Page 2 - The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 7, 1989
Retail and restaura
As stores close, businesses learn from
Vera Songwe set to open two new mini malls in the university area. While this
paly Staff Writer been greeted favorably by some, most of the shop owners thi
ink it is
.Walking the streets of Ann Arbor it seems you can hardly enter a shop
Jere someone won't be able to tell you what the town was like in 1950.
P*sibly, you could even hear stories from as early as 1924.
For most successful retail shops in the university area this is a com-
~9in phenomenon. The stores have been here for a long time, learning to
sri~ve and cope with the competition for resident's dollars.
<A new retail trend in Ann Arbor has been developing. Most of the new
ires last only a short time before the "25 to 75 percent off" sale signs
rce their windows and the announcements of another closing spread
Zh<ughout the community.
. The closing shops, however, hardly leave the Ann Arbor's realtors
aikrupt. No sooner does a store close before there are inquiries to rent
je building and set up a food chain or art band jewelry.
4. Many have accused the Ann Arbor Realtors for causing the surge in
bew restaurants at the expense of retail.
"'With the older retail stores, most store owners probably own the
building as well. Since last year there has been a 34% increase in property
value and rent has been raised accordingly," said Rick Buhr, an employee
of Good Time Charley's, a local bar.
The rising rents have made it increasingly difficult for new businesses
to compete, so they often quickly close.
New proprietors have to worry about their rents as well as their sales
percentage, whereas many of the older retail stores are owned and operated
by a single party, alleviating the rent problem.
"-Bill Quine, manager of Mast Shoes said that "with the advent of malls
there are many national chains discounting for small shops, and smaller
shops do not have the buying power to compete with merchandise chains.
"They have to sell something unique, but this is absolutely more ex-
pensive. (A store must) offer something students can't find in the chains.
If you do not sell it all in one season it becomes difficult to carry it over
and you make a loss."
, While, some people attribute this trend to market changes others think
it is as a result of product choice. "You have to have a very fine balance
between the trendy clothing and the marketable" said Quine.
Marcia Giordano, manager of the women's clothing store Mary
Dibble, said people tend to think that because of the university the town
,is very liberal, but that people here are actually very conservative. This is
reflected in the way many residents, and students alike, dress and shop. "I
think Ann Arbor is very traditional."
t The manager of Van Boven, a men's clothing store, James Orr, at-
tributes the failure of most new retail stores to a narrow range of perma-
mot customers. "In business you spend two-thirds of your time taking
care of old customers and a third trying to get new ones. The new retail
shops are closing because they did not get the right proportion of loyal
,customers." He should know - he has worked in Ann Arbor for 65 years
and has seen many shops come and go, as well as many graduates, who
still order clothes from his shop for congressional meetings.
The main reason why shops are closing down here seems to be the
burden of incteasing rents.
; 'The rents are incredible here," said Orr.
, tBut rents are not the only reason for this trend. While the owners of
the shops are complaining about the rents, the customers have something
. lse to complain about: parking.
'"Lack of parking usually poses a great problem for retailers because
customers do not want be bothered worrying about tickets.while shop-
ping," Orr said.
..Defying all odds some of the more recent retail shops are thriving and
they attribute their success to the poplarity of the school.
Some retail shops specialize in particular University goods "I attribute
my success it to the fact that we are a full service store which deals in
geeric university clothing," said an employee at Moe Sport's Shop.
"Our merchandise is not necessarily student oriented we get a lot of
Alumni on the football weekends and conventions we are'in the full more
zeroed in on the more mature public," he said.
Restaurants do not have to bother about seling their merchandise by
the end of the season; all they have to do is find the hungry stomachs and
give them a reason to come back.
s Restaurants can afford the higher rents due to their high turnovers but
some of them come and go just like the retail stores," said Bill Keith
General Manager of UNO's.
"It's possibly (because) Americans are really into gourmet foods," said
Quine. "Its a lot easier to go into the restaurant business."
Students provide a great market for both retail and food oriented shops
inAnn Arbor. However, all the stores agreed that the best periods of the
year for their business are football season, alumni weekends, the summer
'arfairs and Christmas.
"Thank God for the Art Fair'- football season is amazing, people
from all over the country come here," Mary Dibble said.
Like most of the surviving retail shops some of the food chains have
been here for a long time.
"We've survived for seven years, We provide the customers with what
they want and we do not only cater to students - we are also a family
-restaurant," said Janet Garza, manager of Uno's.
Charlie's is one of the most crowded local restaurants, as it doubles as
a bar. In business for 11 years, employees attribute its success to its
different setting from most of the other restaurants.
Despite the closing of many of the retail shops there are bright
prospects for anyone intending to dare the business. Amvest Realtors are
taking away from the uniqueness of the city.
"This pattern is being repeated across the nation. Landlords are tearing
this town down from the ground up. The only people that can survive are
franchises who can afford the rent. Many businesses are lured into mini
malls by false promises: '... (a lot of) students... prime location on cam-
pus... richest university in the Midwest' but soon enough people find out
they are in the business for the landlords," said proprietor Theresa
"The uniqueness of the town is disappearing, the unique stores are
leaving. Boutiques,. small shops can't survive. Chains, franchises are
moving in. Its going to get worse before it gets better."
"It used to be that people from outlying areas would drive in to shop.
Ann Arbor used to be the place to go to shop for 'unique' items, now its
no more," said Armbruster.
Deb Smith also agreed that the increasing presence of malls in the area
was not a positive feature of Ann Arbor. "Ann Arbor is the melting pot
of different backgrounds, attitudes, we try to offer a variety of merchandise
to suit this. Mall stores, in contrast, tend to appeal to the 'masses'."
While opinions continue to differ on the idea of new malls the already
existent traders are preoccupied with finding a way to make the university
area an appealing shopping area.
South University merchants are presently meeting with architects,
working on a plan to "redo" this street. The city has already redone the
Main St. and Liberty St. shopping areas.
Restaurants keep getting the better part of the residents dollars.
"People will always find money for food. Being the mother of a col-
lege student, I often say 'Yes you can have $25 more for food but don't
you dare spend it on clothes!' said an unidentified shopper.
A michigan sweat shirt and a pair of jeans may do for the week but
will you survive on a meal from ( have your pick) for a week?
-Daily staff writer Wendy Worthen contributed to this story.
(Ed. Note - Many local businesses are owned by minorities. For a
list of shops and their owners, contact the Chamber of Commerce (211 E.
Huron), which publishes a free directory of minority-owned stores,
restaurants, and professionals).
Main St. is a beautiful area to unusual businesses that abound.
stroll. The heart of downtown, some Notable stores include Kline's,
businesses, such as Schlenker Fantasy Attic Costumes, and dis-
Hardware, have been in the same lo- count bookstore After words. A great
cation since the 1800s. One needs place to explore after eating in one
ample time to explore the many of the area's 50 restaurants.
Chances are you'll walk through
this area many times a day, so why
not stop and shop between classes.
The best times can be had at
Middle Earth, a - well it's a, well
basically it defies description. They
carry everything from earrings to
rubber Bat Man's to-small plastic
Want a magazine? You can prob-
ably bet the Community News
Center has it. And, the employees
really don't seem to mind if you read
them right there. South U. is also
home to Ulrich's, the key to an edu-
cation and good sweatshirt collec-
This converted 19th century lumber mill and warehouse features an eclec-
tic mix of shops. A good bet for kitchen supplies is Kitchen Port.
Relatively uncrowded and with ample parking, this is a great place to
spend a rainy afternoon. And don't forget the farmer's market selling fresh
Everything here is cheaper than
any other place in Ann Arbor. A
great time can be had just passing
the afternoon in the aisles of Toys
'R Us. Check out the sale items,
like Menudo dolls, and Mr. T. water
store at this mall though, is the
Bulk Food Store. You'll never want
to look at food again after you've
taken your share of samples from
their bins and bins of candy and
That great street. State, inch for
inch, offers the best shopping in
town. Be it Rivouac for men's and
moved in to compete with Marty's
and Van Boven for the preppy
clothes market. In the future. trendy