Archive for February, 2009

Packard & Arch

Sign on Jack’s Hardware: “Still waiting for our bailout.”

Ypsi: Reality TV

The Detroit News reports from Saturday’s auditions for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” show, held at the Gardner-White Furniture store in Macomb Township. Rochelle Woods of Ypsilanti, who weighs 377 pounds, was among those hoping to be chosen for the show. She’d like to lose more than 190 pounds: ”It’s a shame a lot of people on TV, who want to lose weight, say now I can get a boyfriend. I never had problems getting a man. I don’t think you have to feel bad about yourself to lose weight. I think I am gorgeous and funny. I just need to lose weight.” [Source]

County, City Get Funds for Foreclosure Rehab

Administrative briefing, County Board of Commissioners (Feb. 25, 2009): Washtenaw County is receiving a $3 million federal grant to buy and rehab foreclosed homes, destroy blighted buildings and redevelop demolished or vacant buildings. The funds would be used in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Superior Township, which are areas designated as high priorities by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). Separately, the city of Ann Arbor was awarded $850,000 under the same program.

News of the county grant came during an informal administrative briefing for county commissioners on Wednesday, a gathering that also featured an exploding pen and a word that one commissioner described as sounding like a sexually transmitted disease. [Full Story]

A2: Food

The Last Bite blog heaps praise on Maitelates Alfajores, homemade cookies sold at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and Everyday Wines in Kerrytown: “Before eating a non-chocolate dipped one that Zingerman’s has been making, I’d never tasted an alfajore. It is a very tasty a spread of dulche de leche sandwiched in between two tender and crumbly shortbread cookies. Maite’s version is so good not only because of the decadent chocolate coating, but the confection as a whole is such a treat. The caramel and the cookie and the chocolate compliment each other so well.” [Source]

North 4th

Seen: Hilary Swank buying cupcakes at Cake Nouveau on N. 4th!

A2: Ann Arbor Gold

Ann Arbor Gold, a program of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce used to encourage shopping at local merchants, has shut down. The company that administers the program, CertifiChecks, is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Dayton, Ohio, according to an announcement on the firm’s website. Lindsay McCarthy, the chamber’s director of marketing & programs, sent an email message to members late Friday afternoon with the news. According to the chamber’s website, more than $2 million worth of Ann Arbor Gold certificates have been sold since the program started in 1994, with more than 140 businesses participating. [Source]

UM: Green Building

The New York Times reports on how business schools nationwide are “greening up,” but focuses its report on UM: “Even the bathrooms of the new Ross School of Business, here at the University of Michigan, are meant to teach a lesson. Among the dark marble countertops and heavy wood-paneled doors, the electric-green handles on the toilets stand out like little exclamation points. Coated to resist germs, the handles can be pushed either up or down, creating a high-intensity or low-intensity flush. The dual-flush toilets, estimated to reduce water consumption by as much as 67 percent, are just one example of the features throughout the building that are intended to show the world that this B-school is very eco-friendly.” [Source]

Washtenaw Avenue

Purple Grimace in front of McDonald’s waving to passing cars. Looks like the purple hairy kids in Bezonki. Pity the person inside the suit.

Ann Arbor DDA Ponders Response to City

“I’m confused,” she said. “Well,” he replied, “you need to work out your own confusion!”

That conversational exchange is unlikely to occur when a proposed parking customer service phone line goes live. The plan for the phone service was conveyed to the Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee by DDA deputy director, Joe Morehouse, at the committee’s meeting this past Wednesday.

But it’s exactly the back-and-forth that unfolded between board chair Jennifer Hall and board member Russ Collins during the operations committee meeting. The seeming exasperation conveyed by Collins came well into a discussion that had started before his arrival at the meeting. [Full Story]

A2: Business

The Chicago Tribune reports that Borders Group is closing its Michigan Avenue store next year because of slow sales: “Borders’ challenges have been intensified during the recession as consumers cut back on discretionary spending. But the closing of the Michigan Avenue store marks a high-profile departure for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company. It is more than twice the size of its average store and is one of its most prominent because of its location on the Magnificent Mile.” [Source]

A2: Frugality

On the Frugal Francis blog, for St. Francis of Assisi in Ann Arbor, parishioners are urged to contribute ideas for how to cut their bills and live frugally. Kelly writes: “We unplug our various chargers (phone chargers, hand-held video game chargers, etc) when we are done charging – it’s a small thing, but it cuts down on the energy drain that happens when those chargers are left plugged in all the time.” [Source]

Art Center Consolidates, Sells Felch Property

Bluestone Realty

A Bluestone Realty sign is still on the former Ann Arbor Art Center building at 220 Felch St., but the building was sold last week to ICON Technologies.

When Rob Cleveland of ICON Technologies sent us a press release about his firm’s purchase of the Ann Arbor Art Center’s Felch Street property, we took the opportunity to get an update on the center’s plans for its main Liberty Street site.

We reported last year that the art center, like virtually all nonprofits, was struggling financially and faced a budget shortfall. Last August, with two weeks left in their fiscal year, they’d launched a “Close the Books in the Black Campaign” to raise $20,000. So how was the center faring financially now? [Full Story]

7th & Liberty

6:03 p.m. AAPD still on scene of traffic accident; both drivers okay; one version: SB car on 7th ran light, EB car on Liberty struck other vehicle; passenger side rear wheel damage on 7th Street car is consistent with that;

It’s dark and rainy out there, folks, be careful.

West Stadium & Shelby

Workers at Dairy Queen are removing plywood from the windows in preparation for a March 3 opening!! Spring is coming!

Ypsi: Art Gallery

Tanya’s Online Emporium describes a visit to the What Is That gallery in Ypsilanti, and includes suggestions for what items would make good “divorce gifts” or “making up” gifts: ”An art gallery whose front window expressed to me that it was a friendly, non-pretentious kind of gallery that welcomes both bridge card carrying members as well as their neighbors up the street residing on private drives. This gallery gives both the budding artist just starting out, who might not be confident enough to walk in and show their creations in Ann Arbor, as well as the solid, high end artist a place to display their pieces with pride.” [Source]

Washington & Ashley

Seen through glass window at Grizzly Peak: Guy in coveralls peering into a big beer vat. Cleaning or brewing? Couldn’t tell.

E-Park Stations to Replace Parking Meters

Parking space markers

It's not the final design, but something like this will replace parking meters. Parkers will need to remember their space number so that they can enter it at the E-Park station where payment will be made.

On Wednesday morning, the Downtown Development Authority board operations committee got an update on the new parking payment kiosks which will soon begin replacing downtown Ann Arbor parking meters. The plan to install the devices, which will allow flexibility for payment and for rate-setting, has been reported in The Chronicle at least as long ago as last October.

The bases of the existing meters will remain in place, but they’ll be decapitated, with the coin receptacle to be replaced with a sign indicating a number for each parking space. The numbers are needed when parkers pay for their spaces.

On Wednesday, Joe Morehouse, deputy director of the DDA, said that the first of 25 units will be shipped on April 1 for deployment in the State Street and Liberty Street area. The 25 units represent an initial phase of assessment, with the idea that as many as 150-175 of these “smart meters” could eventually be installed. [Full Story]

Tuesday Night at the Indoor Track

University of Michigan Indoor Track

The Ann Arbor Track Club and the Michigan All Stars shared the lanes at the University of Michigan Indoor Track Building on Tuesday night.

Last Tuesday evening at the University of Michigan Indoor Track building, runners were spinning  through at least two different workouts: (i) 400-300-200-meter ladder repeats with 30-second recoveries between rungs, and a 4-minute recovery between the four total set, and (ii) run at your goal 5K goal pace until you just can’t maintain it any longer.

If you were a member of the Michigan All Stars, a youth track club that competes in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) events, you did the ladder repeats. And if you were a member of the Ann Arbor Track Club, you did the run-til-you-drop drill.

The occasion actually gave The Chronicle the chance to renew a previously-made acquaintance involving another kind of drill – the kind of giant drill that’s used to bore for soil samples. [Full Story]

See Ya Around, Shakey Jake


A wire sculpture of Jake Woods, better known as Shakey Jake, inside The Peaceable Kingdom at 210 S. Main Street.

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. [Full Story]

A2: Beer Pong

While these two separate Stopped.Watched. items reflect the health of Ann Arbor’s fall outdoor beer pong culture, according to, the game that weds  beer and table tennis is coming to Ann Arbor in the spring this year: March 14 at Rick’s American Cafe. [Source]

Maple trees all over the city

“Sapcicles” – subtle maple-syrup-flavored icicles formed where the oozing sap has frozen. Taps and jars on trees (locations kept secret so they won’t be disturbed). The sap is rising and dripping, you can lick it off some maples.

Dexter: Business

The Dexter Leader reports that Ann Arbor Machine Co. will close on Friday after going into receivership. “Sources said the operation had been in peril of bank receivership for about six months. The business had been shedding positions as early as last October with another round of layoffs over the past couple of months eliminating anywhere from 60 to 80 positions. When the doors close 100 employees in all will have been let go as a result.” [Source]

Name Spelled Wrong

In the inaugural edition of Wiki Wednesday, we misspelled the name of the Ann Arbor District Library’s associate director for IT and production.  It’s Eli Neiburger. We note the mistake here and have corrected it in the original story.

Jackson & Zeeb

Long time Ann Arbor businesses Kitchen Port and Wilkinson Luggage both lights off and still empty.

Huron & Chapin

2 p.m. Crash involving three cars and a Huron Valley Ambulance, blocking traffic on eastbound lane of Huron.