From BTB to Venezuala
And other Marketplace Changes
by Sally Mitani
Justin Herrick and Adam Lowenstein closed their BTB Burrito on Packard to "focus on what's most central to our business--the campus area. We just couldn't get enough volume going to sustain it," Lowenstein said.
The Packard location will shortly be open again in a slightly different south-of-the-border guise: Herrick and Lowenstein have leased the building, which they own, to Elizabeth Marcano-Kennedy, who will be selling Venezuelan take-out there, possibly as soon as early October.
Herrick and Lowenstein still own two BTBs on campus as well as Good Time Charley's. They also recently bought The Alley bar downtown, which Lowenstein says they've "cleaned up, given it some love and time, better service and better products."
The Flat Top Grill--a Mongolian BBQ-like chain--announced recently that it would be setting up shop on Washtenaw, next to Qdoba, to fill the space previously occupied by American Home Fitness. But it turns out the ultimate victim was not AHF, but actually Fitness Experts, a few blocks to the east. Last year Fitness Experts quietly closed, and American Home Fitness took over its space.
Why were there two nearly identical stores so close together in the first place? It turns out they weren't even competitors--more like sibling rivals, since both were owned by Eric Swanson.
"American Home Fitness is a Precor dealer and Fitness Experts was a Life Fitness dealer," explains AHF manager Adam Burns. "They're like the Coke and Pepsi of home gym equipment." Swanson apparently decided to cast his lot with Coke: while he continues to own the nine AHF stores in Michigan, he's allowed his entire Fitness Experts chain to gradually fade away.
In addition to Precor's big-ticket items, AHF carries plenty of small concessions for the less committed: free weights, stability balls, jump ropes. And Burns says American Home Fitness might be in for yet another move. The lease is up next year, and he's hoping the store will move back where it first opened seven years ago: Cranbrook Village on Eisenhower. "Back then,
it wasn't the right place for us, but now with Whole Foods and REI there, it would be perfect."
American Home Fitness, 3365 Washtenaw, 389-2550. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. www.americanhomefitness.com
When the Sunshine Fruit Market departed suddenly early last summer from Packard next to Aladdin Market, property manager Janet Seeburger described it to us as an eviction (Marketplace Changes, August). A reader came to the market's defense in a September Calls & Letters item. Recently, another chided us for calling it a closing--and pointed us to Ypsilanti.
Owned by Thaer Almurshedi, Sunshine reopened in August in a former dollar store at 1510 Washtenaw as the Sunshine Supermarket. It is still managed by Maha Ahmed, who also managed the Packard location. A saucy and irrepressible fireball, Ahmed laughed heartily at Seeburger's characterization of the small claims court case that preceded the move as an eviction: "She can call it whatever she wants. The A/C was broken for four months. We had a lot of damage, and we kept going to her to fix it, and finally we broke the lease."
Ahmed concedes it was Seeburger who took Sunshine to court, not the other way around, "But the judge said, 'Congratulations, the lease is broken.' On the day we had to give [Seeburger] the keys, I wanted to give them to the police [instead of to Seeburger]. Maybe that's why she says she evicted us."
Ahmed describes with relish the two glaring parties sitting in the parking lot of Sunshine, waiting for the police to arrive for the key handoff. "And it took them a few minutes, because it wasn't an emergency. I love the law in the U.S.A. When there's a law, you don't have to worry about nothing."
The Sunshine Supermarket is still ramping up its inventory, with plans to carry meats, cheese, frozen food, and Persian and Mexican groceries in addition to the produce and Middle Eastern staples now on the shelves.
[Originally published in October, 2010.]