Redeemer Church has bought the Treasure Mart's building on Detroit St.
by Jan Schlain
From the October, 2021 issue
Pastors Bart Bryant and Jim Mong started Redeemer Ann Arbor as a home church in 2015. Mong had been student pastor at Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ada, and with backing from the congregation and the Acts 29 church-planting network, they took on one of downtown's trickiest historic rehabs: the 1878 Deke Shant on E. William (Observer, October 2018).
Just three years later, they've outgrown it. "We started from four people in August of 2015," Bryant recalls. "We're 100 people now." Though they "did not expect to be here in this short of time," he adds, "it's a good problem to have."
Their solution is an even bigger historic renovation: the onetime woodworking mill on Detroit St. that from 1960 to 2020 was the Treasure Mart consignment shop.
"We were looking before the pandemic because we were running out of room," Bryant says. When they needed more room for social distancing, they made a deal with a restaurant next door and "ran video over there ... and we met in tents outside."
Treasure Mart owner Elaine Johns and her husband Carl listed the business and building for sale in January, 2020. After a year of puzzling symptoms, Elaine had been diagnosed with ALS and knew she couldn't continue to run the store.
The couple hoped to find a buyer who'd continue to operate the Treasure Mart, but a deal to do so fell apart when the pandemic hit. The building was still unsold when Elaine died last November.
According to public records, in July Redeemer paid just over $2 million for the Treasure Mart building and a house next door, with a still-to-be-determined renovation bill to come. For the church, "It's a wonderful opportunity," says Bryant. It also will be "a lot of work."
The city's Historic District Commission has already approved their plan to restore the building "to what it looked like in the late 1800s," he says. "And then just a lot of things
have to be fixed." They're working with the same contractor--Geoff Perkins--and 'architect--Gary Cooper--who updated the Shant.
For now, the congregation is meeting alternately at the Michigan League and Michigan Union. Once the work on Detroit St. is complete, Bryant says, they will be able "to serve two to three times the number of people."
"I'm excited for the change," says Taylor Flowers, who started attending Redeemer in 2018 on a friend's recommendation and formally joined the congregation the following year. "Churches grow, and that Redeemer outgrew the old building is a blessing--and also an encouraging sign in the life of a church."
Though Flowers' "job prospects may take me elsewhere"--he earned his U-M doctorate in collaborative piano in May--he says he's "open to continually being an active member of Redeemer." And when he gets married this month, "Pastor Bart is going to officiate."
Meanwhile, the former Deke Shant is on the market for $2.7 million. Colliers' Jim Chaconas, who has the listing, says it could be "a great office" or even a personal residence.
While the Shant is a stone's throw from the Diag, the Treasure Mart building is a ten-block walk. But Bryant is confident that students will still be able to find them.
"We're half a block from Zingerman's Deli," he points out. "I mean, that's a draw."
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