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Tuesday December 01, 2015
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The Knapp Gap



Pretzel Bell, Bimbo's. After a pause, she added, "and I really miss Bill Knapp's."

I smiled and thought here it is again--someone lamenting a fairly unremarkable restaurant chain in the same breath as several unique and independent Ann Arbor restaurant legends. Immediately the trademark phrases A Snack or a Meal and Good Things to Eat came to mind, and I replied "ah...yes...I miss it too."

Taking my cue, she started listing her favorite dishes: "Au Gratin Potatoes...Bean Soup...the Glorified Steakburger...Chicken and Biscuits...Hot Fudge Cake Deluxe." I listened and chimed in with an item here and there to keep the memories flowing. After all, I know this subject well, having spent twelve of my teen and early adult years working for the Michigan-born, Midwest-bred family restaurants.

Launched in 1948 in Battle Creek by partners Clinton B. Knapp and Keith Schroder, the chain reached Ann Arbor in the early days of its expansion, building at the corner of Jackson and Maple in the Westgate Shopping Center. That was followed in later years by a unit at Washtenaw and Carpenter (called Ypsilanti), and finally a third at I-94 and State Street, during the explosion in growth of the Briarwood area in the 1970s.

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