June 4, 2020

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After a cold, gray, hesitant spring, the warm weather is suddenly upon us and people are streaming out of doors to enjoy their gardens and the many parks, preserves, country roads, and waterways in our verdant community. The power of nature to heal and inspire can be felt everywhere, and social media is bursting with photos of flowers, birds, and baby everything. Even as injustice and illness remind us of how tenuous life is, everywhere there are signs of rebirth and renewal.
Eagle taking flight to hunt for fish on Barton Pond, May 10th, 2020. Photo by Aditya Varma, @adityavarmaphotography

In the News

Peaceful protests in Ann Arbor, Michigan Radio.

Altercation between police officer and woman in Ypsilanti
Protests against police brutality are unfolding in cities across the nation, spurred by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Derik Chauvin, a white police officer, while in police custody in Minneapolis. Ann Arbor saw protests throughout the week, inflamed by an altercation between Sha’Teina Grady El, a black woman, who was punched by a white officer during her arrest on 5/26. The altercation began after Grady El had refused to move aside during a police investigation of a neighborhood shooting in the Appleridge Community in Ypsilanti Township. According to reporting by MLive, Grady El and her husband Dan Grady El claim to be Moorish Americans, and therefore not subject to U.S. law. 
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton showed the bodycam footage at a press conference on 5/29, where it was revealed that Grady El bit the officer. At Clayton’s request, the Office of the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is investigating.  

Whitmer moves Michigan to phase four of the Safe Start Plan, allowing small gatherings, and shops and restaurants to open. Press release here

Michigan Workshare program expanded under Executive Order 2020-57. Dpt. of Labor and Economic Opportunity

U-M begins planning for a return to on-campus operations in the fall. U-M Public Affairs

The Ann Arbor Public Schools plan to open on August 31, 2020. MLive

Public pools will not open this summer and city-run summer camps are canceled. Many private camps, including the YMCA, are tentatively moving forward with a modified summer schedule. 

Resolution to approve downtown street closures passed City Council Monday, June 1st. Portions of Main St. and Washington St. will close from Fridays to Sundays to allow businesses and restaurants to utilize the sidewalks and streets to allow patrons to dine and shop while maintaining social distancing. 

Washtenaw County passed a grim milestone on May 27 when it tallied its 100th Covid-19 fatality: 97 lab-confirmed cases plus three "probables." But the number of people considered "recovered" also rose, from 1,048 when the Ann Arbor Observer's June article on Covid-19 survivors went to press to more than 1,300. The current list can be found here.


While the economic shutdown has spelled disaster for many local businesses, a few are uniquely placed to thrive in this new environment. 

With weather improving and gyms still closed, Ann Arborites are heading outdoors in droves--and many are buying bicycles to help them enjoy Washtenaw County’s many trails, roads, and pathways. 

Never in its 87 year history has the Wheels in Motion bicycle shop seen business like this. Travis Plotner and his father, DeWight  Plotner, have stores in Ann Arbor and Plymouth.  “We are very driven and have an electrical energy in the store,” says Travis. “Seventy percent of the clients we have right now are new.”  
To maintain social distancing, Plotner has reduced his staff from 25 to 11. “It has changed the way we do business,” he says. “Our online business was typically complementary and now it has taken on a huge role.” According to Plotner, the boon is industry-wide. “I think the bike industry will be up about 60% by the end of the year,” he says. Plotner feels his company is providing a vital outlet in stressful times.  “It's so important right now to give people an escape.” 

Other local bicycle shops include Motor City Bicycles, Sic Transit Cycles, D&D Bicycles, Treefort Bikes and Human-Electric Hybrids

Arbor Brewing Company will close its pioneering Washington St. Brewpub after twenty-five years.The same owners’ Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti and Tap Room in Plymouth remain open for curbside pickup. They’re holding a moving sale while looking for a new Ann Arbor site.

Tom Hackett, owner of the popular downtown cafe Afternoon Delight since 1978, is retiring. Though the business will continue, Hackett is stepping away from day-to-day operations and his business partner, Joanne Williams, is taking over. They are expanding online ordering, and will reopen in-house dining on June 8th.


The Ann Arbor Summer Festival and Ann Arbor Art Fair are canceled. Ann Arbor Observer.


Friday June 5: "Fustini Fridays": Fustini's Oils & Vinegars. Every Friday, Fustini staff members lead a livestream cooking demonstration. A different oil and vinegar combination is featured every week, and a Q&A follows. 3 p.m., Free.


Saturday June 6: "Virtual Strum & Drum": Oz's Music Environment. All families are invited to sing and make music on a variety of instruments, including drums, pots & pans, anything with strings, and other noise makers. 3-3:40 p.m., preregister at for meeting URL. Free. 662-8283. 


Saturday June 6: Amy Porter: U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. Performance by this U-M flute professor. The program includes Berio’s Sequenza I, Bach’s Partita in A-minor for solo flute, and Pizzolla’s Complete Tango-Études for flute solo. 7 p.m., Free. 


Sunday June 7: "Codenames over Zoom." All invited to play this popular, easy-to-learn guessing board game over video chat. Participants do not need to own the game but should be familiar with the rules. 6 p.m., email Tom Gottsman at for meeting URL. Free. 


Sunday June 7: "Online Storytelling Concert: Living Room Live 2!": Ann Arbor Storytellers' Guild. Guild members Janice Burnette, Jane Fink, David Keren, Laura Lee Hayes, and Rich Swanson tell stories that include folk tales, personal stories, tall tales, and more. Emcee is Chelsea fiction writer & playwright Steve Daut. 7 p.m., livestream at Free, donations accepted. 

The Helpers

  • Vegetarian Indian street food Hut-Kay Fusion offers free food, including misc. veggies & greens, tofu, and rice, as well as organic spinach brown lentil-split mung bean soup, for those in need. “For the community, by the community,” says Hut-Kay owner and chef Swaroop Bhojani. Walk-in pickup Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. at Hut-Kay, 3022 Packard. For large orders, call in advance. For questions, call (734) 786-8312 after 11 a.m. 
  • Blue Llama Jazz Club offers free dinner, including salad, an entree, and dessert, to laid-off workers and those in need. To place an order, call (734) 372-3200 any day between 4-7 p.m. Same day pickup between 8:30-9 p.m. at 314 S. Main. 
  • Abracadabra Jewelry and Gem Gallery’s weekly jewelry and gift card giveaway, Gratitude Give Back, gives custom jewelry to grocers, healthcare, postal & delivery workers, and other people working essential jobs. Nominate a friend for the chance to win on Instagram or Facebook.

The Upside

For all of the travails caused by COVID-19, staying home has yielded certain benefits for both people and planet. Families are spending less time on the roads and more time together. Many people are enjoying outdoor activities, finishing long-neglected projects, or picking up hobbies. 

The Wolney family is anchored down at home, and finding as many things to do outside as possible.


Staying home
By Angie Wolney
Photos by Angie Wolney of her three kids Corinne 11, George 8, and Henry 5.

On Friday March 13th I picked up my three kids from their elementary school and we started a new adventure. My husband Dennis began working from home and we embarked on the experiment of being together as a family while being separated from our friends, classmates, and teammates. 

We are lucky. We live in the middle of a 20 acre field with plenty of space to play and explore. And now that we aren't running to hockey practices, we are getting to enjoy our place. We have time to watch the deer, the turkeys, the birds that visit our feeders, visit with passing turtles, wood ducks, and watch the pair of muskrats that have come to our pond. Since my father was diagnosed with cancer early this year, we have been helping my parents take care of their herd of alpacas. The extra time with my Dad has been a blessing as we are dealing with the frustration of his illness and the limits of medical care during the pandemic.

Our first at home adventure was to tap a few trees in our woods and hike to the back of our property every day to collect sap to boil down to a few precious spoonfuls of Maple syrup. We’ve done a lot in a couple months. We did the virtual campout with the Boy Scouts, celebrated a quarantine birthday, rescued a baby bird, and learned how to stay connected to school and friends with online meetings.

I am  so appreciative of our Ann Arbor teachers and the impressive job they are doing teaching remotely and keeping our kids connected. I love seeing the kids laugh with their friends and teachers. It makes us feel a little normal. But after a few hours of virtual school we all feel better when we can go out for a walk, a bike ride, or shoot baskets in the driveway. For me, getting out in the sun is like taking a deep breath with my whole body.

I am sad for our lost school year, celebrations and events,  but am treasuring this silver lining of slow motion time together. These simple adventures will become the stories that my kids will someday tell to their kids.


Many businesses and nonprofits are finding themselves on the edge of survival. In the past few weeks, Dawn Treader and West Side Bookshops talked to MLive about how coronavirus is impacting their business, the WSG Gallery became one of several local organizations to close its doors and move online, and a recent survey finds that  97% of businesses in town have been affected in some way by the pandemic.

To find local fundraising campaigns and to support your favorite local businesses, visit GoFundMe’s Ann Arbor directory or check our continually updated list here. If your favorite cause is not included, let us know in the comments.


Play On

For local boogie-woogie pianist Mark “Mr. B” Braun, this means regular livestreams on Facebook. Here’s what Mr. B had to say to Observer contributor arwulf arwulf: “The thing about musicians is, we love and need to do what we do, we love and need to share it with other people… This is the only way we can do it right now.”

Mr. B performs every weekday at 5:30 p.m., and raises money for local organizations on “Philanthropic Fridays.” Tune in here
Photo: Wendy Bauer

For more live music:

See the Observer Calendar for more live music this week
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