Wake, Shake, ‘n Vacant

A new coffee shop at Main and Stadium

Ext. of future coffee shop at Stadium and Main Streets. (C)A2RS

The little building across from Michigan Stadium and Pioneer High is changing purposes again. I assume it was a gas station decades ago — the placement on the lot and the garage-door-sized windows on the east wall are strong signs. I remember it first as Schneider’s convenience store, where I would get Mountain Dew in a glass bottle while waiting for my transfer bus home from school. Since then it has been a paint-n-pour type creative party space, a mobile phone store, and an indoor tanning salon, and is now about to become a coffee shop.

Legend* tells that the MDen owns this land and building. As the closest retail anything to Michigan Stadium, it’s usually host to an MDen pop-up store on game days, though the MDen has enough physical locations for the other 357 days of the year to not need this year round. Hopefully this is the use that sticks? Not that I have any affinity for coffee, it’d just be nice not to write about another business closing.

The next nearest coffee is a 7-Eleven and the Espresso Royale in the Woodland Plaza center near Busch’s, so there’s probably a need to be filled here. There are many U-M employees just on the other side of the stadium that have no fancy coffee within like a 15-20 minute walk uphill.

* “legend” generally means “some comment on a Ann Arbor Townies Group post” around here

Mighty Good at Arbor Hills is… still open

Recently we visited Arbor Hills Crossing. That’s a sentence you don’t hear much around here, I honestly have never felt like I belong in there. All the shops seem to be for people of a higher income and social class than I identify with. But I’ve been hearing about Shake Shack for years and I wanted to see what the hype was about.

I parked by Mighty Good Coffee, which was the only open parking of course, and I was surprised and confused to see the shop was open:

The closure of Mighty Good was a big story in the springtime. The local chain’s baristas organized and attempted to group-bargain with the owners, who then announced they would close their retail outlets. Some of the locations closed months ago. Arbor Hills was supposed to close on August 31. But as you can see, it’s still open, and for exactly the reason you think it is:

WACWA UPDATE:As most of you may know, on April 15th 2019, all Mighty Good Coffee employees got an e-mail stating that…

Posted by WACWA Baristas on Monday, September 2, 2019
Facebook post from the local baristas’ union.

On preview, that didn’t embed like I hoped it would, but click through if you want more. The gist is that Mighty Good has hired new workers for this location who are not part of the union. The former Mighty Good locations on Jefferson across from Bach Elementary, and at South U and Washtenaw, are now operated by new management with different concepts. But a baristas’ union member predicts that Mighty Good’s Main Street location will probably reopen with new workers soon too.

The A2RS short review of Shake Shack that you’ve been waiting for: shake was pretty good. Fries were crinkle-cut, which to me is usually visual shorthand for “frozen starchy disappointment,” but they were nice and crispy even after driving them home. I like that the menu has hamburgers and cheeseburgers as discrete menu items, and the hamburger is cheaper — so if you don’t want cheese, you’re not subsidizing everyone else’s cheese. Unfortunately, the hamburger they served me clearly had had cheese on it , which was picked off before it was served to me, rather than just making a clean new hamburger. There was melted cheese residue on the surface and edge of the burger patty.

They could have made me really sick. What if I was allergic to cheese, instead of just a picky, annoying person who doesn’t like cheese? (YES, I KNOW WHERE I LIVE. YES, I EAT CHEESE ON PIZZA. I CONTAIN MULTIDUDES™.)

So I’m reluctant to return. When I want a premium burger with pretenses of healthiness, I will most likely stick with Elevation Burger.

Motel 6 on State Street is closed

The Motel 6 off of Airport Boulevard and State Street, recently, suddenly, quietly closed. Once a Knights Inn and, for decades, the only lodging in the area south of I-94, it now faced competition from a quite new Staybridge Suites, and a Holiday Inn Express soon to open, across the street on the outskirts of Research Park. Both of these new builds have indoor hallways and the amenities craved by the business travelers that Research Park attracts.

The signs at the old motel are completely blacked out, but the grounds are still maintained and the property is well-lit for reasons that seem obvious to me (either the broken-windows effect, or keeping the complex ready for a new hotel brand and management to step in quickly, especially during football season). A length of steel chain blocks the one driveway at the front of the complex.

Pristinely empty, it beckoned me to take a few low-light night photos with the best camera…

You know what they say, “the best camera is the one you’ve got.” (C)A2RS

Above, the guesthouse is still lit from within, though nobody’s working the desk. Beyond the guesthouse, the rows of empty rooms wait to be occupied again.

Down a row of empty rooms at the old Motel 6. (C)A2RS

To the left in the photo above, behind the small fence, is the outdoor swimming pool. I was beginning to feel emboldened and started to edge closer, when a Ford Edge turned off of Airport Boulevard, zipped down the access road, and started to turn into the driveway. I tried to wave them away so they wouldn’t hit the chain, but it stopped them cold. My nerve evaporated, and I walked back to my car.

The Edge followed me. Its window rolled down. “Excuse me, sir,” the driver said. “Is it open?” (I was wearing jeans and a hoodie, but no matter what I’m wearing, I apparently radiate something that makes strangers think I know what in the world is going on. I guess it’s middle-aged, approachable white maleness.) I shook my head and said “nope, sorry.” The Edge zipped away.

I went back for one more shot, a real easy one where I probably wouldn’t get the cops called on me if someone else showed up.

Vacant row of rooms on the east-facing edge of the former Motel 6 on State Street. (C)A2RS

Hopefully this reopens soon, but going by its TripAdvisor, if it didn’t reopen it would not be much missed.


I almost forgot! Remember the vintage shop that opened this summer, where Chelsea Flowers used to be on Liberty? It’s closed, per A2RS Deputy Director Eli:

It was called “Former Vintage,” and that means I have to get to call it “the former Former Vintage space” from now on.

Ruby Boom and Other Jewels

The end of today’s post contains a significant background detail for one of the plots on the HBO series “The Righteous Gemstones” , so if you’ve been planning to watch it and want to go in knowing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, maybe come back after you’ve binged at least the first three episodes or so.

Okay, on to the “news.”

The Quarter Bistro ended its fifteen year run at Westgate recently.

The Quarter Bistro was a New Orleans themed restaurant. It followed the now-defunct chains Mountain Jack’s and Rio Bravo in that Westgate outlot space. An /r/AnnArbor post broke the news that it will be succeeded by Stadium Boulevard stalwart Lewis Jewelers.

Exterior of a previous Lewis Jewelers location in 1974. Courtesy AADL (CC BY-NC-SA).

Lewis Jewelers has experience with repurposing a restaurant. Its current location, at 2000 West Stadium Boulevard, is a heavily-fortified onetime McDonald’s. If you didn’t know it already, can you kind of see it below? I don’t have any photos handy of the McDonald’s back then, but picture the mansard roof from an old McDonald’s and a drive-thru window along the long wall. McDonald’s moved to its current location, a couple blocks west on Stadium, in the late 80s or early 90s.

Quick flashback to Fingerle Lumber. Over about two weeks from the end of July to the beginning of August, most of the buildings on the site were demolished. I work nearby, so I managed to get some photos of the site immediately before and during the work. A lot of them are Live Photos so there’s a bit of motion.

(Some of the shots toward the end are pretty cool, but it might take some work to get there, sorry. I was snapping as quickly as I could trying to document and didn’t feel like using video camera mode. I wish Flickr Pro was still $25 a year, sharing was great and there are a lot of retail nerds there. I’d join up again for $25 like it used to be, but $50 is a bit much. Google Photos is free and fast but embedding is a little janky.)

U-M has not yet announced further plans for the block, but as soon as the debris was carried off, the lots were marked Yellow Parking (a relatively-affordable option for staff and some students). It is anticipated that this will someday be either additional student housing or maybe more Athletics buildings.

All Hollowed

Have you heard about the petitions to move Halloween from All Hallows’ Eve to a Halloween is coming up fast, so Spirit Halloween is once again popping up around town. The national chain has a outlet in a past-years location at the old Arhaus Furniture inside Arborland, as well as in the old Babies
Я” Us on Carpenter Road. It also once again joins its sister chain, Spencer’s Gifts, at Briarwood, but now in a new location there…

Previous years saw Spirit in the cavernous space that was once the movie theater, but that space has been subdivided and a day spa has the external entrance, so Spirit Halloween now finds its temporary fortune in Briarwood’s largest and most infamous vacancy… Sears! But first, let’s enjoy some of that world-building and tale-spinning you can only get on premium cable.

One of HBO’s latest series is “The Righteous Gemstones,” a dark, twisty comedy about a family of evangelists who attempt to expand their successful ministry across the world, as well as into the fictional Southern town of Locust Grove.

The latest Gemstone chapel. Note the shadow of a Sears logo shadow over the entrance. This photo is from the Charleston Daily Photo blog.

In what has to be the most unusual brand placement opportunity since “Baskets,” the Locust Grove location is, conspicuously, a recently closed Sears store. (“When capitalism collapses, that’s where we come in,” a Gemstone proudly crows.) The theater where the services are held appears to be accessible from inside the mall and the parking lot, but the Gemstones apparently worked quickly to open, as the backstage is still filled with detritus from the store’s previous purpose.

Two pastors converse backstage at the Gemstone Prayer Center. (C)HBO. I ripped this from ProductPlacementBlog.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall the Briarwood Sears now, as a purveyor of Halloween accoutrements.

External, Spirit Halloween (formerly Sears south entrance) at Briarwood Mall. (C)A2RS

Spirit has located itself in the south side of the old Sears store, where the shoes and I think the misses’ section used to be. Optical and Portraits were near here too. Much like the Gemstones, this Sears is too much room for even a Halloween specialist in peak season, and although there are some elements you wouldn’t expect (many operational animatronics so you can try before you buy for your front yard; a walk-through “fish tank” using large-screen TV panels as the view ports), Spirit has erected temporary walls to contain the sales floor, with pegboard panels to hang their wares.

Closeup of the back wall, Spirit Halloween, Briarwood Mall. (C)A2RS

Purely in the interest of journal-ish-ness, I placed my phone camera up to one of the peg holes to capture what it looks like back there. As in the rest of real life, it is much less interesting than the HBO version.

Interior of former Sears store at Briarwood Mall. I took all these photos on a sunny day, but the glass doors of the north entrance are blacked out, so it looks like night. (C)A2RS

You can tell by the blue on the walls and pillars that this is where the Lands’ End section used to be. Little else has occurred in the space since Sears vacated just after the dawn of the New Year.

No telling what comes next once Spirit folds for the season. Previously I speculated this might be a good location for the return of Alamo Drafthouse, but:

  • Alamo tends to target less-saturated areas for new locations. I’m pretty sure Emagine Saline and the State Theater, two venues with bars, make Briarwood less attractive by their standards
  • Midtown Detroit developers are targeting Spring 2021 for an Alamo on Woodward Avenue (a long-touted plan)

Patti and I will be back to talk about “Vanishing Ann Arbor” again at the Kempf House Museum on Wednesday, October 9, at noon. Hope to see you there!

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.

Trip Report: How Do We Not Have Daiso Here?

I have another post to finish up with the usual longtime business closures 🙁 and Shake Shack, which I will visit eventually but can’t seem to get excited about now. So I moved a Trip Report ahead, because I really like writing these. Sorry not sorry,

Anyway, I made it out to southern California again, the second time this year. I had some free time before my flight home, so I pulled off in Huntington Beach. I topped up my rental car’s tank at this froo-froo Costco:

Photo of Costco Wholesale - Huntington Beach, CA, United States
Italianate architectural cues help this Costco match the adjacent Bella Terra shopping district. Photo taken by Dughan D from Yelp

As beautiful as it was, it apparently suffers from the same problems all Costco gas stations have, though this is the first I’ve seen with signage directly addressing them:

Sign affixed to pump in Costco logo font reading “PLEASE HAVE YOUR CARDS READY BEFORE YOU PULL UP.” (C)A2RS

I went on a beer quest to BevMo (and called it off as I realized I couldn’t carry what I was looking for onto the plane home). It was cool but honestly not that much better than, say, A&L Wine Castle or Tippins or even a few of our local supermarkets. It’s still kind of fun and novel to see a lot of Bell’s and Founders way out of state though.

Then I ducked into a completely unexceptional Target to kill some time, before visiting something I’d only read about before: Daiso.

Exterior of Daiso Japan, Westminster, CA. (C)A2RS

Daiso is a quintessential 100-yen store from Japan. If that sounds like a dollar store, you’re about right. Nearly everything at the Daiso store I visited was a buck fifty plus tax, though I spied some larger stuffed animals than ran five bucks. I only had about 10-15 minutes to skulk around taking touristy photos:

Typical dollar store fare with a Japanese flair (C)A2RS

I really should have bought some of those dollar fifty batteries at the bottom of the above shot — my car’s keyless entry is getting inconsistently responsive — but I bet you can’t take those on planes either. Does your dollar store sell HI-CHEW? Five Below might, I’m not sure. If they do, they probably charge like three bucks.

“big fan” gag goes here (C)A2RS

Again, a lot of the stuff up front is very dollar store stuff but much of it has a distinct cuteness that sets it apart from Dollar Tree. The store was also super tidy in a way I don’t encounter when I visit Dollar Tree around here. That may be because Daiso had just opened for the day.

Beyond the fan aisle toward the back of the store (C)A2RS

Adorable tablewares:

The green froggies and yellow bears on the far right are beginner chopsticks for kids. (C)A2RS

And kitchen utensils too. Lunch kits, cupcake cups, juicers, spatulas, including one shaped like Mickey Mouse’s gloved hand. Does this place do bootleg stuff? NO!

Kitchen aisle at Daiso. See Mickey Mouse hand spatula at center right. (C)A2RS

Daiso’s Mickey and Minnie stuff is all officially licensed and found throughout the store. Some of it even has pleasingly imperfect English words on it. When is Disney gonna do a collab with Big Lots? Don’t count on it.

Mickey-hand tea cups sell for the premium cost of $2.00 each (C)A2RS

Here’s a shot of the tech aisle. Cable management is crucial, as seen by the many cable ties and cord stays. Also cases to keep many SD photo and DS game cards in.

You can also find many cases and peripherals for iPhones, but good luck finding a cable to charge them here. (C)A2RS

They have household cleaning, decor, and even the other usual dollar store consumables like tiny jugs of bleach and baking soda. I didn’t have much room to schlep all the kawaii home so I chose one practical and adorable item:

This pack of kitty and bear bag clips include sliding counters to mark the freshness date of their time-fragile payloads. 6/$1.50. (C)A2RS

I believe that so far, Daiso has chosen areas of peak Japanese population to open North America stores. They started in Vancouver Canada in the early 2000s. There are like 50 in California and like a dozen in Texas for some reason. The closest location to Detroit is probably the New Jersey location opening next month, at least the third new US location in 2019. Hopefully they will look inland soon. I think that, between students attending school in the U-M/MSU/Wayne triangle and the many engineers who work in our tech and mobility industry, the market is there.

Welcome WCBN listeners

It was a lot of fun joining T Hetzel for “Living Writers” this afternoon and paying brief tribute to Mr. Rib. I’ll update this post with a link to the recording when it hits the podcast channels.

If this is your first visit, I hope you like the previous posts, and I hope to be back to posting more regularly soon (though doesn’t everyone say that)? Until then, here’s a current retail photo from Arborland’s very parking lot just about three hours ago…

Patti and I will appear at the Ypsi Book Fest on July 6 to talk about the book, and at the AADL Downtown branch on Thursday, July 25, to talk about the book some more. I will try not to repeat my anecdotes too often. For example, I will probably talk about DeLong’s next time instead of Mr. Rib.

The book has apparently SOLD OUT its first printing already?!?! No, I don’t know how many copies were printed, I admit it’s a pretty niche book, albeit a well-written and illustrated example of the sub-sub-genre. It is currently available for back-order from Amazon . If you don’t want to wait for a paper copy, you can download it immediately on Kindle (or to the Kindle app on your phone or tablet). Also, all the new-book-stores in Ann Arbor have ordered copies and will hopefully have them soon – and we’ll also have them to offer at the above events. Thanks!

May Your Days Be Merry…

If you have visited the U-M Museum of Natural History (“the dinosaur museum”) and you read this blog, you probably noticed two big changes:

  • The gift shop is much less of an afterthought. It’s much more eye catching than its predecessor in the Ruthven Building, and you have to get your planetarium ticket there.
  • Like many museums across the country, it has a restaurant.

Darwin’s is a quick service counter run by Michigan Dining that actually opened months before the museum to serve the students, staff and faculty of the Biological Sciences Building (the research and classroom complex, of which the new museum is the public face).
Hot on the heels of that reopening comes this announcement of a new cafe opening next month inside the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Stylized concept art of cafe at U-M Museum of Art (UMMA). I straight up lifted this from their dang website and didin’t even ask permission.

Some of the public areas in UMMA’s expansion and renovation a decade ago were built with a cafe in mind. The gift shop has sold ready-to-drink beverages for years. This is interesting but not unprecedented. I hope this trend continues because I look forward to seeing what kind of quick-service concepts they come up with for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology (“Mummies ‘n Yummies”), the U-M Computer and Video Game Archive (“Burger Time”), and the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry (“Ensuring the Continuity of our Profession”),

BEFORE YOU CORRECT ME: I used to work in there, I know the CVGA is a no-food-or-drink environment. You can’t solve a coffee spill by taking it back out and blowing in it.

BEFORE THE CVGA CORRECTS ME: It’s bad to blow in cartridges, the moisture in your breath can corrode the contacts and circuits in the cartridges, unless you’re one of the mummies from KMA, in which case the stray sand and thousand-year-old-curses from your supernatural exhalation will mess up the game. The CVGA keeps game and console cleaning tools on hand.

Greater Main Street Bad News Round Up

Cafe Felix has closed.

Marnee Thai has closed.

Marnee Thai restaurant will be closing permanently on 5/15, 2019. It has been amazing run since we opened in 2007, and…

Posted by Marnee Thai Restaurant on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

And Alpha Koney Island is scrambling because Old Navy is coming. If you live or work on the south side you probably get your coney fix here, it’s been in Oak Valley pretty much since it opened.

The larger, vacant space at left above (formerly Party City until PC moved to a larger space within the centre) is now a possible new Old Navy location, but Old Navy wants the space to be approximately one Coney Island larger. Alpha’s plan, according to the linked article, is to move to a space nearby, closer to the Sprint Store, renovating at their own expense. I hope it works out for them, I’ve eaten some fine coney meals here. If it doesn’t work out, Mark’s Midtown is one exit over, in that little shopping center off State south of 94 where SUPER LIQUOR EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE is.

Hunter House Hamburgers recently closed quickly and quietly on Maynard Street. HHH was a mainstay of my lunch diet when I worked nearby, but I fell out of the habit when I moved across campus. Though they lasted much longer than anything in that space that wasn’t White Market, I’m still sad to see them go, especially considering the uncertain status of Hunter House’s original location in Birmingham. Get this: someone wants to knock it down and build a five story mixed-use building on the site! Who would want to do such a thing?

China Gate as seen from the opposite corner. (C)A2RS

On a related note, South University institution China Gate is closing, and I would wager its neighbors MTVTN, Ayaka, and Jimmy John’s will follow suit in the ensuing months. South U has been not-quite-whole since the old Campus Pinball building burned down a few years back, then half of Middle Earth met the wrecking ball. Since most of South U is now high-rises or soon-to-be high-rises, I expect this will soon follow suit. Someone on this FB thread is saying it will be affordable housing, but I would wager they mean affordable-by-UM-student standards.

A little further up South University at Washtenaw, the former Mighty Good Coffee (previously Glassbox Coffee) is showing signs of life again. Will this third coffee shop be the charm? That’d be nice. It’s Vertex Coffee Roasters, who are coming from Milan to get interesting with coffee. The Vertex partners previously plied wares in Ann Arbor as Milan Coffee Works (doing pop-up events at Bløm Meadery and running a traditional coffee and pastries shop on Packard for a spell in the space currently occupied by Poçai). But these days they’re flash-freezing coffee, serving it on tap, filling growlers… FINALLY, a healthy alternative to beer for those of us who like interesting flavors but have to care for their high blood pressure.

(reads caffeine content on label) Welp.

Centennial Post (also, Second Anniversary Post)

Sidewalk sign at Moosejaw, calling out the Chop House restaurant, their neighbor across Main Street. (C)A2RS

Moosejaw may be a tiny little division of Walmart, but it’s kind of reassuring that Corporate hasn’t interfered with their writing style. I can appreciate this commitment. I’ve been trying to sell out for two years now, but I still published this post on 4/20 at 6:09.

Meanwhile, in a much classier space up the street, here’s what 315 South Main looked like a few years ago in 2014. (click through to change to an even earlier view from 2007 when Google first photographed the street!)

Completed facade of 315 South Main. (C)A2RS

The new apartments and ground-floor retail are built and ready to be populated. The Life is Good store may not have had the longevity we want for a Main Street business (though it lasted four years), but Shinola is still going strong. It helps that they have a coffee shop, so that people who don’t need another wristwatch right now can still sniff the rich leather and enjoy the Shinola Experience for the low, low price of four or five bucks for a cup of coffee.

(ABOVE: a sampling of classic Big Dogs shirt designs. Courtesy BigDogs,com and ebay. No, I didn’t ask.)

The Big Dogs retail empire currently consists of a single store in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but I think it’s time they made a comeback. as you can see, most of their designs are evergreen and very reasonably priced. But eventually you’re going to collect all the Big Dogs shirts, so the store needs to stock a consumable that people will return for.

I know, you saw the date of this post and thought I was gonna say weed, but no. I’m thinking Rip It.

(Above: some sample Rip It flavors, Courtesy ripitenergy.,com. No, I didn’t ask.)

Rip It Energy Drinks are the deployed soldier’s morning coffee, after work relaxation beverage, and night-watch security blanket. They are cheap and ubiquitous on military bases around the world and they would go over like gangbusters. Where else can you get them on Main Street? (PROTIP: You can find Rip It on tap at the Meijer gas station on Jackson Road, and no, I haven’t. )

I may be an amateur retail analyst, but, given enough staff to meet demand, I firmly believe that a Big-Dogs-N-Rip-Its store in the Main Street district would make enough during Art Fair, Game Days, and Fleet Week to cover the other 354 days of the year.

R.I.P. to a Wheel One

This post on the Ann Arbor Townies group, observing the recent closure of Great Lakes Cycle on Stadium Boulevard, put me down a little AADL Community Collections rabbit hole trying to remember all the old bike places in town.

Michael Staebler’s Coal Office and Bicycle Shop

This one was the earliest, I think, on Washington Street near Ashley.

Michael Staebler’s Coal Office and Bicycle Shop.” (C) The Bentley Historical Library.

Though named for its founder, German-American investor and Ann Arborite Michael Staebler, it was apparently actually run by his son Edward. I’m very curious about what this store’s net carbon footprint was.

Ann Arbor Cyclery

More familiar to some is Ann Arbor Cyclery, which was a fixture for decades on Packard Road.

“Ann Arbor Cyclery, 1972.” AADL (CC: BY-NC-SA)

Sometime after the above photo was taken, it moved up the street to its final location, a site which had previously been a grocery and a pet supply store. A combination of new local competition from the REI store at Cranbrook and possible tax trouble led to its closure in 2010ish. Today it’s the Packard location of Argus Farm Stop.

Campus Bike & Toy

“Saguaro Succulent Shop, 1976.” AADL (CC BY-NC-SA).

Campus Bike & Toy was another downtown fixture. It shared its William Street location with a variety of other interesting businesses over the years, including an early version of Schoolkids Records. Later, its site was the last retail location of David’s Books before they went online-only, and today it’s Asian Legend restaurant.

Nobilette Cycle Cellar

Nobilette Cycle Cellar ad, April 1988. Agenda Publications (CC BY-NC-SA)

On the north side of downtown, Nobilette Cycle Cellar served the athletic bicyclist. The ad above was one of their last anniversaries on North Main Street. Within a couple of years they had moved downhill to 220 Felch Street, which is today the site of Ann Arbor Distilling Company.

South of Downtown but also not far off Main Street was…

Mike Kolin’s Cycling Center Inc.

I can’t tell you much about Mike Kolin’s that these photos don’t already tell you, except that it was in the east storefront of the little building on the Hoover block that is just about the only thing not owned by a utility or the University. Soon its neighbor Purchase Radio Supply’s old building will be history. An apartment building is planned for the site; it will cater to students who love locomotive horns.

Stadium Bike

Don’t know anything about this place either, but I love the aesthetic. This site is currently occupied by McDonald’s.

Also Worth Noting

I don’t know much about any of these beyond the photos but it’s intriguing to see so many bike shops in locations I tend to associate with car traffic.

More recently we saw a few stores close:

Two Wheel Tango, with stores on the west side and east side. Closed suddenly, apparently due to pressure from its main brand and costs incurred by expanding at the beginning of the Great Recession. The west-side store is a physical therapy clinic now; the east side is occupied by Fraser Bicycle, a Detroit-area bike chain.

Performance Bicycle, a regional chain and mail-order catalog that had expanded to our area relatively recently, began a complete wind-down under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including all its physical locations and its website. Its IP was purchased at auction in February, and the site is back online under new ownership but with no relation to the physical locations.

Midwest Bike and Tandem, on Plymouth Road in the Courtyard Shops. Moved to Brighton.

Great Lakes Cycle was up and down Stadium Boulevard over the years – in Boulevard Plaza (in back behind the Arbor Farms/Barnes Ace Hardware), later in the old Ace Hardware space (most recently Advance Auto Parts), most recently in a spot close to the road between Liberty and Jackson Road. That location has closed. Oscar, the owner, sold his inventory to another local specialty chain, D&D Bicycles & Hockey, who shares retail space on Jackson Road with Sun & Snow outfitters; the space, once the very first location of national tire chain Discount Tire Company, will be occupied soon by the Wags & Wiskers pet supply store.

Besides D&D, there are a number of local stores still going strong. Presented in no particular order:

I’ll add other Ann Arbor ones if they occur to me or I am corrected (I will be corrected). There are great bike stores in other nearby cities too, but it’s almost 11pm, I’ve been working on this for hours, and the name of the site is A2 Retail dot Space. Thank you.

April Shutters

A lot going on this month. I know I’m missing a lot but here’s what I’ve got so far:

Briarwood Update

I had some time to walk around Briarwood recently. Here are my key takeaways based on observation and some chats with various store employees:

  • Pandora moved to a showy new space in center court with much larger frontage.
  • People who are old enough to remember them still miss some of the restaurants that used to be here.

Multiple people I spoke to yesterday commented that they either remembered and missed Arby’s or wished that there was one at Briarwood now. Its previous location, convenient to the parking lot, is now part of the massive Forever 21 block near JC Penney. As a young edgy-XD man I would snicker as the cashier rung up my Big Montana (large roast-beef sandwich), large fries, and large Coca-Cola Freeze – $6.66 with tax. When this location closed, Arby’s pretty much withdrew from the south side of Ann Arbor. Now, you have to go to Washtenaw Avenue near Golfside in Ypsilanti, or to the far-west side of town, where there are two of them in close proximity – one on Jackson Road near Zeeb, and a 24-hour location inside one of the truck stops on Baker Road. (The truck stop location serves Arby’s breakfast menu. In the interest of accurate reporting, I tried the sausage biscuit one morning a little ways back, and, in a pinch, it would make a serviceable brake pad.)

Kerby’s Koney Island is a Detroit fixture (though, really, pretty much all Coney Island restaurants are Detroit fixtures). Though their locations are widespread and many are free-standing now, they used to be standard fare for every mall in the greater Detroit area. Briarwood’s was in a Sears corridor where Chipotle is now. One mall employee I spoke to used to rely on Kerby’s for breakfast before his shift began, and though Starbucks opens a couple of hours before the rest of the mall stores do, nothing has really taken Kerby’s place since it closed. Briarwood also hosted a Big Boy at the other end of this same corridor back in the day, though that has been gone for probably longer than it was there by now. Its space was initially occupied by an expansion of Eddie Bauer into a mini-anchor store, adding a home goods department to the apparel and camping equipment; the area is now the Men’s section of H&M.

I think I’ve written here about Farrell’s and Sanders, which were also both at Briarwood in the distant past.

Rachel, Tina, & Nancy Legault At Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, June 1981.” (C) The Ann Arbor News.

Sanders is ubiquitous around Detroit again under the ownership of Morley Candy, but there is one Farrell’s left, in Southern California, and it’s partying like it’s 1979:

Burger King also had a location within the mall, next to the movie theater. It operated for years before its closure. I always wondered, as a young person, how the Burger King in the mall could operate so close to a free-standing location (across State Street on Victors Way), but of course they were probably serving different consumers.

There are still plenty of counter-service options in the mall, of course, though there’s no place I can think of, offhand, to get a hamburger. Or a one-dollar hot dog.

Though Briarwood was built in the early 70s before food courts became popular, they have tried to cultivate clearly defined eating districts in various parts of the mall since the 2000s. Most notably, after the fountain was removed, food-court-style stands led by Starbucks Coffee, and flexible seating, filled its void. Most of Starbucks’ center court neighbors are snack options, though you could eat dinner from Sushi Tatsu. More recently Briarwood has positioned a corridor off of the former Sears court as the Dining Pavillion, with Chipotle and Salads Up accompanying full-service mall standard like PF Chang’s and California Pizza Kitchen. (A Which Wich sandwich franchise was launched here but didn’t last long.) A handful of tenants from before this initiative still remain in the area, though, so there isn’t much to eat at Hot Topic. However, the newest addition to the hall is… FunShop.

Ext. FunShop at Briarwood: “Having fun since 2000.” (C)A2RS

At first glance, FunShop’s two-color, compound-wordmark made me think it was a GameStop, which withdrew from Briarwood about five years ago. But no, it’s an arcade! A really small arcade. You can see the back of it from the photo above. That orange crane game is on the back wall. I feel like (read: hope) this might be a test location to gauge interest. There are a number of larger vacancies in the mall, some nearby, so if this goes well they could totally go bigger and wheel in a World’s Largest Pac Man machine.

This location was mostly crane games and skill-to-earn-a-prize games, with a couple of video arcade cabinets. I saw a ride-on head-to-head racing game and a sit-down, curtained Walking Dead action game among all the skill machines. If Google Maps can be believed, the FunShop location at Westland Mall has a wider selection.

Though there was a brief spell where some arcade games were housed in the vacant frontage of Burger King, before MC Sports came to Briarwood, most mall-rats about my age probably have memories of whiling away hours in Fun Factory, a carnival-themed arcade in a JC Penney-side corridor, exactly where Panda Express is now. The internet wasn’t as robust then, so I didn’t know (and didn’t care back then, really) that our Fun Factory was but one location of a national chain. When it disappeared in the early 2000s I thought it was gone forever, until one day circa 2006, when I happened to visit the Universal Mall in Warren. There, I found a much larger Fun Factory, containing several of the games that the Briarwood location used to have. Unfortunately, Universal Mall was on its way down (it’s an open-air shopping center now, anchored by a Target), and Fun Factory did not relocate when it closed. Turns out Fun Factory’s current locations are mostly in Hawaii, with a handful in California and the southeastern US, so at least the games probably got to retire somewhere warm.

Above is a recent photo from a Hawaii location, where the aesthetic has remained relatively unchanged from their Ann Arbor days. Not sure about that chandelier though.

Briarwood’s most recent attempts at electronic entertainment, a networked-PC-and-console-game parlor and a roped-off multiplayer VR experience in the court in front of Sears (RIP). Both of these closed recently. The network-game space is open:

Exterior of that game place that was at Briarwood for a couple years. (C)A2RS

And the VR area is now a trampoline attraction.

“Mall Jomp” in action on a recent afternoon. (C)A2RS

In brief

Lake Michigan Credit Union is finally open in the building in front of the Hyatt Place on State Street. You may remember that site as the one where I spent way too much time on this blog wondering what the building was gonna be. When I realized it had no drive-up window, I figured a banking use was out, but here it is. There are many local and national banks nearby, including a Comerica next door, a UM Credit Union branch a block up, and four or five in the outlots surrounding Briarwood, but LMCU is a frequent advertiser on I-94 billboards and it behooves them to have an actual presence here.

Grabbagreen (611 East University) has missed their signage’s promise of a Winter ’19 opening. (C)A2RS
Ext. Naked Burrito on Carpenter Road. (C)A2RS

Naked Burrito is opening soon. They are going to specialize in burrito bowls and other lower-carb options, according to MLive.

Life After BP Stations, an essay in two photos

Unfinished building in outlot of Westgate Shopping Center. (C)A2RS

This was a BP fuel station with an auto service center. I don’t know yet what it’s gonna be. As discussed in the last post, this is the only I-94 exit for like fifteen miles that doesn’t have a Tim Hortons now, but I don’t see a drive-thru lane near here so it doesn’t seem likely that this will close the gap.

Renovated BP gas station at Washtenaw and Yost. (C)A2RS

This site has lost all its BP branding and the underground tanks appear to have been removed. The new building has one or two small windows, not much like a fuel station, but possibly kind of like a dispensary. Which is what I think this will be.

Bubble Tea Franchises, an essay in two photos

Despite the general availability of bubble tea around here for about decades, two established franchises from overseas are looking to get into Ann Arbor. Chatime is coming to Tower Plaza, looking to make that one convenience store space work, and CoCo is coming soon to Courtyard Shops up on Plymouth Road near North Campus.

Ext. CoCo tea shop, opening “soon” at Courtyard Shops. (C)A2RS

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