The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 7, 1978-Page 1
A2 consumerism: Rip-offs
just around the corner
By DAN OBERDORFER
In any town where .residents depend
on bicycles for transportation and
students are willing to pay top-dollars
to shop close to home, exorbitant prices.
And Ann Arbor is no exception. Ac-
cording to data released by the
American Chamber of Commerce
Association in March, consumer prices
in Ann Arbor were 10 percent higher
than the average for the 150 cities
THE CONSUMER INDEX showed
that prices in Ann Arbor average seven
percent more than in Detroit. Most of
that difference was accounted for by
housing, health, and miscellaneous
services costs. In food prices, the two
neighbors were only one percentage
However, a Public Interest Research
Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) survey of
local supermarkets showed prices fluc-
tuate even within Ann Arbor. The sur-
vey - conducted in early 1976 -- in-
dicated food prices at supermarkets
are higher near campus and diminish
the farther from campus the super-
market is located. I
Small corner groceries, of which Ann
Arbor boasts many, were not studied by
PIRGIM: but, these stores are
notorious for charging more than
Depending on where you shop, you
may spend a lot more than you have to
for the sake of convenience. In early
June, we compiled a list of prices from
a small campus grocery, an off-campus
supermarket and a suburban Detroit
White Market M
609 E. William
Many of Ann Arbor's corner
groceries, like Village Corner, Campus
Corner and Food Mart, are within five
minutes of central campus. They carry
basic foodstuffs like Twinkies and beer,
in addition to other daily necessities.
HOWEVER, NONE of these small
stores are cheap. "We can't compete
with the big chains because of the
buying power they have," explains
George Robinson, the manager of
White Market on William Street.
"People come to us because we are
convenient," he adds.
Village Corner manager Rod John-
son, says in-town stores charge prices
which are "reasonably similar."
"Prices are pretty competitive,''
Johnson says. "We periodically price
goods at other stores so we know what
is going on."
Johnson says he does not believe that
campus prices are higher than other
cities' but remarks: "If we are more
expensive than other areas it's because
our distributors are charging more."
PROFESSOR Daniel Rubinfeld, an
expert in urban economics, gives two
reasons why corner stores may have
difficulty matching prices of the giant
"When you operate on a large scale
you can do the same thing cheaper than
a tiny store," he says.
Rubinfeld asserts that students are
supermarket to give you a basic idea of
the price ranges you soon must face.
Keep in mind that prices within each
store fluctuate from week to week,,
typically rising with inflation. Prices
quoted are for the same brand of each
paying for convenience when they go to
a nearby shop. "The managers of VC,
for example, know you are willing to
pay more for their products if you live
nearby," he continues.
RUBINFELD ADDS that there is
nothing shady about the small stores
charging more, but according to
economic theory, if the stores are
making fantastic money new corner
groceries would edge into the market.
In Ann Arbor, however, no new
groceries have applied for a zoning
license in recent years, according to
city Planning Department head Martin
Overhiser. But he adds that only one
store has dropped out of the market in
Novelty vendor Lee Darrow poses with some of his off-beat wares.
Merchants of the miscellaneou!
By R. J. SMITH
Besides acquiring the diverse group
of folks that it has, the cosmopolitan
burg of Ann Arbor has also become the
home for countless unique specialty
-Tucked in the basement or oc-
casionally perched above larger, more
established stores, these tiny
businesses offer a special selection of
goods you generally won't find at your
average five and dime.
WHERE ELSE but in Ann Arbor can
you find a store catering specifically to
a mere segment of the community?
Here you can find a place that sells vin-
tage comic books or one that markets
"Specialty shops do well in Ann Ar-
bor," says Kent Whiteman, co-owner of
The Ram's Head, a local leather goods
shop. "There's a sophisticated buying
public, I think, and they appreciate
items that are unique."
One of the most extraordinary selec-
tions of merchandise is available at the
Ann Arbor Novelty Store. There,
working amidst stacks of fake doggie
doo-doo and joy buzzers, is part-time
magician and full-time novelty seller
Lee Darrow. "Snap'n'Pops, switch
blade combs, TV magic cards, disap-
pearing eggs, and squirters are our top
sellers," Darrow reports.
LOCATED IN the basement of a
building on State St., the shop carries
rubber masks, Star Wars trinkets, red-
hot gum, rubber trout, and other
necessities of life. The shop also
markets magic supplies (and even
provides customers with a choice of
eight varieties of rubber noses).
The prime difference between these
specialty shops and large department
stores is in the people who manage and
own the stores. The small shop owners
have a much closer rapport with the
community - their business depends
on it. The feelings of trust and concern
for customers prevail.
Abernathy Pottery Studios, for
example, leave numerous costly
ceramic pieces out in the open at the
shop located in the Nickels Arcade.
Centicore bookstore places racks of cut-
out records outside the building and
places its trust in the numerous passer-
ANOTHER characteristic of the
small shops is the owners' eagerness to
please. Merchants go to great lengths to
accommodate every customer's
slightest demand. For instance, the
owner, salesman, bookkeeper and sup-
plier for The Island Hopper, an import
store, literally travels around the world
to find requested items.
Small local bookstores and record
stores generally are much happier to
order things they don't have than their
more sizeable and less agreeable coun-
terparts. The supplies will usually
arrive much more quickly, too.
Shopkeepers are also quite
knowledgeable about their merchan-
dise and are more than happy to spend
a good deal of time explaining the finer
points of a purchase to a buyer. For in-
6.5 oz. can ...
Pork and Beans
16 oz. can...
49 oz. box ..
Zeijer's Thrifty Acres
3825 Carpenter Rd.
stance, the clerks at Harry's Arir
Surplus, a provocative little building (
the corner of Fourth and Washingto
are incredibly knowledgeable about a
the camping equipment and kha]
goods they vend. The folks at The E3
of Agomotto seem to know practical
everything about comics, from the Ii:
of Spiderman to the adventures of ti
SIZE, UNFORTUNATELY worl
against these smaller shops, for fier(
competition reigns in several way
These small merchants must often fer
with big businesses by charging high
prices, as in the case of the Sun Baker
- a natural foods bakery which pass'
high operating costs onto the consum
by selling the best baked goods in to%
at the highest prices in town.
Alas, the small shops are often ak
to a balloon: any sizeable amount
pressure from the outside-and they'
gone. "Here today, gone tomorrow"
the unfortunate motto and reality
many small businesses even in a ton
like Ann Arbor.
But the availability of the tir
specialty shops will probably never
in doubt. With large chain stores in t~
minority in the immediate Universil
area, the small-time shopkeeper ar
the buyer with specialized deman
will certainly have a place in Ann Arb
for a long time to come.
SHORT or LONG
Haircutting By Experts
offer an alternative
By JANIE KATZ
Ann Arbor is unique in having a coun-
ter culture so comprehensive that
many of its residents never deal with
traditional institutions at all.
Alternative social and political
organizations abound in the city, as do
some non-traditional economic options
in the form of collective and
cooperatively operated businesses.
LOCAL alternative businesses in-
clude everything from food coops to
therapy collectives. There are bakery
and produce coops, an auto repair coop,
collectively run elementary schools, art
institutes, health clinics, and even a
collectively run bar.
And while Business Administration
Prof. Larue Hosmer points out that
about 90 per cent of traditional small
businesses fail within five years, a
Residential College (RC) student-
faculty research group found Ann Ar-
bor's alternative businesses to be
In fact, the number of coops is
climbing. An herb and spice coop and
the "Soy Plant" which sells tofu opened
this year and there has been talk of
forming a dry goods, hardware, and
gardening tools coop.
NOT ALL alternative businesses are
coops, according to the RC researchers,
who spent five months studying the
city's non-traditional enterprises. The
essential elements are that they are
non-hierarchical and "politically or
socially conscious." Ann Arbor's
examples include collectives, or
worker-controlled enterprises, and
cooperatives, which are consumer con-
trolled. Many, like the People's Food
coop, combine the two.
While economic cooperatives were
common in the 1930's, today's coops
combine the more businesslike
cooperative structures with the
political, cultural, and social commit-
ments of the last decade. The idea
behind these establishments is to give
the staff control over its own work
situation. The products sold reflect the
members' concerns for quality. Food
coops, for example, sell natural, un-
processed and often organically grown
AND BECAUSE these alternative
businesses are non-profit, they can un-
dersell many traditional businesses.
Cheese atthe People's Food Coop sells
for less than what most stores pay
See CO-OP, Page 59
By ELIZABETH SLOWIK
The mall explosion hit metropolitan
Detroit, and Ann Arbor has not
Five years ago Briarwood Mall
opened its yawning glass doors to a
community that hungered for one-stop
shopping. Briarwood was joined by
Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights,
Fairlane Town Centre in Dearborn,
Twelve Oaks in Farmington and a
renovated Eastland in Harper Woods to
create the chain of sister malls that now
stretches from Ann Arbor to northeast
ALTHOUGH THE malls differ in
location and architecture, they are so
much alike they could be interchanged
like the missing pieces of a puzzle.
The change from mid-western college
town to sububia is startling as you enter
Briarwood. Gone is Shaky Jake, Dr.
Diag, and the Afghanistan Banana
Stand. Say hello to Mrs. Jones and her
five pre-school kids.
This is a part of Ann Arbor that
escapes many students who find them-
selves stationed on campus, but it is a
familiar haven for native Ann Ar-
borites. After entering Briarwood, your
Ann Arbor world is no longer an in-
tellectual capital nor a research center,
but a suburb - comfortable in its mid-
LIKE THE other Detroit area malls,
Briarwood hosts the major department
stores in Michigan: Sears, Hudson's,
. A touch o
and Penney's. At these stores you can
buy anything from a mascara wand to a
Remember, if you don't have a car,
you'll have to take that lawn mower and
all your purchases home on the bus.
Weaving between the stairs and plan-
ters, the Briarwood shopper can find
around 100 stores peddling goods like
pillows, Levi's, and Shaker furniture.
There is a store for campers, a store for
gift-buyers and a store for candy-
buyers. You can find down jackets,
ceramic turtles, wicker baskets,
sleeping bags, greeting cards, long-
stemmed glassware, short-stemmed
glassware, shot glasses, juice glasses,
and those glass candles that float in oil.
Like the other malls, Briarwood often
hosts choral groups and shows to entice
a public laden with greenbacks and
plastic charge cards. Briarwood even
contains four movie theatres which
comprise the luxurious cinema house
known as the Briarwood Movies. The
Movies features first-run films to lure
the Ann Arbor movie patrons out of
their abodes and into their little
. Window shopping at Briarwood can
be painful for money-starved college
students. Goods are displayed in pic-
ture window wonder, crying to be taken
back to campus and tucked into the
corner of a dorm room.
But Briarwood needn't be a major,
financial setback if you look at the mall
as a job market. Stores need people to
run them as well as consumers to sup-
Nestled in Briarwood's wings are
several restaurants to tickle anybody's
taste buds. The Cathay House serves
Mandarin and Cantonese dishes or you
can stick with good old American food
at the Big Boy. Other eateries include
Happy Hero, Falafil Hut, Orange
Julius, Gus's Restaurant, Lafayette
Coney Island, and Farrell's Ice Cream
So for no more than the cost of a bus
ride, you can have a homey taste of
suburbia 'just a five-mile- jaunt down
719 N. UNIVERSITY-665-4355
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