A Flurry of Moves
Necessity and opportunity put businesses in motion.
by Micheline Maynard
From the October, 2020 issue
After fifty-six years at 814 S. State, Pizza Bob's moved up the block to more spacious digs at the corner of Hill in September. It opened as Pizza Loy & Dairy Joy in 1964, and was renamed eight years later after pizza maker Bob Marsh, who had died the year before.
Covid-19 hastened the need for more space, says Pam Pietryga. She bought the restaurant with her husband Terry in 2000, making them the fourth set of owners.
The longtime location had a single table and an eight-stool counter, but was packed so tightly that when the pandemic hit, "we just couldn't have anybody sit inside," Pietryga says.
The new location has outdoor seating for twenty-five in normal times, fifteen with social distancing. Pre-pandemic, it could seat sixteen inside and another twenty-five or thirty in a room downstairs, which Pietryga envisions using for small groups.
There's also room to manufacture bottles of Chipati sauce, which goes on the salad-stuffed pitas that are the restaurant's claim to fame. The restaurant sells bottles for $7 each and ships them nationwide with a minimum order of three.
"We can't ship a Chipati, but we can ship the sauce," Pietryga jokes.
Covid changed the mix of Pizza Bob's most popular items, she says. In 2019, Chipatis accounted for about half of their sales. Another 25 percent was pizza, and the rest submarine sandwiches and calzones.
Since March, pizza and calzones have taken the top spot, says Pietryga. "People like to grab it and go home."
There's another item on the menu: face masks, printed with Marsh's image. They began as a giveaway when the restaurant reopened after the move and now sell for $7 each. "We're all forced to wear them, so why not have a little style?" she asks.
Despite other restaurant closures in the area, Pietryga kept the restaurant running continuously through the pandemic, focusing on curbside pickup and delivery.
The departure of students from campus in March meant she also lost
many of her employees. She stepped in to work regular shifts, relying on locally based family members for backup, including two of her five sons and her grandchildren.
Pietryga originally had hoped to turn over the restaurant to her sons by now. Instead, she's personally delivering orders to campus customers.
Pizza Bob's delivery area is limited, but they'll make an exception for especially large orders. For about two months this spring, she says, a group of regular customers in Birmingham placed weekly orders for about $400 in food. Those Pizza Bob's fans set up tables and chairs in their garages to dine on their takeout.
Pietryga provided free delivery. "It was a big enough order that we were glad to do it," she says.
The pandemic "has been difficult," she admits. "We have our ups and downs.
"We're tired, because we're putting in more hours," she says. "But we're doing everything we can to survive this and provide high quality food and service."
Pizza Bob's, 800 S. State (734) 665-4517 Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday noon-10 p.m. pizzabobs.net
At Underground Sounds, Matt Bradish was planning a Record Store Day event on Sept. 26, with special items for vinyl fanatics. Immediately afterward, he planned to pack up 100 crates of vinyl records and other gear and start moving out of his store at 255 E. Liberty. He aims to reopen on Oct. 1 at 210 S. Main.
From 1986 to 2017, that address was home to the Peaceable Kingdom, Carol Lopez's tartly whimsical gift and folk art shop. But she closed it three years ago, saying downtown's diminishing retail ecosystem and other factors made it impossible to operate profitably.
Lopez's son, Mark Wilfong, reports that she is doing well and staying busy gardening. Over the years they talked to numerous potential tenants, he says, but couldn't reach a deal.
"Good stewardship of this historically significant property has been and continues to be our paramount concern," Wilfong adds in a text message.
"Mr. Bradish is a local, a hard-grinding retailer and he is selling an art form that can be enjoyed in the safety of one's home. Pandemic or not, Underground Sounds is an excellent fit for the space."
Bradish says that for him, the main appeal of the new location is foot traffic. "It's a much busier block," he says. "It's not across the street from the Federal Building, which is dead after 5 p.m." and with Covid social distancing restrictions, he could allow only four people at a time inside the 550-square-foot space.
Now, with 1,400 square feet, he can safely accommodate ten.
"Man, I can't wait," Bradish says. "I turn away ten to twenty people a day." He's also excited to be across the street from comic book store Vault of Midnight--they have a lot of customers in common.
Underground Sounds, through Sept. 26: 255 E. Liberty. Starting Oct. 1: 210 S. Main (734) 327-9239. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m. ugsounds.com
Sweeting, the bubble tea and sweet shop, has moved its original location a few doors closer to campus, from 1213 South University to 1205. (734) 213-3300. sweetingannarbor.com
Silvio's Organic Restaurante e Pizzeria planned to close its location at 715 North University on Sept. 30 and move to Canton. It hopes to open there in November.
"We wanted to thank everyone for the love and support that you have given us," Silvio's said in a mid-September Facebook post. "We will miss Ann Arbor."
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