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.
- Jamba Juice, calling it now. Could be a corporate store, might be a franchise operated by Picasso like the one in UHospital.
- I do not expect the tap room to return to the Union, though that would be pretty cool.
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:
PACKARD DAIRY QUEEN IS BACK BABY— 𝘽𝙍𝙄𝙏🍦𝙄𝙉 𝙒. (@britain) February 26, 2018
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.
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.— North Campus Turkey (@NCampusTurkey) February 26, 2018
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.)
WATCH: Powerful moment as Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif, who lost his best friend in the shooting, tells President Trump “I want to feel safe at school” pic.twitter.com/nCPbx9u3wl— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) February 21, 2018
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.
Landlord offered no concessions https://t.co/r1RPUgydVm— Marcus Lemonis (@marcuslemonis) July 1, 2017
Something something “interesting times.” Here’s a shot of Old Carolina, one of my very first posts, as seen this past weekend: I’m tired, but feel free to tell me what you think below, or Facebook or tweet me. I’ll read it in the morning.
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 Reverend Steve (@ReverendSteve) February 12, 2018
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.Posted by Britain Woodman on Monday, January 3, 2011