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January 21, 1979 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-01-21
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(Continued from Page 5)
at Dom's bakery on Main Street, says
that during his stint at the mall, he
constantly heard conversations about
earnings. "Downtown," he says,
"we're into pleasing the customers
more than anything else."
That personalized, old-fashioned-
downtown atmosphere, combined with
the revamped businesses and buildings,
is drawing an influx of new shoppers to
the area. Downtown had been steadily
on the decline even before the advent of
mall. "Briarwood made downtown
realize it was shabby," says Sandi
Cooper. "If we take the time to put out
clean windows, plants, and softness, we
can bring back the more sophisticated
shoppers" that were lost in the decay of
many of the downtown establishments.
"We've already brought back people
who haven't been downtown for
years-people from Birmingham and
other Detroit suburbs."
responsible for the Main Street
merchants' exodus, the area
was not exactly Lexington Avenue prior
to the mall's construction. Many of the
old businesses had settled into a
complacency common in situations
where there is no competition. With no

incentives to keep up their stores, many
merchants allowed their businesses to
become stale. And the selection of
shops was not very exciting, as least to
student-aged shoppers, a fundamental
segment of the buying population.
Things had begun to brighten up in
the area just below Main Street, known
as the West Side neighborhood, before
Briarwood was built. Mr. Flood's
opened in the late sixties, and in the
years that followed neighboring
nightspots began renovations,
eventually forming the conglomeration
of downtown pubs that gives Ann Arbor
its uniquely-flavored nightlife.
It was sometime later that the
Briarwood scare shocked some of the
established storeowners into
revitalizing their businesses. Aside
from the blow of several businesses
boarding up their windows in
resignation, four stores followed the
national trend and actually moved their
wares out. Both Singer's Sewing
Machines and Faber's Fabrics opened
branches in Briarwood while
attempting to maintain stores on Main
Street as well.
However, financial troubles soon
beset both stores. Phyllis Splitt, a
Singer's employee of 27 years, says she


(Continued from Page 3)
ferry, curtailed service threatens the
very livelihood of the crew membes.
Still, the workers by no means voiced
unanimous suport of continued
operations. "You can't argue with the
fact that these things are too darned
expensive," insisted one crewman. But
another claimed the service could be
lucrative, a sentiment with which most
The tale of the ferry service's demise
was told by several crew members'
worn faces. Few had served less than a
decade on the lake, and several over a
quarter century. Cutbacks and the
resulting layoffs had depleted the
younger ranks. And in the passenger
dining room, if excellence remained the
byword for the crew's mess, that could
no longer be said for the fare served the
paying guests.
The setting itself could hardly have
been more attractive. Located one floor
above the passenger lounge, the dining
room provided a beautiful,
unobstructed view of Lake Michigan
through wrap-around picture windows.
The waiters wore starched white
jackets and served dinners with old-
style deliberation and courtesy. But the
food itself fell far short. A filet of fish
dinner arrived on a styrofoam plate,
accompanied by mushy, tasteless
canned mixed vegetables and
reconstituted mashed potatoes whose
flavor resembled wet sawdust. The bill,
unlike the food, was not economy class.
LIMBING DOWN the steep
staircase into the belly of the
ship a visitor felt like a modern-
day Dante descending into a
mechanical Hell, enveloped by the
stifling hot air and oppressive pounding
of the engines. An intricate network of
pipes and narrow grid walkways
stretched upward as super-heated
furnaces came into view below.
Mechanical feeders delivered the coal
which fueled the mammoth engines.
Though outmoded technologically, the
coal-fired power plant still delivers
enough force for the ferry to penetrate
the thickest ice that besets the vast
Seven hours after departure from
Milwaukee harbor, the Spartan docked
at Ludington. Here too,.the impact of

the ferry's closing would be sharply
felt. For Ludington is a resort town
whose dozens of motels and quaint
cottages depend on the influx of ferry
passengers to survive.
Despite the strong passenger demand
for the ferries, it is railroad freight
cargo which keeps them in business and
provides the bulk of their income.
Chessie officials contend that it no
longer makes sense for them to ship rail
cars across the lake by boat.
"We can haul 150 cars with a crew of
five from Chicago to Detroit," said a
Chessie spokesman. "The technology
has changed so much that these ferries
are an anachronism."
Opponents of Chessie's plan to drop
the service have included Wisconsin
and Michigan state officials, as well as
rail unions and firms which ship goods
on the ferries. They challenge claims of
losing money on the runs, and charge
that the company deliberately
neglected the ships and juggled its
books in order to establish paper losses,
so that the ICC would permit the closing
of the ferry lines. This is, of course,
heatedly denied by Chessie.
" 'S LIKE SOMEONE cutting off
his hand and then asking for sym-
pathy because he's injured,"
commented Robert Taube, an assistant
attorney general of Michigan who
represents the state in its challenge to
Chessie before the ICC. "As long as
they maintain a negative attitude, then
obviously the service is not going to
Chessie officials said they expect the
ICC to act on their request to drop the
Ludington-Millwaukee run by early
summer. If given the go-ahead, service
could be curtailed within 30 days of the
ICC's ruling. Thus, the next few months
could see the beginning of the end to
another chapter of Great Lakes history.
It is the classic battle of economics
-versus human interest. The outcome
seldom changes, for in the end,
technological advances can hardly be
ignored or defeated. The passengers,
are retained more as a diversion by rail
and ferry owners, for they do not
account for profits. The inexorable
economic tides eventually wash away
money losers, a splash even the
majestic ferries cannot withstand.

believes the city branch closed because
of a rent increase. Bob Faber explains
that the day his Briarwood store
opened, the AMain Street store's sales
dropped forty per cent. Both agree the
Briarwood business is far more
profitable, but like so many other mall
employees, they express a nostalgia for
the downtown atmosphere.
"We have our old customers come in
here saying, Why did you leave
downtown Ann Arbor,"' claims Splitt.
Faber says that once installed at his
new Briarwood address, he began
receiving torn up credit cards through
the mail. Affluence versus aesthetics
seems to be the dilemma here, but the
problem goes deeper than that.
Convenience, says Faber, is a key
factor in the mall's magnetism. "We
must recognize the change in the
downtown vis-a-vis the community," he
stresses. "Downtown is no longer the
most convenient spot."
Many downtown stores resisted the
Briarwood migration and upgraded
their establishments. Much of the early
renovation, and an important
contributor to the area's continuing
spirit of progress, is due to the "new,
young blood," as one veteran Main
Street merchant refers to the young,
energetic entrepreneurs who have
assumed management of many
downtown firms.
"Main Street used to be run by old
men, says Tom DeFord, general
manager of Muehlig's Dry Goods, a
store that dates back a hundred years.
"People sat back, and all of a sudden,
with the malls, there wasn't any
business for them, and they weren't
energetic enough to go out and get it."
DeFord says he feels the downtown
should survive, but that promotion is
essential. Two years ago,' he helped
organize a series of monthly bargain
days to attract shoppers to the
downtown stores. One of the first
experiments was a February
"Presidents' Day" sale, during which
DeFord's wife dressed as George
Washington as a promotional gimmick.
"It was outstanding," says DeFord.
"Sales just tripled."
This sort of careful planning to
attract customers seems increasingly
to be a trademark of Ann Arbor's
downtown. Besides creating a good
rapport with their customers,
storeowners generally have taken
extreme care in dressing their shops
and in selecting their merchandise. And
though this practice reaps obvious
personal benefits, it is accompanied by
a spirit of communal development.
"We decided a good store with a
sophisticated front would really help
downtown," explains Sandi Cooper,
pointing out the wood-paneled pillars
and bi-level floor that marked the
installment of Complete Cuisine in its
Main Street quarters. "And when
Kline's next door expanded, it gave a

lot of people good vibes about
N ADDITION to this effort to make
storefronts more attractive,
several of the narrow brick build-
ings on the West Side have been
declared historic landmarks, and any
renovations must comply with specified
codes. The Main and Liberty buildings,
however, while not subject to any
stipulations, have tried to fulfill the
requirements of good taste.
Renovation is valued over complete
reconstruction, and the downtown
Racquetball Club is a case in point.
"We tried to keep the flavor of the
original building" when adding the
racquetball facilities, says manager
Bruce Pedersen. "It actually would
have been cheaper to tear it down and
completely rebuild."
Downtown Ann Arbor's melding of
the old and new and joining of the city's
diverse elements has so far met
success, but the scope for further
improvement remains. Many
customers express the desire for more
little cafes where they can chat with
friends over a cup of coffee while taking
a break from shopping.
Parking and housing have been cited
by Ann Arborites in all capacities as the
two most pressing problems facing
downtown. Parking facility proposals
have been debated in the higher
echelons of city government, but the
questions of location and form have yet
to be resolved.
Residential units are in demand and
would bring the citizens of Ann Arbor
closer to their downtown. The upper
levels of stores would be a logical place
to expand housing capacity, but as of
yet there is no low-cost way to refurbish
apartment space. The apartments that
have been constructed must go at
luxury rates in order to ensure the
developer any sort of profit.
Some merchants laud the city for its
participation in the rescue of the
downtown area, while others complain
that not enough funds have been
allocated for renovation. Everyone
remotely connected with the area,
however, declares his support for an
active downtown. "We can't exactly
compete with Briarwood, but we are
something Briarwood could never hope
to be," claims Sullivan. "We in the
downtown will never cease to be the
heart of the city."
While most towns its size have
succumbed to the air conditioning and
free parking appeal of malls, Ann
Arbor has proven itself a survivor. In
lieu of the energy expanded during the
last few years, the city appears to have
enough going for it to defy the wave of
the future. While many merchants are
predicting expansion of the mall, those
like Cooper forsee a reverse. trend.
"People are going back to wanting to be
called by their names," she says with a
'smile, "and not their numbers."





Judy Rakowsky

Owen Gleiberman


Cover photo by Andy Freeberg

out the

King Tut
and its

The latest
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Supplement to The Michigan Daily

Ann Arbor, Michigan-Sunday, January 21, 1979

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