Last week The Chronicle reported that Dream On Futon planned to close next month, and during our interview with owner Doreen Collins, she shared some memories from her nearly 15 years as a downtown Ann Arbor retailer. Among those were affectionate recollections – and several photos – of Jake Woods, better known as Shakey Jake.
She asked us if we’d seen the life-size wire sculpture of him. When we returned a blank look and said, “What?!” she filled us in.
First, some background: Jake died in September 2007. Then in his 80s, he’d been a fixture around town for decades, instantly recognizable in his shades, hat, suit and bow tie, often carrying or playing his beat-up guitar. Everyone wanted to say they knew Shakey Jake. He had his own “I Brake for Jake” bumper stickers. Hundreds showed up for his funeral at Muehlig Funeral Chapel, and many brought instruments that afterwards they played joyously in an impromptu parade in his honor.
Many knew of Jake, but few knew him well. Among those few were Collins and Carol Lopez, owner of the Peaceable Kingdom on South Main Street, around the corner from Dream On Futon. Collins wanted to pay tribute to her friend, and proposed to Lopez that they commission Stef Kopka to create a wire sculpture of Jake, just chilling, as he often did, in a white plastic lawn chair.
Kopka is perhaps best known around town for the playful wire sculptures that populate the exterior of Big City Small World Bakery at the corner of Miller and Spring. (Or you might see him around town, twisting bits of wire into shapes as he walks.)
Using an image of Jake from an old Ann Arbor Observer cover, Kopka finished the work last fall – all wire and wire mesh, except for sunglasses and a straw hat. (Lopez told The Chronicle that the hats Jake actually wore had deteriorated to the point of being unusable.)
The original plan was for Wire Jake to split his time between the two shops, starting with the Peaceable Kingdom. Initially, he’d sit outside the store – Lopez said they attached a cable tether to his back as a precaution. But even with that, she feared he’d be too tempting a trophy: “You just don’t want a marauding band of teenagers to nail him.”
So Jake sits inside Peaceable Kingdom, tucked into an alcove at the front of the store. And now, with Dream On Futon closing, Collins said that’s where he’ll stay. She’s glad he’s in a place where there’s lots of activity. Lopez said people like to greet him coming and going – the sculpture captures something about his essence that makes him seem almost animate. (Lopez said that one customer was creeped out by it – and that was just too damn bad.)
So see ya around, Jake – Ann Arbor misses you.