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A Quarter of Closings

Crown House, Kmart, and more

by Sally Mitani

From the December, 2014 issue

Sometime between Thanksgiving and the first week of December Tom Ungrodt says he'll be closing the Crown House of Gifts in Traver Village. His father started the store over fifty years ago in Adrian, though its longest incarnation was on State near Liberty. Ungrodt says, with rueful understatement, "retail isn't a growth area." But he's having some success helping other retailers at least hang on--the family's other company, Ideation, supplies catalogs and mailing services to gift shops around the country. Ungrodt also owns Dayspring Gifts in Chelsea, a "testing platform for the catalog group."

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With its usual flair for marketing, Kmart at Maple Village, which announced its closing right before Halloween, was doggedly selling its Halloween merchandise at full price on Halloween day and only 10 percent off the day after. The lines at the register, as usual, were short, though they picked up quite a bit on November 2, when its liquidation sale started.

Of course Kmart's problems are not particular to Ann Arbor. Kmart and Sears stores are closing all over the country as the now-paired chains continue to struggle under the ownership of hedge fund magnate Eddie Lampert. This is the last Kmart in Washtenaw County, and its closing on January 18 will leave a big hole in the Maple Village shopping center. "We are in active lease negotiations at Maple Village on North Maple Rd., but we do not have any tenant announcements at this time," writes Kristen Moore, spokesperson for the landlord, Brixmor Property Group.

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Courtney Clark is closing her Cake Nouveau to take care of two small children. Her retail shop has become more of a sideline since she moved from the Kerrytown area to Packard. She's always been mainly a high-end custom cake business, and the larger space on Packard next to Morgan & York allowed her to teach classes. Still, the Wall Street Journal reports that the cupcake business in general is beginning to fade. Clark didn't return calls

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and emails.

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Glassbox Coffee suddenly closed both its tiny original location next to its landlord Campus Realty on South U and its spacious Arbor Hills spot. While nominally Glassbox was owned and operated by Jason Friend, it turns out it was largely dependent on the largesse of a single investor--whose sudden withdrawal of support led to the closing of both locations.

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Our November roundup of "hyper-local micro businesses" included the reopened Garden Cafe in Huron Towers. Soon after our item appeared, owner Mercedes Lyons left a voicemail to report that "unfortunately, me and my co-owner had to close the restaurant." She didn't return a message asking if she wanted to share any details.

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Bruce Dobbs will close Dobbs Optical in the Colonnade on December 31. His father started the business in 1943 in Ypsilanti, and at one time, Bruce and two brothers each had branches of Dobbs Optical in Ann Arbor. Those two brothers passed away in the early aughts, but a fourth brother is still working at Dobbs Optical in Kalamazoo (though he no longer owns it).

Asked if Costco made any inroads on his business, Dobbs laughs: "Not to sound haughty, but what I sell is a different type of eyewear." Some of his lines only have two or three dealers in Michigan. But "I lost more business to this stupid road construction. They had the [Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.] bridge shut down for several months. People couldn't get here."

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Got a retail or restaurant change? Email sallymitani@gmail.com or leave voicemail at (734) 769-3175 x 309.     (end of article)

[Originally published in December, 2014.]

 


 
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