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July 05, 2011 - Image 3

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-07-05

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
DANCING IN THE DIAG

13

@burger closes after 11 months
at East Liberty Street location

Restaurant says the
closure is partly
due to increased
competition
By SARAH ALSADEN
Daily News Editor
After 11 months at its East Lib-
erty Street location, the restau-
rant @burger closed its doors for
the final time last weekend.
The restaurant, which was
a new venture for Big Boy Res-
taurants, opened last summer in
the McKinley Towne Centre -
which also houses retailers like
FedEx, Tomukun Noodle Bar
and Lab Cafe. According to David
Crawford, senior vice president
of marketing for Big Boy Restau-
rants, increased competition as
well changes in the summer pop-
ulation of Ann Arbor were major
influences in the company's clo-
sure.
Crawford said that while there
were various reasons the busi-
ness closed, the most prominent
was that it was difficult to devote
the attention necessary to @
burger with such a large number
of Big Boy Restaurants to attend
to.
"I think a big (reason) is that
we have 140 Big Boys, and so our
focus is really tight now on the
Big Boy chain," Crawford said.
"There were some lessons we
got out of the chain, but again,
our focus remains Big Boy so we
wanted to make sure that was
front and center."
Crawford added another sig-
nificant reason for the decision
to close the business involved
decreased sales and increased
competition from other restau-
rants.
"The chain did increase some
increased competition that we
didn't see when we first opened
- this was the Five Guys that
i was built on State (Street) in our

"burger proximity" if you will -
within half a block," Crawford
said.
Additionally, Crawford said
the significant decline in the stu-
dent population at the end of the
winter semester and the begin-
ning of spring semester also con-
tributed heavily to a decline in
sales, which prompted the deci-
sion.
"I didn't expect such a notice-
able drop off from students when
the students left for the summer,"
Crawford said.
Crawford added that sales had
been significantly higher dur-
ing the fall semester, before Five
Guys Burgers and Fries opened
on State Street.
"We had probably done double
the sales volume ... during the
football season and then when
winter came we had a noticeable
drop-off, just because I think
people don't get out and walk as
much," Crawford said.
Though the company intends
to use some of the menu items
from the @burger restaurant,
there are no plans to open a
similar restaurant in the future,
Crawford said.
"There is some great burger
research that we did for that
chain that we'll start to utilize in
our Big Boy business," he said.
However, while the @burger
brand has been retired indefi-
nitely, Crawford said there is still
possibility for the opening of a
Big Boy restaurant in Ann Arbor.
"I love Ann Arbor, in terms
of community and the lower
unemployment rate and just the
general culture of the city is just
perfectly suited for us," he said.
Thomas Gritter, vice presi-
dent and managing director of
commercial real estate at the
McKinley Towne Centre, echoed
Crawford's sentiment that com-
petition from neighboring res-
taurants played a major role in @
burger's demise.
Gritter also said he believed
one of the reasons that contribut-

ed to the decision to close @burg-
er was the novelty of the concept
for the company.
"I think they saw the next gen-
eration of burger joints and want-
ed to see if that was a brand they
could do well with," Gritter said.
"(We) gave them a shot, and we
believed in them and it just didn't
work."
Gritter explained there has
already been interest in leasing
the location where @burger was
located due to the equity in dis-
tance from both Downtown Ann
Arbor and Central Campus.
"We've had a lot of interest
already, calls have been off the
hook already since (the closing)
with interest for that spot," Grit-
ter said. "There have been some
national restaurants that have
been interested."
While Gritter said it's hard to
gauge whether the next leaser
will be successful, he has high
hopes for the location.
"It's a very in-demand spot,"
Gritter said. "Liberty continues
to be very dedicated and hot retail
corridor, so I think we'll be able to
pick from what we wantto put in."
David Gordon, district manag-
er at Five Guys Burgers and Fries
said he didn't know that @burger
had closed but had noticed an
increase in sales in the past few
weeks, which he said can likely,
be attributed to the an influx of
people visiting Ann Arbor due to
freshman orientation or the time
of year itself.
Gordon said having other
burger joints in the area is an
issue that doesn't concern his
company, but is rather something
they embrace.
"As far as we're concerned,
the competition in the area - we
welcome it, we enjoy the fact that
there's other stores in the area
that grill burgers as well," Gor-
don said. "Other stores do their
spin on what burgers are sup-
posed to be and we do ours and
hopefully in the end we all get to
make money out of it."

ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily
University students and staff perform the traditional Chinese Drum Dance on the
Diag on Monday, July 4. The free class, which focuses onTai Chi and other ancient
Chinese dances, will continue throughout the year at Washtenaw Cowwunity Col-
lege on Saturdays from 6-8 p.m. and is open to anyone.
www.paulengstromphotography.com

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