I got out to Briarwood the other day, and there are some things you should know about.
The space where MC Sports was has been bisected. The parking lot entrance is home to a nail salon and spa:
I don’t know what the overlap of services is between Signature and Tricho, which is directly opposite Signature on the other side of the Briarwood corridor entrance. Signature is the first Briarwood store I have ever seen not to have an internal entrance for customers.
Earlier this year, the MC Sports space was occupied by a bounce-house operator who is probably renting all their equipment out now for outdoor events.
Cinnabon is closed and walled off, with a literature stand attracting potential franchisees to run a Cinnabon in the mall.
I don’t know if they’re updating this one or if they just would rather have a blank wall than a closed Cinnabon. I’ve never run a mall, apart from when I worked at the mall and my friends used to say such as, “yeah, Britain basically runs this mall.”
Best Buy Mobile is gone. This was basically a tiny Best Buy store that only offered mobile phones and phone accessories, like bluetooth speakers and headphones and cases and cables. It matched the big-box Best Buy location across 94 for prices and such, but was more convenient if you were already at the mall. I think both parties, ultimately, will survive.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile managed to double-size, by taking over the Aldo shoe store that was next door:
There’s a similarly large Sprint store directly facing this T-Mobile store. If the Sprint-T Mobile merger actually happens this time, there’s gonna be a helluva reckoning here.
Finally, I wanted to remind you that Olga’s Kitchen is still a viable business. Although they recently closed up on Plymouth Road, the Briarwood location appears to be prosperous-ish:
I had to get this
[/caption]I had to get this photo because a.) nobody was in it and 2.) it showcases three distinct Olga’s logos from their corporate journey.
The illuminated sign over the doorway dates from their years as a funky little locally owned chain.
The New Century Schoolbookish wordmark on the “Our Host Will Seat You” sign mounted to the counter dates from the late 90s and 2000s when they were trying to modernize.
The current logo, where they are still locally owned and still a chain, but probably not funky, can be faintly glimpsed on the standing sign in the mall corridor. I don’t really care what they do with the logo, as long as they leave the bread alone.
Two fixtures of the Packard/State/Hill triangle recently closed their doors somewhat quietly.
Quickie Burger went quickly into the night in July. Quickie originally succeeded Tubby’s Submarines in the State/Hill corner spot about a decade ago. It was initially criticized for its signage – a woman riding a hamburger — along with predictable risqué puns in its advertising.
It was an ok burger/beer place, if a little expensive. Recent weeks had seen store signage hinting at new management, a new menu, and the elimination of alcohol. (If you go way back, you may remember this restaurant as Geppetto’s Pizza.)
Around the corner, PJ’s Records suddenly closed when their landlord immediately terminated their lease. I learned about this disappointing news through Arwulf, Ann Arbor’s most beloved radio personality:
It’s hard to imagine a time when so many used and new record stores thrived in this town. State Street alone boasted PJ’s, Wazoo, Discount Records, State Discount (a chain variety store located in a number of college towns, with a music selection alongside the simple apparel, food, and household supplies you would find now at CVS or Walgreens), as well as Schoolkids In Exile during its brief run. Of those, Wazoo is the sole survivor.
Liberty Street had the original Schoolkids Records, SKR Classical, Borders 01, Encore Recordings, and the relative newcomer, now stalwart, Underground Sounds. (Full disclosure: I am fond of Underground Sounds and spent a lot of money at its sister stores as a young person with more income and fewer expenses.)
South University had Michigan Wherehouse Records, in the second-floor space above Good Time Charley’s now occupied by Cantina; as well as a brief presence from Royal Oak’s Play It Again Records and a franchise of Disc-Go-Round. I bet I’m forgetting some others. Of course, most people probably think of Tower Records when they think of music stores on South U, but a handful of locals may remember that the Galleria, Tower’s home, originally opened with Tracks, a different chain record store, on the ground floor. They closed pretty quickly after Tower moved in upstairs. Tower probably deserves another post of its own.
Hey, young world. It’s been an exciting month filled with actually wanting to be outdoors some of the time, and also with speaking at Penguicon. Attendees of the talk learned about the budget for this project (it is smaller than you can possibly imagine) and about some things that inspired me to write this (Found Magazine, Uni Watch, “Stopped. Watched.” from the old Ann Arbor Chronicle). I also performed a reading of the Mcity article with the photo illustrations. And I got a discount on my registration, so all four of us won! Sigh.
Anyway, it’s been quiet here, mainly because of work (you can catch a glimpse on Twitter of what I’m doing when not blogging) but also because I just haven’t seen a lot going on lately, until this week. Let’s take a leisurely drive down Stadium Boulevard — quickly, before football season starts again. We’ll start at Stadium and Packard, where construction has ramped up on the Circle K.
When it closed in November, the signage targeted an April reopening, but we really never got April. We got December, Apruary, and now Maypril. They didn’t even knock the old building down until a couple of weeks into the new year. Now that it’s not freezing every day, they’re putting in a lot of work.
Eight pumps very close to Stadium Boulevard, which frankly is gonna be kind of a hike from the actual building once Apruary is upon us again, and the rain is cold and the air is dark.
The convenience store building is crammed into the corner of the lot near Packard Road and backs up close to the backyards of the houses on Iroquois Street. Hopefully it will not be very lit back there, to reduce light pollution. The new building appears to have a similar footprint to the old building, but will likely be much more efficiently laid out and has a much taller roof than the old store. It also appeared to have a basement, from what I could glimpse when the foundation was dug during the winter.
This Circle K Brand Story video was created by its Quebeçois parent company, the multinational convenience cartel Couche-Tard, and narrated by a pleasant voice of indeterminate origin. It is a lot of fun, if examining every frame of a brand video and imagining what kind of alternate-reality game you would create behind it is your idea of fun. This three-minute motion graphics logo-development video is also pretty interesting, even if I could have summed it up in ten seconds as “we made the K not-puffy, and the orange stripe is from our overseas counterpart’s logo. For the people of the world.” Call me sentimental, but I really hope a new-style Circle K store figures in a time-travel scene in the new-style Bill & Ted movie.
Further down Stadium, another former gas station convenience store site is also seeing new construction. Here’s the old Sunoco (before that, a 76 station with a Hop-In store, if I recall correctly) on Stadium Boulevard. Seen here from the parking lot of its neighbor, Hot Pot Chen restaurant:
Here it is this week, with construction in full swing:
Something’s finally going up on this space. Only a couple of tall walls, so far, so it’s difficult to guess right now what this will ultimately be and whether it will have Kerosene and DVD rentals.
Finally, a reader asked me in person, as readers often do, whether I had any idea what was going into the remaining empty storefronts at Maple Village. I just noticed Tuesday that another retailer has been announced as COMING SOON:
COMPUTER, ZOOM IN AND ENHANCE.
…it’s strip-mall stalwart ULTA BEAUTY?!? People who like funny, streaming-only TV shows may remember the final story arc on Hulu’s “Difficult People,” where the entire block of Dee’s restaurant was targeted to build a giant Sephora. Meanwhile, Ulta has established eyelash caches, bases for foundations, and bulkheads against blackheads on three sides of town so far — Arborland, Eisenhower, and now Maple Village. NO ONE IS READY FOR ULTA.
While I do accept suggestions, postings are mostly based on what I notice as I travel around town on errands and such. I hope and anticipate that more frequent updates will resume as family schedules become increasingly busy and I have to drive more places. I have a couple of trips planned this summer too so there may be a “trip report” or two if I see anything worth posting. As always, thank you for reading.
Saturday’s U-M Graduation ceremony brought the end of the Winter 2018 term, and with it, the closure of the Michigan Union for two years of renovation. Although the ground level of the Union was renovated only five years ago, and the first floor’s University Club was closed only a couple of years ago to introduce another franchise to campus, U-M has decided to make sweeping changes to future-proof the Union complex.
One of the most dramatic plans is to open up this north entrance to the Union. Expect more windows and lots of natural light. This will complement the new LSA Opportunity Hub next door and make the most of Michigan’s six to eight weeks of sunlight each year.
They also plan to improve accessibility and eliminate some of the multiple small flights of steps, like the ones you see right after you enter that north entrance. This historic building is riddled with twisty steps and tiny landings that hearken back to a time when everything was designed for bipeds.
The sign above the second set of doors at the end of the third set of steps tells the story. The ground floor of the Union, at its close, was host to a Barnes & Noble campus bookstore, a convenience store operated by U-M Dining, the Computer Showcase, a U-M Credit Union Branch, and a passel of quick-service restaurants. Open computer stations ringed the edges of the dining area, although their numbers have dwindled as personal devices have become more common. (Incidentally, the only part of the Union to remain open during this construction is the Union Computing Site, which is actually located in a basement area shared with West Quad.)
The Subway franchise in the basement of the Michigan Union is the Busiest Subway Restaurant in North America, a title held by the Subway franchise at Michigan State, Notre Dame, UC Irvine, and basically any R1 institution. Go ahead, ask any of them.
The Second Subway Counter debuted as part of the 2012 Renovation and, if we’re being honest, has seldom been used since. I imagine the stock explanation is that the original counter has been streamlined and optimized to meet increased demand, but honestly, have you seen Wendy’s Twitter?
And here she is. A chain based in the heart of Buckeye Country is the only mass-market burger joint in the heart of Ann Arbor. It is a fitting bookend to the heartwarming story of the Columbus Domino’s and could only be more poetic if it turned out Urban Meyer was a partner in the franchise.
Panda Express premiered following the 2012 reno, but was only the latest in a string of local and franchised “Asian cuisine” takeout concepts within the Union. Previous purveyors of parabolic-pan-fried protein with sweetened sauces and sticky starches included Bangkok II, about which I don’t recall much more; and Magic Wok, which continues to thrive in Northwest Ohio, Downriver, and, uh, Bahrain.
Ahmo’s is the Issa family’s successful pivot away from convenience stores into dining and is something like a local fixture now. This Ahmo’s location did street tacos on its other counter and I think also offered a fro-yo bar.
This U-Go’s used to offer sixty cent fountain refills if you brought your own cup, which was apparently too cheap to last forever. They also had tons of other ready-to-eat snacks and a bulk section. Now that this is gone and By The Pound has moved to South Industrial, People’s Food Co-Op is about the only place you can purchase precisely 1.25 pounds of yogurt pretzels.
UMCU loses a convenient point of presence with the Union’s closure – a full0-service branch right on central campus. Remember when those video teller consoles with the vacuum tubes were gonna be the future of banking? They mounted iPads in front of the video monitors a few years ago, and I haven’t seen them in use in a while at all.
Like several of the other stores mentioned in this article, the Computer Showcase has another location on North Campus. But unlike the others, the Showcase will maintain a presence nearby during construction. The first floor of the Shapiro Library (“The UGLi”) has been fortified with point-of-sale infrastructure and secure storage to host computer and peripheral sales, which makes me kind of glad I don’t work for the Library, because the only thing that would be more fun than a gadget store in my building, would be a gadget store that silently deducts the payments right out of my check.
That takes care of the Ground Floor – this leaves only two retail establishments upstairs, Starbucks and Au Bon Pain.
I have no idea whether Au Bon Pain is working out for campus. I do know that, since this location opened, the chain has been acquired by Panera Bread, which has had a location at North U and Thayer for years. These two stores seem a little bit close together to me…
…although this Starbucks franchise replaced Amer’s Deli a few years ago and seems to always be working, despite three other locations (State & Liberty, South University Galleria, and Ross School of Business) within two blocks.
I should have gotten a photo of the Billiards Room, I realized this weekend it’s gone for good:
The Union is scheduled to reopen for Winter term 2020, and I expect Wendy’s, Subway, and Starbucks to be back and largely unchanged when it returns.
I expect the bookstore to be smaller, with textbooks stored offsite.
I’m pretty sure that an unmanned convenience store will be attempted. It could be an Amazon Go or a Market Twenty Four Seven.
Where do you get your car washed downtown? Nowhere, anymore. There are barely even gas stations, and those are trying to appeal to foot traffic.
After the coin-operated manual car wash on Liberty closed to make way for more apartments, the Soft Cloth Car Wash on Main Street was the last bastion. But then nearly the whole block, from Madison to Mosley Street got bought to build… yup, more apartments. The Clark station was allowed to stay for some reason, but everything else came down.
The Back Alley Gourmet, By The Pound, Anthony’s Pizza, and San Fu all closed instantly, which eliminated half the lunch options near my office (By the Pound and Anthony’s moved to new locations on South Industrial and Packard Road; the family who owned San Fu retired from the restaurant business; Back Alley Gourmet is now catering-only, I guess). I didn’t manage to get photos of those, but I was walking past the Car Wash one day after it had closed and thought it looked eerie:
Yes, I took these photos like a year before I started the blog, because I thought I would do… something… with them someday.
The construction of the complex is ongoing. Here’s a shot from last summer:
On the other hand, the Shell station at William and Main has relaunched as a Mobil station. Here it is forty years ago as “Grapp and Reed’s Amoco:”
Here it is a little later in color. Remember when service stations fixed cars?
See below for when it was a BP, click through to see it as a Shell last year:
The new convenience store does not have a soda fountain, but it does have — get this — beer taps, where you can bring a growler and fill up:
There are still a few places to get your car repaired downtown, but you pretty much have to get out to Packard or Plymouth to get a shine on it.
Until this site achieves its ultimate goal of being acquired by Univision and being folded into a vertical under Deadspin for the storied “dot-com bucks,” I have a career that finances my family’s needs for food, potable water, and lip-dub videos. Sometimes this career sends me to beautiful places with colleagues who are empathetic, but do not know about this blog, and therefore do not understand why Oh My God Look At That 7-Eleven Over There, I Need To Go See It.
You may have noticed that although the convenience store is a 7-Eleven, they sell gasoline from Shell Oil and therefore participate in Kroger Fuel Rewards, here known as Smith’s Fuel Rewards. Kroger is based in Columbus, Ohio — actually a suburb of Ann Arbor — but they achieved a nationwide footprint by acquiring many other comparable chains in other regions, like Ralph’s, King Soopers, and Fred Meyer, which is no relation to Frederik Meijer. If you go into any of these I bet you a 2-liter of Big K Cola that it looks just like one of the four Kroger stores in Ann Arbor. This is an easy bet because they will have Big K, no matter what their local name is. They have a consistency of presentation that limits creativity, but is efficient and comforting to travelers.
Much like Dillon, CO (as reported here last summer), Park City has community standards that result in everything from banks to Walmart pretty much looking like a ski chalet. Gaylord, in the upper lower peninsula of Michigan, is another good example of this phenomenon, as is probably every city with a ski resort in the known universe.
When you go on a ski vacation, you want a break from feeling, all the time, like you live in a mashup of “Idiocracy” and “Minority Report.” You want to feel like you’re a carefree outdoor adventurer, stepping away from the danger and excitement of skiing or minding the bonfire to run into town for some peanut butter, eggs, and dice. Anything that takes you out of that is reality, infringing on your downtime. So even Mister Goodwrench is gonna have some cedar accents over the big rolly door.
The thing you notice first is that this doesn’t look a whole lot like a 7-Eleven on the outside. The green box that squares up the 7 logo is missing, as is the red bars on either side that stretch across the storefront. Probably the most distinctive thing about this 7-Eleven is its foyer, not usually found in 7-Eleven stores. Usually you open one door and you’re in. I imagine it gets cold quickly without one in a windy, elevated place like this.
The Big Gulp dispenser in this store does not have flavor syrups. The syrups are in Monin pumps next to the machine. The soft drink station at the professional event I was attending, as well as the fountain at Maverik, a Utah convenience chain comparable to Speedway in Michigan, also had these coffeehouse-style pumps. Is this a regional thing? It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as the Pilot syrup.
The creamers and extra-caffeine shots all looked slightly inflated. I suspected this was a side effect of the altitude and lower air pressure in Park City.
I wondered how the snack bags must look, and was not disappointed:
This station was conveniently located near the Park City bus line, which gets you free to all the nearby resorts as well as to downtown Park City. It’s a short walk up those steps to a Cabriolet, an open-air bucket ride like the Cedar Point Sky Ride, that gets you part of the way up the mountain to Canyons Village, one of several ski resorts on these mountains.
Some other things we discovered about Park City:
The downtown area is basically Mackinac Island near the docks, only instead of fudge, there are lots of outerwear stores, and instead of horses, there are cars allowed.
The city has limits on idling, which you can’t really place on horses, so on balance, I would say it smells a little better than Mackinac Island near the docks.
Park City is perhaps most famous for the annual Sundance film festival, so of course we looked for a movie theater, but there were none to be found. (I think there was a multiplex out on the edge of town.) The only theater we noticed in the downtown area was the Egyptian, a live performance space like The Ark in A2. We asked, and it turns out that during the festival, in January, they turn anything with a wall bigger than a TV into a screening room.
I watched “Blade Runner” in a generator-powered screening tent one night during Burning Man a while back, so I assure you that with the right preparation, improvised projection is not a bad way to see a film.
Here’s a bonus 7-Eleven nestled in a residential neighborhood. No gasoline at this location and the sign is particularly wordy by 7-Eleven standards, in case you just flew in from Russia, Africa, or Europe and don’t know what a 7-Eleven is:
But it wasn’t all skis and Slurpees, Park City has the same problems any city has:
Over the past few days I had noticed lights on within the cozy confines of the Packard Road Dairy Queen store, a sure sign it was preparing to begin another season.
The Packard Road location stays open weeks after other seasonal locations close and traditionally opens up right about now, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see people at the window as I drove home from work tonight. Here, I’ll let my favorite social-media-savvy cryptid (Northern Division), the North Campus Turkey, explain:
Dairy Queens in Michigan are majestic beasts that often hibernate for the long winter months. Some of the stronger bulls will burn stored fat to stay open, while the more diminutive of the species grow a protective shell. Those ones regain their plumage around this time of year.
I called the store after dinner, as soon as I had a minute alone, to confirm it really was open and this wasn’t some kind of softlaunch or something. The person on the phone confirmed it was true and the season had begun!
My next step was to go to my last Dairy Queen email. I had a coupon for BOGO Blizzards, and I wasn’t going to go without it, BUT:
By now, I just wanted a Blizzard, as did my spouse. And we didn’t care if we had to pay for both of them.
I identified myself as the guy who had called to make sure, welcomed DQ back to the neighborhood, and told them what the website said. It turns out that franchised stores can specify whether they’re open or not on the corporate website, and in fact, MUST do so — otherwise nearby customers who place orders for ice-cream cakes would have their orders routed to this store. Which makes perfect sense.
Anyway, in Southeastern Michigan, we love standing outside in 40 degree weather for ice cream, if there’s a store nearby that will do it. And this one will.
I paid full price for both our blizzards. This was not a paid post. I can’t be bought. This is not ACTUALLY true, I can totally be bought, but nobody has bought THIS (points to self) yet. can you believe it? me either.
And I joke about how insipid this is, but lately it feels even more insipid. So that, plus the twelve inches of snow, then the subsequent twelve inches of water on the ground when it got warmer and rained, have kept me from my usual rounds. Sorry these updates are not illustrated, but I’ll at least try to make them read good.
The Carpenter/Ellsworth section is starting to see changes. The Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores are beginning their closing sales, but I’ve only really noticed the typical going-out-of-business trappings at Babies R Us, where there is a huge banner next to the building sign and those guys who stand at the nearest intersection holding and subtly waving “30% OFF” signs. Remember that these 30% OFF prices are not necessarily based on the store’s original prices, but on prices set by the firm that’s running the sale.
A friend who knows management at an area R-Us store tells me that business actually isn’t that bad at Arborland, but that the rent was too high. (The initial list of R-Us store closures hinted that some locations might not close if lower rents could be negotiated with landlords. Reality-TV entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis made lease re-negotiations like this a daily drama when his firm acquired Gander Mountain; he updated various locations’ status every day on his Twitter account.)
Anyway, my friend-of-a-friend says TRU hopes to return to Ann Arbor in a co-branded TRU/BRU store with a more favorable lease.
In the outlot of Babies R Us, there’s an AT&T sign on the outlot building where Pier 1 was and Aspen Dental now is; but the inside still has a long way to go. Not sure if this is a move or new competition for the existing AT&T reseller store on the end of the strip next to Target, Lane Bryant, and Fun 4 All.
Across town, a friend on the west side says Sun & Snow Sports seems to have closed on Wagner Road. As part of AADL’s dramatic Westgate Branch + Sweetwaters expansion, Sun & Snow exited Westgate and split into two nearby locations; the Wagner Road store would concentrate on swimming and water recreation, while the Jackson Road location near the Quality 16 theater would serve the skiing and snowsports community. A bicycle shop would eventually join S&S on Jackson Road, rounding out its offerings and serving customers left without a nearby option since the sudden closure of Two Wheel Tango.
In about the past year, a national sporting-goods chain (Sports Authority), a regional chain (MC Sports), and a specialty chain (Total Hockey) have all imploded, so without the volume these chains could take advantage of, you’d better be creative to survive. You also have to keep overhead low, and differentiate yourself with service and attention to the customer.
Barnes and Noble just fires almost every single receiving manager as a cost cutting measure. I worked with them for over 17 years and my weekly Storytimes are massively popular. And in the blink of an eye, I'm fired.
The Internet was recently captivated by “Cat Person,” published in the New Yorker earlier this month. Although a work of fiction, its story of an ephemeral relationship moving from public flirting to confessional texts to a dismaying physical encounter was extremely relatable to today’s women and extremely noooope-that’s-not-me to today’s men.
The author, Kristen Roupenian, is a graduate of U-M, and there are just enough Ann Arbor specific details to make it clear that the story is set here. So, here are the venues where I imagine the events of the story to take place. Was anyone asking for this? Of course not — but a year ago, nobody was asking for an opinionated blog about store openings and closings in Ann Arbor, either, and, well, here we all are!
The story begins at “the artsy movie theatre downtown.” This is almost certainly the Michigan Theater:
The Michigan’s quadroplex neighbor The State, recently reopened a few steps up Liberty Street, presents a similar selection of arthouse fare among the midnight movies and Star Wars series — but only the Michigan served wine, as Robert jokes about (and even then, only to members of its nonprofit parent). The Michigan Theater Foundation programs both venues. In August, MTF sought an alcohol license for the State for its reopening, but it was not open by the New Yorker’s time of publication, so the Michigan is most certainly the theater where Margot and Robert meet.
Their Red Vines study-break takes place at a 7-Eleven. There are now three of them downtown. Two of them — State Street and South Forest — are within a block of residence halls. In the story, Margot is a dorm dweller — this is actually kind of rare because U-M’s residence capacity is far below its enrollment, which is why high-rise apartment buildings have sprung up everywhere downtown in the past decade. Anyway, one of these is where Robert bought Margot her Cherry-Coke Slurpee™, which was almost certainly made by layering cherry and Coke flavors. Although you can sometimes find Wild Cherry Pepsi, they don’t really make a Cherry Coke flavor right out of the Slurpee tap.
Here’s the State Street store right after it opened (well, here’s me, and it’s in the background):
It was below freezing this day, but this is the first 7-Eleven in Ann Arbor, open for three days at this point, and dammit I wanted a Slurpee.
And here’s the South U store, courtesy of Google Street View:
If you’ve been away for a while, this is roughly where the Student Bike Shop was. And if you click through to GMaps, you can go back to 2007 and see it before it and Village Corner were leveled and Landmark was erected.
For their movie date after the holiday, Robert suggests they visit “the big multiplex just outside town.” Later in the story it is identified as the Quality 16. The Q16 is a real 16-screen theater, operated by regional exhibitor Goodrich Quality Theaters. It’s in Scio Township, which is only about a ten minute drive west of downtown and doesn’t actually require the highway miles alluded to in the story, but I suppose it’s still a difficult row to hoe if your parents didn’t send a Lexus with you.
After the depressing film at the Quality 16, Robert takes Margot out for a drink. She suggests a bar familiar to her, and to be honest, I’m not sure which one this is. A popular bar near the Michigan Theater used to have a reputation for serving students and not looking too close at the ID, but has become so popular in recent years that it can afford to turn them away. Feel free to nominate which one you think it is in the comments. I am a boring dude and didn’t drink before I was legal, so I honestly don’t know, but Robert dismisses this bar’s neighborhood as “the student ghetto,” which is your first clue to where it is, and also your first clue that Robert is ta-rash.
Robert ends up taking Margot to “an underground speakeasy type of place, with no sign announcing its presence.” Obviously the author is referring to Bab’s Underground Lounge, located in the basement of an otherwise nondescript building on Ashley Street.
“This photo of Babs’ Underground is courtesy of TripAdvisor”
As a young professional, I frequented Bab’s when it was around the corner on Liberty in a street-level space, with one pinball machine, live jazz, and copious amounts of cigarette smoke. Its space was previously the final location of The Flame and is now the Alley Bar. At some point Bab moved around the corner and downstairs. I have visited the Underground once or twice, and was utterly confused, which is pretty depressing, because it probably means I am older than Robert.
EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that the bar could also be The Last Word, which would be right on their way into downtown from the Q16. Here it is below.
When Bab’s the underground speakeasy type of place turned Margot away, Robert “took her hand firmly and led her to a different bar, where there were pool tables and pinball machines…” The downmarket description of this bar suggests the beloved 8-Ball Saloon, about a block from either Bab’s or the Last Word.
The 8-Ball is the bar below the Blind Pig, which everyone in Ann Arbor will tell you is Nirvana’s Favorite Place to Play. As unpretentious as the Pig is, the 8-Ball really is even less so. Both bars were recently purchased by a local investment group who says they intend to keep them as-is, so that’s a relief.
From this point on, it’s a little difficult to identify particular venues where the story goes. There is a moment in Margot’s favorite bar, but we don’t get quite enough info to say “oh yeah, that’s definitely Good Time Charley’s” or “…the Brown Jug” or “…Rick’s.” Although the notion that Robert could be reading a book in there definitely rules out a few of the places in the student neighborhoods.
I wholeheartedly recommend reading “Cat Person,” though be forewarned it contains explicit sex and trenchant misogyny. If you are a woman, it has probably happened to you, and if you are a man, you should read it for tips, because IT COSTS $0.00 NOT TO BE LIKE ROBERT.
P.S. Let’s make 2018 the year we stop calling things “ghetto.” Not an attack on the author, just a shot across the stout, hairy bow of men like Robert.
Work continues on Arbor Square Plaza, the small shopping center at Carpenter and Ellsworth. All stores appear still to be open. I had heard from a blog friend that Bread Basket Deli was closed, but maybe that was temporary, because they appeared to be open today (we had eaten already).
Subway is still kicking here too. How does a Subway survive, two doors down from Bread Basket? Does Bread Basket get a line at lunchtime that scares some people away, and they say “heck with it, I’m getting A SANDWICH, I don’t care where?”
Stadium Liquor’s helmet sign has reinstalled its red/white/blue livery. I sort of wonder if they don’t just maize it up for game weekends. How easy is it to replace the lenses in these backlit signs?
“Mike’s Big House of Liquor,” the party store inside the Exxon station at Packard and Platt, has almost completely debadged, leaving behind a handsome brick building known simply as “OF LIQUOR.”
Remember the halcyon days when gasolline was only 2.45 a gallon? Feels like only a couple of weeks ago. (C)A2RS
This is only about a block and a half away from “I ❤️ LIQUOR,” of course. I look forward to all SoPac merchants eventually assuming this brutalist naming convention. Fraser Bicycle rechristens itself as “BICYCLE,” Pointless Brewery tries on “DRINK IMPROV,” The TV Warehouse becomes “TV WAREHOUSE.” Banfield’s is exempt from everything, of course.