Column: Arbor Vinous

Village Corner leases store in Courtyard Shops on Plymouth
Joel Goldberg

Joel Goldberg

For over 40 years, Ann Arbor wine retailer Village Corner was a fixture on South University, near the University of Michigan’s Central Campus, until it closed last November to make way for a student high-rise at 601 S. Forest.

Dick Scheer, an iconic figure in Michigan wine circles, owned the store that entire time. When it closed, Scheer stashed his inventory in temporary quarters, took his Terminator turn – “I’ll be back!” – and pledged to reopen shortly in a venue with better parking, as he told Sandra Silfven of the Detroit News.

Then, nothing. Scheer went to ground, keeping his own counsel as he sought a new location, to the not-infrequent exasperation of long-time customers and members of the media alike.

Until last week, when the website of Michigan’s Liquor Control Commission (LCC) spilled the beans: on March 17, Village Corner applied to relocate its beverage licenses to another campus-adjacent address.

North Campus, that is.

The new location, at 1747 Plymouth Road in The Courtyard Shops, sits between No Thai! restaurant and Jet’s Pizza, in a storefront formerly occupied by Tanfastic tanning salon.

At 1200 square feet, the store would give Village Corner significantly more display space for wine than the constantly-cramped South University location. And, yes, there’s parking just outside the front door.

Courtyard Shops, the potential site for a relocated Village Corner

Village Corner, formerly located on South University, has leased space in The Courtyard Shops between No Thai! and Jet's Pizza.

But Scheer still won’t discuss specifics, except to confirm that he has leased the space. He says that discussion of an opening date, hours and staffing would be “presumptuous” and “premature” at this point, because everything depends on LCC approval of the license transfers to the new location.

“We don’t want to be another Costco or Walmart,” he said, a reference to the lengthy and highly-publicized travails of both national retailers to obtain the necessary government approvals for local stores.

His reticence is understandable, because LCC approval may not be a gimme. In addition to its easily-mobile beer and wine license, Scheer also wants to transfer Village Corner’s license to sell higher-alcohol distilled liquor.

That’s where the kerfuffle may arise. Michigan beverage regulations prohibit multiple liquor licensees within a half-mile radius – and Northside Liquor sits just across Plymouth Road from the Courtyard Shops.

Scheer says the Courtyard Shops location qualifies for an exemption, because Plymouth Road is a four-lane road. But while the state’s regs do allow the LCC to waive distance regulations for a businesses on “a major thoroughfare of not less than 4 lanes of traffic,” nothing obligates the commission to grant an exception in any individual case.

Northside Liquor might also formally oppose the transfer, which could throw a monkey wrench into the approval process. Reached on Thursday, Northside owner Janan Zaitouna said he hadn’t received official notification of Village Corner’s application from the LCC. But he indicated that he wouldn’t be favorably disposed to see another liquor store hang out its shingle right across the street.

For his part, Scheer indicated that he would likely exercise a provision to opt out of the lease unless Village Corner can transfer its license to sell liquor, along with wine and beer.

Barring unexpected delays, the normal LCC license transfer process can take as long as two months, allowing time for paper shuffling, an on-site inspection, and sign-off by the local police department. If approved, Scheer says he would need at least four to six weeks to fixture and stock the new space before Village Corner could reopen.

But all he’s done to date is install an LCC-required burglar alarm in the still-empty space. Until the license details fall into place, he says he’s not planning further down the road.

About the author: Joel Goldberg, an Ann Arbor area resident, edits the MichWine website and tweets @MichWine. His Arbor Vinous column for The Chronicle is published on the first Saturday of the month.


  1. April 2, 2011 at 10:11 am | permalink

    This is welcome news! Thanks, Joel.

  2. April 2, 2011 at 10:17 am | permalink

    Yes, it is welcome news. There are few good wine sellers on that side of town. I hope the LLC approves this.

  3. April 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm | permalink

    I was just thinking about this! It’s like you read my mind. Hope things work out :)

  4. By James Lucas
    April 2, 2011 at 1:57 pm | permalink

    The reason the Village Corner store was great was due to its location. Now that it is moving to this location, it will soon become just another strip mall liquor store.

  5. By kittybkahn
    April 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm | permalink

    Former VC wine customers can now find Jorge Lopez-Chavez at The Produce Station, 1629 S. State St., Ann Arbor MI 48104, where he is Wine Director. [link]

  6. By Alan Goldsmith
    April 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm | permalink

    “Now that it is moving to this location, it will soon become just another strip mall liquor store.”

    As if the LOCATION and not the karma of the owners gives a place its heart and soul? I disagree!

  7. April 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm | permalink

    The Village Corner was great because Dick Scheer knows what he is doing. He presumably will continue to know what he is doing even on Plymouth Road.

  8. By Marvin Face
    April 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm | permalink

    I have to admit that this location will be much better but I doubt I will actually go over there. On the occasions at I ventured over to VC,I always had to squeeze by: A) a line of bums (oops, sorry…home-challenged individuals) returning bags of cans/bottles collected from the adjacent student neighborhoods. B) a line of “brahs” picking up 3 or 4 kegs of Natti Light each, or 3) a gathering of the clerks friends at the front counter who were all way too busy in conversation to help.

    I never found the attraction of that place. I buy a LOT of wine, but never was I welcomed into the VC ” club”. After a while, I went elsewhere and never returned. I wish him the best and hope he has refined his business model.

  9. By James Papsdorf
    April 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm | permalink

    Great news, Joel !!!

    My glass [soon] runneth over !!!

  10. By Eric
    April 4, 2011 at 7:57 am | permalink

    Mr. Scheers operation was one of the last local wine and liquor retailers that was owned and operated by people who drink. Most stores now are run by asians or middle easterners who never touch the stuff themselves. They will talk for twenty minutes about the differences between Laphroig and Lagavulin but what they are saying is just memorized twaddle from liquor reps and company propaganda.

  11. April 4, 2011 at 10:26 am | permalink

    Wrapped inside an unnecessary racial generalization lies a valid observation: one of Village Corner’s strengths was always its long-term staff’s wine knowledge. Although that kind of expertise has much wider distribution among local retailers today, you can still walk into many places that sell wine whose saleclerks (of all ethnic backgrounds) are clueless about what’s on the shelf.

  12. By poohbah
    April 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm | permalink

    @ Marvin Face: It’s hard to understand why you have such a negative impression of the VC, especially for someone who buys a lot of wine. Dick and his staff know their customers and how you managed to stay under the radar is a mystery. I’ll agree with you that at times the “ambience” at the VC was a little strained. But all you had to do was say the magic word to anyone behind the counter (even interupting their conversation!): wine! Immediately, one of the knowledgeable wine staff was at your side for assistance.

    The “club” is not a secret, by-invitation-only operation. It’s the Ann Arbor Wine Club. For $12 a year, you can be a member and get wine offerings several times a year with copious tasting notes for usually over 100 wines — at discounted club prices. I was a member for well over 30 years and owe my present wine expertise to this operation. Go to the VC web site — — and you’ll find info on how to join, and when the next club tastings are scheduled (events you will not want to miss).

    In truth, I wonder if VC will be as successful in its new location as in the past. It does look like just another “liquor store in a mall.” Yet, the Wine Seller in the Plymouth Rd mall seems to be doing okay. And I would guess that the customer service folks will get at VC will carry the day.

    This comment is an unsolcited, unpaid endorsement of the Village Corner.

  13. By Marvin Face
    April 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm | permalink

    Poohbah, I appreciate the advice about the AA Wine Club. I may look it up. When I said “club”, what I meant was that I never felt welcomed at VC. Seemed like i needed a password or something. Clearly, I am in the minority based on the comments. I really do hope he does well in his new location and if the “ambience” is improved, and he has adequate inventory (if i find something i like I try to buy a couple cases) perhaps I become a regular. Who knows.

  14. By winelover
    April 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm | permalink

    @ Marvin- I suggest you check out the wine seller if you are on the Northside. I went in there for the first time over a year ago and have been going back ever since. They have a huge selection with competitive pricing. The owners are also very welcoming if you are still worried about that!

  15. By Eric
    April 17, 2011 at 8:06 am | permalink

    The uninformed help at many wine stores is a major problem. At VC one could generally get past the loutish children at the counter to Mr. Scheer or Rick or the other wine help — people who knew a lot and would spend some time with you. Now at most stores if you ask for wine help someone shows up with good lines and butters you up but fails to mention that he never drinks and would kill his son if he came home drunk. His fairly extensive repretoire of raps is nothing but regurgitation from the reps of the distribution companies. Its like getting clothing advice from a nudist.