Just after noon on Sunday, several people had already assembled in the John Leidy gift shop on East Liberty: three generations of the family-owned business, and two self-described “Leidy Ladies” – long-time staff at the 58-year-old store.
A Chronicle reader had contacted us with news that the store planned to close. So we stopped by to talk with the Leidy family, who were gathering there after coming from church: John Leidy’s widow, Ann Leidy, their daughter Liz Arsenault, who manages the store, and son Peter Leidy, who’s acting as spokesman for the family.
Postcards were mailed to their customers over the last few days announcing plans to close at the end of February, when their lease is up. But on Sunday, Peter Leidy told The Chronicle that they weren’t yet ready for an interview. There’s a lot of emotion, he said, and gratitude to customers – but it’s a hard time for them.
Instead, Leidy emailed a written statement. Here’s their message:
It has been a truly wonderful and fulfilling fifty eight years. The shop, customers, and employees have been a gift to our family.
We understand that many people will wonder “why?” Some factors that led to this difficult decision are changes in how people shop, requirements by suppliers, competition from suppliers that sell directly to the public, and increased freight costs.
We are sad to be closing, and we are grateful for the friendship of our loyal customers and the Ann Arbor community.
The Leidy Family
John Leidy opened the business in November of 1951. The shop’s current stock reflects the merchandise he first carried: fine china and crystal, silver, dishware – with brand names like Royal Doulton, Wedgwood and Baccarat. These are the kinds of items you’d list on a wedding registry, which hundreds of Ann Arbor couples did there over the decades.
In addition to its wedding registry-type inventory, the store today carries a wide range of other merchandise, including jewelry, candles and figurines. At this time of year, it’s also packed with holiday ornaments and Christmas-themed items – many of them now deeply discounted.
In the 1960s, Leidy opened a second store on the opposite side of the theater. The family consolidated the two stores into one location in 2006. That same year, the store was featured in an Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly article, marking the 55th anniversary of the business. The article quoted Liz Arsenault, who described how the store kept very close to the traditions established by her father, who died in 1993. “We wouldn’t have a computer if UPS didn’t require us to use it for shipments,” she told the magazine.
The John Leidy shop is the latest in a series of business closings over the past year. Some of them, like John Leidy, have been fixtures of the downtown area for decades – most notably Shaman Drum Bookshop on South State Street, which closed on June 30 after nearly 30 years in business.
Store hours at the John Leidy are Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Sun., noon-5 p.m.