Stories indexed with the term ‘local business’

Column: Literati’s “Moment on the Page”

In the depths, it is tough to have faith that all things must pass.

I have been cobbling together a living since July 2009, when New York-based Advance Publications shut down Ann Arbor’s daily newspaper. It was a trauma, pure and simple, for me and for many of my colleagues. After almost 20 years at The News and 30 years as a newspaperwoman, my “career” was dead and the newspaper industry eventually would be, too – at least as we knew it. Some really bleak months followed for all of us.

Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor business, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A crowd showed up for Literati’s first event on Friday evening, April 5. The new downtown bookstore is located at Washington and Fourth Avenue.

One of the ways I pay the mortgage now is with earnings from my freelance editing business. One of my clients was the Michigan Theater, which in 2011 hired me to edit a history of the theater. The manuscript’s author, Henry Aldridge, recently retired from the faculty of Eastern Michigan University; in the 1970s he rallied the community to rescue the Michigan from the wrecking ball and for decades has been one of the theater’s organists.

Over a number of months Henry and I would meet at Biggby Coffee on East Liberty Street and, chapter by chapter, shape his story of how a movie palace built for silent films in the 1920s weathered dramatic shifts in the film industry and the damage done to downtown America by postwar suburban sprawl, to ultimately stand firm as an Ann Arbor cultural landmark. It is an inspiring tale.

After one of our sessions we stood together outside Biggby and glumly beheld the dead sidewalk in front of the newly vacated Borders flagship store – a community institution that the community could not save. The ironies did not escape us.

The loss was especially personal for Henry; the bankruptcy had thrown a young friend of his out of a job she adored. Shannon Alden was a 14-year veteran of Borders with a passion for children’s literature. Henry was prodding her to find another way to use her gifts for connecting with people and sharing her delight in books. He urged me to contact her if only to offer some moral support; both of us had taken a hard blow to our sense of purpose because of a revolution in the economics of reading. Newspapers, bookstores – the Internet was killing them both.

So it is not a little ironic that months of blogging and Facebooking kept us up to date on the city’s much-anticipated new downtown bookstore before Literati officially opened its doors at 124 E. Washington St. on Easter Sunday. [Full Story]

Fourth Ave. & Washington

Bob Margraves is on a ladder painting over graffiti in the alley next to the Blue Tractor. Says he’ll be heading down to work on the Grizzly Peak building next, which also got hit. Takes me on a mini-tour of the alley to show extensive graffiti, including this area on the Arena building. [photo] Business is good for him, but costly to owners of downtown buildings.

A2: Bill’s Beer Garden

A post on Discover Michigan features Bill’s Beer Garden, located in the courtyard of Downtown Home & Garden in Ann Arbor: “This is the type of beer place parents can bring their kids to and not feel weird about it. This is a place to simply bring one’s child, hang out with your friends, take in the sunshine, and people watch.” The beer garden opens for the season on May 2. [Source]

A2: Silicon Valley?

Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh interviews venture capitalist Scott Chou about comparing Ann Arbor and Silicon Valley. Walsh reports that Chou, co-founder of Michigan eLab, spoke to University of Michigan business students about the attraction of this area: “Everything is cheaper here. It’s a source of disruptive innovations. It’s a core center for research innovations – one of the top-funded universities in the country. There’s a lot of groundbreaking ideas and few venture capitalists here.” [Source]

Liberty & Stadium

A vintage VW Beetle in the Bank of Ann Arbor parking lot is tricked out with a rusty anvil & hammer on its roof, promoting a metal design business. [photo]

A2: Business

An article on RH Reality Check explores the efforts by Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s to develop a “thriveable wage” for its employees. Excerpts from a vision statement: “Higher wages lead to higher morale and is the engine that keeps everything spiraling upward. In many cases, productivity increases due to lowered stress levels in the lives of the people in our organization because of assurance that their financial needs are covered.” [Source]

A2: Promotional Video

Realtor Rob Ewing has posted a 10-minute promotional video – “Discover Ann Arbor” – featuring scenes of local parks, the University of Michigan campus, downtown restaurants, and arts & cultural venues, as the backdrop to interviews about Ann Arbor with local community leaders, including David Canter, Ken Fischer, Susan Pollay, and several others. [Source]

A2: Bangalore Brewpub

A post on highlights the opening of Arbor Brewing Company (ABC) India in Bangalore, a partnership between University of Michigan graduate Gaurav Sikka and Matt & Rene Greff, who own Arbor Brewing in Ann Arbor and Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. ABC India features variations on familiar beers – Bollywood Blonde and Bangalore Bliss – as well as new recipes for the Indian market, like Chai PA and Garam Masala Pale Ale. [Source]

Fourth & Liberty

Red bean moon cakes at Eastern Accents. [photo] Clerk says the shop is still set to close in mid-March, with no plans to re-open elsewhere.

UM Regents OK 14 Conflict-of-Interest Items

Fourteen items disclosed under the state’s conflict-of-interest statute were authorized by the University of Michigan board of regents at its Feb.21, 2013 meeting. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students.

The items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, all items were approved unanimously and without discussion. They related to the following businesses and organizations: ResolveAble Inc. (option agreement); Optimal Process Technologies LLC (license agreement); HiperNap LLC (option agreement); H3D Inc. (license agreement); Ektapharm Inc. (option agreement); Cardiavent Inc. (amendment to option agreement); Biocrede Inc. (option agreement); Armune BioScience Inc. (research agreement); Ambiq Micro Inc. (amendment to license agreement); Ascentage Pharma Group Corporation Ltd. (amendment to license agreement); Talley Photo+graphics … [Full Story]

A2: Business

Writing on his blog Vacuum, Ed Vielmetti posts news that Eastern Accents, a downtown Ann Arbor restaurant at 214 Fourth Fourth Ave., will be closing its business on Saturday, March 16, at 7 p.m. A press release from the owners states: “A long-simmering dispute with our landlord has finally come to a head, and we’ve decided that it is time for change. … A wise person once said that life is a tapestry – that every person we meet, every event that we experience, and every interaction makes the tapestry more colorful, more vivid, and gives it greater depth. With that in mind, our family thanks everyone for making our tapestry more beautiful, and hope that in some … [Full Story]

A2: Business

Writing on her blog, photographer Alli McWhinney profiles Sweet Heather Anne, an Ann Arbor cake maker with a shop on Main Street. Photos include shots of Heather Anne Leavitt working in the kitchen. In a Q&A, Leavitt talks about her own favorites: “My favorite cake is our almond olive oil cake with blood orange curd and citrus praline buttercream. It was inspired the blood oranges that I fell in love with in Italy. The curd is the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and I love the delicate texture of the cake. I’m also incredibly partial to our mexican shortbread cookies. I sneak more of those than anything else ;).” [Source]

Milestone: Monthly Reminders

The Chronicle’s milestone column was originally conceived as a monthly feature – an opportunity for either the editor or the publisher to relay housekeeping news to readers, or offer opinions on topics related to media and journalism. It was also conceived as a monthly reminder to readers that actual human beings who live among them are reporting, writing and editing this publication.

Blue overlay reminder notice

Screenshot of blue overlay reminder notice. After it’s been closed – by clicking the “close button” in the upper righthand of the overlay – it should not appear again as a reader continues to navigate through The Chronicle’s site.

The monthly milestone column was also a vehicle for reminding readers that it takes regular financial contributions from readers like them to sustain this publication. As we look to transition this from a monthly to an occasional column, we’d like to maintain a monthly schedule of reminders to folks: If you perceive a benefit from The Chronicle to yourself and the broader community, then please consider contributing financial support so that benefit can be sustained.

So, to maintain a regular monthly reminder, especially in those months when we don’t publish a milestone column, we’re trying out a blue overlay – which should have appeared on your screen if you visited the website today (Feb. 2, 2013). In some ways, it’s an awful and ostentatious way to greet Chronicle readers. But to make it go away, just click in the upper righthand corner on the “close button.” It shouldn’t appear again for the duration of your visit.

Of course, instead of clicking on that “close button,” we’d prefer you clicked on the SUBSCRIBE link. Or failing that, we’re hoping that the blue overlay might remind you to review your check register for the last time you wrote out a check to The Chronicle.

And of course, if you’re already sending your regular financial support to The Chronicle, we’d like you to interpret that blue overlay as a thank-you. We hope it will encourage you to mention to your friends, co-workers and acquaintances that you voluntarily subscribe to The Chronicle, and suggest they do the same. [Full Story]

Micro Brewer License for Biercamp OK’d

Biercamp Artisan Sausage & Jerky, a retail shop located at 1643 S. State Street, has been recommended for a micro brewer liquor license by the Ann Arbor city council. The council’s unanimous vote came at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, Biercamp intends to brew small batches of beer in growlers for off-site consumption to complement their artisan meats. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) asked if anyone knew what a growler was. Some of her council colleagues explained that it’s a common container – typically a half-gallon jug – for holding draft beer.

A micro brewer license limits the amount of beer produced to no more than 30,000 barrels per year. A barrel is 31 gallons.

The … [Full Story]

Column: Book Fare

The Kerrytown BookFest’s Community Book Award, which honors local contributions to publishing and book arts, will go to Tom and Cindy Hollander when the festival returns for its 10th year on Sunday at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market.

Cindy and Tom Hollander

Cindy and Tom Hollander. (Photo by M. Morgan)

Chief among those contributions is Hollander’s School of Book & Paper Arts, which for almost 20 years has offered workshops, classes and studio space for book artists (my husband among them) and drawn students and teachers from around the country to Ann Arbor. So there is more than a touch of irony in the timing of Sunday’s award: When the 11th annual BookFest rolls around, the school will be no more.

I talked to Tom and Cindy earlier this week about their decision to close the school at the end of the spring 2013 term. In response to what they describe as diminishing enrollment, they say they are stepping away from one branch of a business that has expanded dramatically from the tiny shop on the second floor of Kerrytown Market & Shops in 1991. Today, the main floor of Hollander’s offers a lavish collection of fine papers and stationery, desk sets, decorative boxes and gifts along with bookbinding supplies; Hollander’s Kitchen Store is upstairs.

“When we opened our store,” Cindy said, “I can say I never heard the word ‘book art.’” But by 1994, she and Tom were teaching workshops and by 2002, they were using the lower level of their Kerrytown space for the Hollander’s School of Book & Paper Arts. Tom gives some credit for that expansion to local book artist Barbara Brown, who in the mid-1990s was leading occasional workshops at Hollander’s while also attending summer sessions at the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colo.

“She’d come back after taking these classes,” Tom said, “and she really talked it up” – eventually persuading him to check things out for himself. “I’d been around the next level [of book arts] for long enough that I got interested in more than just business – I was ready for something different,” he said. “I wanted to go to the next level myself.” [Full Story]

SmartZone Group OKs SPARK Contract

Local Development Finance Authority board meeting (June 12, 2012): At its Tuesday morning meeting, the board of the LDFA took action on a number of significant items, including an approval of annual revisions to the LDFA’s contract with Ann Arbor SPARK to operate a business accelerator/incubator. SPARK is this region’s economic development agency.

Ann-Arbor-SPARK-LDFA contract

Extract from the marked-up version of revisions to the contract between Ann Arbor SPARK and the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA).

Besides the usual housekeeping changes (like changing the year from 2012 to 2013), substantive revisions to the SPARK contract include the following: (1) eliminating support for angel investment groups; (2) adding licensed software to be provided by SPARK to incubator clients; and (3) adding a new talent-retention internship program.

Another significant deletion from the SPARK contract is $5,000 annually for maintenance of a web-based educational module for entrepreneurs, called Cantillon. According to an LDFA resolution from early this year, the LDFA had invested around $170,000 over the course of five years in the self-paced program, which integrates feedback from a mentor. The tool had been used by SPARK for its Entrepreneur Boot Camps and in other venues. However, a formal request for proposals to commercialize it – to license and market the software to a broader audience – did not result in a deal.

The initial RFP was issued last year, in August 2011, and elicited no responses. On re-issuance of the RFP, Kurt Riegger’s Business Engines was the only respondent. Riegger had been the developer of Cantillon. After negotiation, Riegger and the LDFA were not able to reach mutually agreeable terms. With the failure to reach an agreement, and the elimination of the item from the LDFA’s contract with SPARK, the Cantillon education module was characterized by city CFO Tom Crawford after the meeting as “on the shelf.” Cantillon will not be offered as a part of SPARK’s September 2012 Boot Camp.

In other business, the LDFA board approved SPARK’s marketing plan. A video that was presented to the board as part of that plan got a positive reaction from LDFA board member Stephen Rapundalo. He appreciated the fact that it focused on support for entrepreneurs, as opposed to enhancing SPARK’s efforts “across the board.” SPARK has a broader mission and other funding sources than just what’s expressed in its contract with the LDFA – but the contract is focused on supporting entrepreneurs in the development of new businesses. So Rapundalo wondered if it were possible for SPARK to put all of its LDFA-funded marketing budget towards that same entrepreneurial focus.

Skip Simms, SPARK’s vice president for entrepreneurial business development, told LDFA board members at their June 12 meeting that it’s possible he might be bringing them a proposal for a significant additional financial request. That request, Simms said, would be for an additional incubator that would provide Class A “wet lab” space. He said the amount he’d request would be consistent with the LDFA’s 15% fund balance reserve policy, and would only target the portion of the fund balance that exceeds the 15% level. For the recently approved FY 2013 LDFA budget, that works out to a maximum of around $157,000. Simms sits on the LDFA board as a non-voting ex officio member.

Reaction by LDFA board members to the wet lab incubator idea that Simms floated was extremely guarded. But they appeared to be open to being convinced – if they were to hear a clear business plan and case for the need for additional local wet lab resources for start-up companies.

It’s worth noting that the LDFA’s contract with SPARK is separate from the support that SPARK receives from the city of Ann Arbor, which has amounted to $75,000 annually for the last few years. The city’s $75,000 contract with SPARK for business support services is on next Monday’s June 18 city council agenda.

The full LDFA report begins with some brief background on the LDFA itself. [Full Story]

Action on Knight’s Market Postponed

Ann Arbor planning commissioners, following advice from city staff, voted unanimously to postpone action on a request from Knight’s Market. The rezoning and site plan proposal – which would allow the neighborhood market to expand and add a bakery – was on the agenda for the commission’s May 15, 2012 meeting.

Knight’s Market is located at the northeast corner of Spring and Miller. The market’s owner, Ray Knight, also owns two separate, adjacent parcels. (Knight is perhaps best known for his family’s restaurant, Knight’s Steakhouse, located at 2324 Dexter Ave.) The grocery store is on land zoned zoned C1 (local business) and M1 (light industrial). Another parcel at 306-308 Spring St. is zoned R2A (two-family dwelling) and M1, and contains two single-family … [Full Story]

Column: Farewell to the Parthenon

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Ann Arbor’s Parthenon Restaurant closed last week after almost 40 years at the corner of Main and Liberty. For me and my friends, it marked more than the passing of a favorite spot, but the end of a time-honored ritual.

On our last visit, we filed in, and walked to our favorite table in the back. A little warmer, and we’d sit outside, but it was still March, so whatya gonna do? The owners and waiters nodded. They’ve seen us more than a hundred times. When I needed to sell ads for the Huron Hockey program to help fund the team, the Parthenon signed up every time – something the chain coffee shop across the street would never consider.

BW and I started coming here in the fall of our sophomore year in high school. We both ran cross-country – a near-death experience – but that meant we could eat anything, and not gain a pound. For us, that meant a jumbo coke, a basket of fries, and two gyros – each.

We’ve since added a few friends from our high school days: Scotty, a hockey teammate of mine; TP, the tennis captain; Sevvie, a soccer star; and Barney, whom I was nice enough to drive to practice every day, so he could take my job. I was cool like that. [Full Story]

Monthly Milestone: Local Shopping Madness

Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

Nina Juergens of Acme Mercantile

Nina Juergens of Acme Mercantile with a cake marking the downtown Ann Arbor store's 9th anniversary in November.

When I worked on the business desk at The Ann Arbor News, we were awash with press releases about various business anniversaries, awards and other achievements. In hindsight, it’s fair to say we did not treat these accomplishments with the respect that many of them deserved.

Perhaps it takes being closely connected to a small enterprise – whether it’s a business, nonprofit or independent professional, or a program you launched or service you’ve been providing  – to appreciate the milestones that might seem trivial to an outsider. If you understand that making it through the day without quitting your business can be a pretty significant achievement, it gives you a visceral connection to those announcements.

That’s one reason why here at The Chronicle, we’ve started allotting some of our monthly milestone columns to congratulating others who’ve reached some kind of marker. Generally, large institutions are more likely to log higher numbers and get more attention for that. The University of Michigan, for example, is gearing up to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2017, and is already marshalling its considerable resources for that event.

But I have a soft spot for smaller, human-scale endeavors.

This month, we’re highlighting three such ventures: Local businesses – Acme Mercantile, Le Dog, and Anderson Paint – that all celebrated recent anniversaries, and whose owners have strong ties to this community.

And because tonight, Midnight Madness and Kerrytown Kindle Fest are launching many Ann Arbor shoppers into the holiday shopping season, with several downtown stores open late and offering special deals, I’d like to start by sharing a couple of thoughts about that, and by sharing a Twitter hashtag: #a2shoplocal.  [Full Story]

Monthly Milestone: Sharing Milestones

Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

Jacobsons ad

A Jacobsons ad in a 1985 publication commemorating the 150th anniversary of The Ann Arbor News. Both institutions are now out of business. This page proof is hung on an office wall where the Ann Arbor District Library is storing The News archives.

This fall when I visited the Green Road offices where the Ann Arbor District Library is keeping The Ann Arbor News archives, I was fascinated by the page proofs that lined the walls of the entryway.

The proofs are from a 1985 publication commemorating the 150th anniversary of The News. In addition to the usual hagiographic articles you’d expect to find, the pages also were full of ads from local businesses, many of them congratulating The News for its milestone anniversary, and noting their own longevity in the community.

There was so much optimism in those pages – and now, so many ghosts. The News, of course, was shut down by its owners in 2009. Many other advertisers in that publication – Jacobson’s department store, Bill Knapp’s restaurant, Schlenker Hardware, a menswear shop called Marty’s, Fox Tent & Awning – are now found only in places like AADL’s Old News, where articles from newspapers’ past are being archived in digital form.

One of my takeaways from that visit – and I’ll admit it’s no great insight – is to take nothing for granted. Having now run this publication for just over three years, I more fully appreciate just how much work, luck and support it takes to keep something afloat – whether it’s a business, nonprofit, religious institution, marriage or anything else that counts its longevity in years, decades or centuries.

That’s one reason why, as noted last month, we’ve decided to use The Chronicle’s monthly column to celebrate other people’s milestones, too. This month, we’ll share milestones from a church, a holistic health practitioner, a nonprofit and a business. We’d love to hear from you, too – what’s worth counting in your life? [Full Story]

Arbor Networks Tax Abatement OK’d

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council granted a tax abatement to Arbor Networks, a computer network security company. The abatement is on $883,527 of real property improvements and $7,790,454 of new personal property and equipment.

According to the staff memo accompanying the resolution, Arbor Networks was granted a tax abatement in 2008. The abatement agreement in 2008 required Arbor Networks to move 74 jobs to their Ann Arbor facility and add at least eight jobs. However, as of December of 2010 there were only 74 jobs at this location.

The staff memo on the current request for a tax abatement states that the digital information business is continually changing with new and faster technology. Arbor Networks needs new test equipment and digital equipment, and according to the memo, anticipates adding 20 new employees to the Ann Arbor facility.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Rezoning for Biercamp Parcel Voted Down

At its Sept. 8, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted unanimously against recommending a rezoning request for the property at 1643 and 1645 S. State St., south of Stimson and next to the Produce Station. The parcels currently house a new business – Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky – as well as an auto repair shop and furniture manufacturer. The recommendation against approval will be forwarded to city council for final action.

Biercamp owners Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle want to rezone the property to C3 (fringe commercial district), which would allow their business to sell a wider variety of merchandise, including products not made on site.

The commission first considered this request at its Aug. 16, 2011 meeting, along with a … [Full Story]

Column: Book Fare

So after Borders, now what?

What will it take for another bookseller to open shop in the Borders/Shaman Drum neighborhood at State and Liberty, and operate a browseable place with content deep and wide? We’re talking about a books-and-mortar store a stone’s throw from the University of Michigan campus. A spot where you arrange to meet up with your husband after the two of you go your separate ways for an hour. Where you hang out until the movie starts at the Michigan Theater. Where you actually buy a book now and then – sometimes a title other than the one that got you in the real, live door.

The No. 1 Borders bookstore at Liberty & Maynard in Ann Arbor.

The No. 1 Borders bookstore at Liberty & Maynard in Ann Arbor.

Keith Taylor, the poet, UM creative writing teacher and veteran local bookseller, says “it will take idealism, a lot of 80-hour work weeks, a willingness to be constantly present.”

Check, check and check. This is Ann Arbor, after all.

And then there’s Taylor’s fourth condition: “A landlord willing to rent space for less than the going rate.”

“Rents in central Ann Arbor right now will not allow for an independent bookstore, or an independent anything,” he says, “until the business owner owns the building the store is in.”

Karl Pohrt concurs – and the owner of the former Shaman Drum Bookshop, but not the building that housed it, should know: “It’s essential to own the building. If they don’t, they’ll be vulnerable.”

“Rent,” replies Nicola Rooney flatly when the proprietor of Nicola’s Books is asked why she won’t consider a move from Westgate Shopping Center to the State Street area.

We knew that, really. This is downtown Ann Arbor, after all. The market apparently won’t bear an independent bookstore in that neighborhood – Shaman Drum, which was located on South State just around the corner from Borders, closed in 2009 after nearly 30 years in business. Its former storefront is now a burger joint.

So the real question is this: If the market won’t bear a full-blown downtown bookstore, how will the community respond? [Full Story]

Medical Marijuana Rezoning Request Denied

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Aug. 16, 2011): Two zoning-related requests on South State Street received mixed responses from planning commissioners, amid calls for a formal study of that corridor.

Treecity Health Collective

Treecity Health Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary on South State Street. (Photos by the writer.)

One request was the first tied to the city council’s recent approval of zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries. The operator of Treecity Health Collective, a dispensary at 1712 S. State, asked that the location be rezoned from O (office) to C1 (local business). In June 2011, the council approved amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances that prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in office zoning districts. Rather than relocate the dispensary, the operator was asking for the zoning change. The property is located on the west side of State, south of Stimson.

While expressing sympathy for the operator, commissioners recommended denying the rezoning request, noting that the master plan calls for an office district in that area. It will now be forwarded to the city council for final action.

The commission considered a separate request for nearby parcels on the opposite side of South State, where the new Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky opened about a month ago. The property – 1643 and 1645 S. State St., south of the Produce Station – is in Ann Arbor Township, and requires both annexation and zoning. The commission recommended approval of annexing the land, but postponed a decision on zoning. Biercamp owners are hoping for commercial zoning, which would allow them to expand the retail component of their business. The city’s master plan currently calls for light industrial zoning in that section.

In discussions for both Treecity and Biercamp requests, some commissioners pointed to the need for a comprehensive study of the South State Street corridor. Such a study has been planned, but earlier this year the city council voted against funding a consultant to conduct the work.

In other action, commissioners recommended annexing several Scio Township parcels that are located in a recently expanded well prohibition zone related to the Pall/Gelman Sciences 1,4 dioxane underground plume. Pall is paying for the hook-ups to city water and sewer, according to city planning staff.

Commissioners also recommended approval of a site plan at 3590 Washtenaw Ave., at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Yost Boulevard. The plan calls for building a 9,500-square-foot, single-story addition to the existing 15,769-square-foot retail building that currently houses the Dollar Tree. It’s in the spot where Frank’s Nursery formerly operated, along the same stretch that’s part of the Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue project.

Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, gave several updates to the commission. Among them, she noted that four projects previously approved by the city council are now asking for two-year extensions on their site plans: (1) The Gallery planned unit development (PUD) on North Main, at the site of the former Greek Orthodox church; (2) the 42 North residential development at Maple and Pauline; (3) the Forest Cove office building on Miller; and (4) the Mallets View office building on Eisenhower. Those requests are being reviewed by city planning staff.

During his communications from city council, Tony Derezinski, who also represents Ward 2 on council, mentioned that a final meeting for the R4C/R2A advisory committee is tentatively set for Sept. 21. He noted that the 21st is also Saint Matthew’s Feast Day, which he quipped might help the group finish up the project.

One member of that advisory committee is former planning commissioner Jean Carlberg, who received a resolution of appreciation from the commission at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting. Her term ended June 30 – she served on the commission for 16 years. [Full Story]

Site Plan for Former Frank’s Nursery OK’d

At its Aug. 16, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended approval of the site plan for 3590 Washtenaw Ave., at the southwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Yost Boulevard. The plan calls for building a 9,500-square-foot, single-story addition to the existing 15,769-square-foot retail building that currently houses the Dollar Tree. The new space is designated for an additional tenant. The plan would require approval by the Ann Arbor city council.

The building addition would replace an existing unenclosed canopy area used by the former tenant, Frank’s Nursery. The site is part of a larger retail center along Washtenaw Avenue that consists of five parcels with the same owner. The site plan includes construction of a new public sidewalk in … [Full Story]

Column: Saying Goodbye to Borders

It’s tough for any sports writer to get a book published – but it was a lot easier with a friendly bookstore on your side, from start to finish.

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to buy a book, there was no Kindle or Nook or – or the Internet. There weren’t even big-chain bookstores. You had to go to one of those narrow stores in mini-malls that sold paperback best-sellers and thrillers and romance novels.

But then the Borders brothers changed all that. They decided to go big, opening a two-story shop on State Street in Ann Arbor. They stocked almost everything, they gave customers room to relax and read, and they hired people who weren’t just clerks, but readers.

When I applied for a job there in college, they didn’t just hand me an application, but a test on literature – which I failed.

But if they wouldn’t let me sell books there, they still let me buy them, so perhaps it was just as well. I bought everything from Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.” Typically, I’d walk in for one book, and walk out with four – an hour later. I spent over a thousand dollars a year there, then a few hundred more on book shelves.

When Borders became a national chain, we Ann Arborites took an unearned pride in seeing the rest of the country love it as much as we did. [Full Story]

Column: Arbor Vinous

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. [Full Story]

Column: History Repeats at

When we first heard about the layoffs at last Thursday – starting with cryptic comments on Facebook, quickly spreading through the Ann Arbor News diaspora and then the broader community – I had a sickening sense of déjà vu. It was two years ago this month that the out-of-state owners of our town’s daily newspaper announced their plans to close the business, tearing apart the lives of its workers, fraying some of the Ann Arbor community’s fabric, and drawing national attention for the decision’s fearlessness or folly, depending on your view. layoff list

Redline highlights are those staff whose names have disappeared from the staff roster.

I wrote about their decision at the time from a personal perspective. Even though I had left the News the previous year to co-found The Chronicle, it was still a place that employed many friends and colleagues I respected. Watching that organization get dismantled was emotional, for many reasons.

Although we began to hear about the layoffs on Thursday last week, we decided not to write immediately about that news. In part, we reasoned that it should be’s story to tell first, and I held out hope that executives at would be straightforward in letting the community know about their decision, and the rationale behind it.

I also hoped they would wrap into their coverage the news that three other key staff members – news director Amalie Nash, higher education reporter David Jesse and point person for reader interaction Stefanie Murray – had all been hired by the Detroit Free Press. All three left at the end of February. All had previously worked for many years at The Ann Arbor News, and had been initial hires at

Considered separately, either the set of layoffs or the three departures would have had a significant impact on the organization. But with both events taking place within two weeks, it counts as the most dramatic personnel change since’s launch. [Full Story]

Photo Essay: Fat Tuesday in Ann Arbor

Editor’s note: It’s Fat Tuesday, when thoughts turn to paczki – those dense but irresistible Polish pastries that mark the last hurrah before Lent. This year, for the first time in their 18-year history, Zingerman’s Bakehouse staff got up well before dawn to make their own version, and local photographer Anne Savage was there to catch the action. She’s sharing some of her work with Chronicle readers – you can find many more photos on her new food blog, The Savage Feast. Enjoy!

Nina Huey at Zingerman's Bakehouse

Nina Huey sprinkles powdered sugar on a tray of paczki at Zingerman's Bakehouse Tuesday morning. Ingredients for the dough include bit of Spiritus, a Polish grain alcohol.

[Full Story]