Don’t Despair – Blimpy’s Still There

Local eatery to reopen Monday after week of renovations

Two large handwritten signs in the window say CLOSED, but Krazy Jim's Blimby Burger will reopen on Monday. (Photo by the writer.)

When The Chronicle sees a Tweet wondering if a local business has closed, that sometimes sends us off on a quest – and Sunday evening, the business in question was Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger. Since we’d covered the mystery closing of another landmark eatery in January, we braced for bad news.

And seeing large CLOSED signs in the windows as we approached, plus a yellow cord strung across the front steps, it wasn’t looking good. But as we got closer, we saw – written much more faintly and in much smaller lettering – ”til Monday.” Then, ignoring the cord, we climbed the stairs and encountered a much more detailed sign on the front door: Blimpy’s was only temporarily closed for renovations. Whew.

As we stood there reading the sign, movement behind the door alerted us to the fact that someone was inside – several someones, in fact, including owners Rich and Chris Magner.

This sign on the front door pretty much says it all.

This sign on the front door pretty much says it all. The renovations behind the door are a secret, but if you look closely, you can get a sneak peek in this photo. (Photo by the writer.)

They’d been working all week at renovations they’d wanted to do for a long time, Rich Magner said as he boxed up some unused floor tiles. The east lane of a stretch on South Division in front of Blimpy’s is closed, and only three parking spots are available, due to the roadwork. This is also typically a slow time of year, Magner added, “So I said, ‘This is the time.’”

The main project was putting in a new floor, which meant that everything had to be moved out of the front room – from the grill to the tables and chairs, which are bolted to the floor. Chris Magner described the new floor as looking like Candy Land, the board game with bright colored paths. But you’ll have to go there to see for yourself – Rich Magner wants it to be a surprise for customers, so no photos.

The Magners met when they both worked at Blimpy’s under previous ownership in the 1970s – back when the place was covered with “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” wallpaper. (That’s gone now.) Chris Magner, who was washing down a counter as we talked, remembers the date they bought the burger joint by calculating how old her son was at the time – when they signed the papers, he was 2. They started running Blimpy’s, with partial ownership, in 1993, and bought it outright 10 years later.

This isn’t the first major renovation they’ve done. In January of 2002, a fire caused damage to the grill area and required repairs to that part of the front room – and a new grill. And when the fire truck pumped water to put out the fire, pressure caused the water main into the restaurant to break – they had to repair that, too. “It was a bad year,” Chris Magner said.

The restaurant, which opened in 1953, is known for its distinctive burgers, of course, but equally for its quirky ordering conventions, outlined on its website: “Check out our menu and then come on in – you actually order your food in a classic cafeteria-style setting directly from the person doing the cooking; but be careful! There’s a ‘right way’ to order and a ‘wrong way’ to order, so be sure to visit the ordering page for proper instructions!!”

Their reputation isn’t limited to Ann Arbor. The food and the floor show were featured last year on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, hosted by chef Guy Fieri – there’s a big signed poster of him behind the counter.

It was decidedly less glamourous on Sunday evening, as the Magners and a few others there still faced several hours of work ahead of them. Chris Magner said it wasn’t the Father’s Day she’d envisioned for her husband. As for Rich? “I’m worn out.”

Bonus points for readers who can tell why it's clear that this van is owned by the Blimpy Burger folks.

Bonus points for readers who can tell why it's clear that this van is owned by the Blimpy Burger folks. (Photo by the writer – image links to larger version.)


  1. June 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm | permalink

    Man, that’s service and a big relief. Its been tough for Ann Arbor’s local stores. Red Hot Lovers…gone. Shaman Drum…gone. Glad to hear they’ll be back at it soon.

  2. By eli
    June 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm | permalink

    Thank you Chronicle! I drove by there today and was dumbstruck with horror. I am looking forward to seeing the new Blimpy so I can once again ask for my cheese at precisely the right moment.

  3. June 21, 2009 at 9:39 pm | permalink

    Okay, but the “SNOBEAR” license plate was really hard to read. I’m surprised my bifocals carried me through.

  4. June 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm | permalink

    It was hard for me to read, too! It is clear that it belongs to Blimpy Burger folks because they have lovely snow bears, made out of real snow, in front of their restaurant in the winter. The bears have colorful scarves and stuff and are very cute! Therefore, I conclude that is why this van belongs to the Blimpy Burger folks!!

    Do I get extra points for answering in a complete sentence? :)

  5. By Mary Morgan
    June 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm | permalink

    Yes, TP – super extra double bonus points! And I’ve just posted a link from the image to a larger version of the photo….hope that helps.

  6. June 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm | permalink

    Thanks for your investigative reporting, Mary! I always love when one of the snowbears is made to look like he’s gazing into the window at all of the patrons. It was just a few nights ago that I saw a little league team lining up outside Blimpy’s for a photo. Reminded me how much we really enjoyed going there as kids. Looking forward to seeing the renovations.

  7. By Mary Morgan
    June 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm | permalink

    Yep, put me on the investigative burger beat, and I’m there…

  8. June 22, 2009 at 8:29 am | permalink

    My sentences were complete, too – just not as poetic.

    ‘S’no bearing it if Blimpy goes away.

  9. By mr dairy
    June 22, 2009 at 10:06 am | permalink

    Rich Magner, the owner, does all the artwork and sculpts the Sno Bears.

  10. June 22, 2009 at 10:31 am | permalink

    They seem to differ from year to year but my favorite was when they were seated at the picnic table outside.

  11. By Steve H.
    June 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm | permalink

    I used to work for Rich when he managed the food operation at the Count of Antipasto–glad to hear the ‘closed’ sign is part of maintaining/upgrading. Ann Arbor wouldn’t be quite the same without Rich feeding us–and without Blimpy’s.

    Go Rich!