myself from Chatty Bob’s 1am Lyft Ride From Hell.

In the terminal, the first thing you notice after getting past the checkpoint is that Bigalora is closed. I say the first thing because it’s the first storefront past the down escalator. They’re just not open, but the signage is still up, which is more than I can say for the Wendy’s in Terminal B.

An empty, boarded-up storefront in Concourse B. Though it is Wendy’s Red, no Wendy’s signage is visible.
The color scheme remains but the Terminal B Wendy’s is gone, October 2021. (C)A2RS

If this were Ann Arbor, I would blame it on the low-wage labor squeeze all these places are experiencing, the one that has cut the south side fast-food restaurants to basically lunch hours only, but I think the reduced routes are also to blame here. Terminal A is the largest and closest to security; Terminals B&C primarily serve smaller airports and regional routes. Wendy’s was by no means the only casualty in the airport, a number of smaller spots had closed, pointing travelers to sister locations in Terminal A.

An unoccupied, inactive Starbucks counter behind a grate.
A closed Starbucks location in Metro Airport. (C)A2RS
A hand lettered sign visible through a grate, reading “Starbucks Closed! Not Open!”
This hand-lettered Closed sign harkens back to Starbucks’ humble beginnings in Seattle fifty years ago. (C)A2RS

The fact that all the Starbucks stuff is still there, leads me to believe that it will reopen when air traffic encourages it. As with the Eastern-Market-themed food court and bar at the east end of Terminal A. I think Delta just wasn’t flying much of anything out of the east side of the terminal at that time, because the center and western areas of A were fairly busy.

One more shot: the big fountain that’s based on Delta’s route map is not running. It’s the roped-off slab of granite at left in the photo below.

The center of Concourse A at DTW’s McNamara Terminal. It is relatively early in the day and few people are walking around. The ceiling arches gracefully over the aisle.

I used to like staring at it, but maybe a big aerosol-expeller at a central juncture is a bad look right now.


Speaking of closed fast-food restaurants, how often do you see a McDonald’s close? Not much right? So much science goes into choosing a location that once one opens, it usually sticks around. (The downtown ones notwithstanding.)

Patrick, there used to be two of them. One was where Quickly Tea is currently, on South University, and one on Maynard where Aveda Institute and some U-M offices are now. The South U one was U-M sports themed and had a block-M-shaped island in the middle of the restaurant which was part seating, part dispensers for napkins and condiments. Its more celebrated sister location, on Maynard, still pops up regularly on what I like to call Can-You-Believe-A-McDonalds-Looked-Like-This-Once Twitter.

Kids these days can’t believe this was there, and they really can’t believe that I was in there one afternoon after school getting a snack in 1990 or 91, and saw the manager remove a non-employee from behind the counter and kick him out of the store, then saw the interloper’s mother enter the store and assault the front counter staff with an empty caulk gun.

But that was then and this is now. The latest McCasualty of the Franchise Wars is the South State Street location near I-94 and the airport. Last weekend it was still open, I’m… pretty? sure? On Monday the lights were all off, and nobody was there. By Friday the building was debadged:

The front yard of the now-closed McDonald’s on State Street. All McDonald’s branding has been removed from the building. At the forefront, a tree sheds red and yellow leaves.
I left the local color in this photo of the un-branded former McDonald’s on State Street. (C)A2RS

The State Street location seemed to be busy often, so I suspect the closing may also involve a redevelopment that includes the former Motel 6 site directly behind it.

This leaves McDonald’s freeway-adjacent locations at only Baker Road, Zeeb Road, Lohr Road near Saline Road, Michigan Avenue in Pittsfield Township, and either direction at Washtenaw and 23. So, you know, pray for Grimace. (There are a couple others in town, of course, but they aren’t so close to highways.)

As I mentioned above, the Burger King on Victors Way is open for lunch only these days. The Wendy’s does breakfast and lunch but closes before dinner begins in earnest. The Taco Bell south of 94 seems to be open some nights and not others, and sometimes it’s only open for drivers to pick up delivery-app orders. I think maybe Subway and Jimmy John’s are still maintaining normal-ish hours.

TC1 Tuggers: It’s not a joke. You don’t propose it as a joke

Speaking of South State Street near 94, have you seen the proposal to rezone South State and Eisenhower? As I write this, the commission meeting is tomorrow night and there is hot debate on both sides of this. The proposed area does not include Briarwood, though maybe it should. I’ll always have a soft spot for the mall, but I will also probably always fear enclosed spaces filled with strangers now, too, so it’s kind of a wash.

I think about 8 1/3 % of the people this was written to amuse, or annoy, will actually get the reference

Anyway, you can’t have “A2 RETAIL DOT SPACE” without retail space, so this site is in favor… as long as they throw some retail in there!


The big arrow sign on Packard is getting a new refresh. Logtimers know this as the Cheese Cheese Cheese sign. Can you imagine Larrytown™️ without that big arrow pointing to the building? Me either, but here it was:

A vintage 1955 photo of the Big Ten Party Store sign. Its rearrangeable letters read “RARE FOODS, CHAMPAGNE, WINES.”
The Big Ten Party Store sign as seen in 1955. (C) The Ann Arbor News

The arrow was added once the Big Ten added liquor to its offerings.

A Big Ten Party Store employee arranging letters on the road sign to read “LIQUOR PRICE HIKE MAY SECOND.”
The sign getting a new message in 1993. (C) The Ann Arbor News.

The sign was in pretty bad shape by the time Morgan and York took the store over and started to upscale the merchandise offerings. The neon and the lights were eliminated in the rebranding and rehabilitation of the sign.

The Big Ten Party Store sign
This came from Flickr. If Flickr doesn’t auto-attribute in embeds anymore, I’ll add the attribution later.

I always appreciated them a little bit for trying to evoke the look of neon letters with the “CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE” part. I don’t think it really worked, but I appreciated it.

Now that York is the sole name on the building and York Ann Arbor has settled into its niche as the south-of-Stadium deli/bar/wine shop/BBQ/food truck/pop-up destination, the sign has received an update.

The freshly painted York Ann Arbor road sign. Its rearrangeable letters read “WARM FIRES, GOOD NEIGHBORS, YORK YARD.”
The latest iteration of the iconic sign, November 2021. (C)A2RS.

The creme color is gone and it more closely matches the front of the store:

The front of York Ann Arbor. A blue building with “YORK” over its white awning and glass double doors.
Exterior of York, October 2021. (C)A2RS

Would I love to see the neon come back? Sure, but I don’t live right by it. I’m sure you need a munitions-grade eye mask to go to sleep near that much light. Nostalgia headz should still park behind the building and enter through the rear, where the adorable chalet-style A-frame entrance remains as it was.

The A-frame rear entrance of York Ann Arbor. A sign hangs above it that reads “Big Ten Back Door.”
Rear of York, October 2021. (C)A2RS.

One more note — all my photos in this update now contain proper alt text for assistive technology. They contain an appropriate level of detail beyond the jokey captions. If you read this with a screen reader, I’m sorry you wasted fourteen hours of a perfectly good day, but I hope the alt text helped the experience. One or two of the photos are embeds of other people’s photos from other sites and they may not have the same level of accessibility.

I will endeavor to maintain this experience in the future.