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Elaine and Carl Johns of Treasure Mart

Sad Farewells in the Kerrytown area

Treasure Mart is for sale, and Hollander's is leaving.

by Micheline Maynard

From the March, 2020 issue

On a bleak mid-February day, Community High School senior Owen Kelley walked a couple of blocks down Detroit St. to Treasure Mart with his classmate Nathan Sprick.

It was their first visit there, says Kelley, who wanted to buy a simple ring for himself.

Instead, after perusing the jewelry cases, he bought a watch.

A few steps away, Charlotte O'Leary peeked over her daughter Kelly Trett's shoulder as she poked at a blue Brother portable typewriter.

The pair have shopped at the store "for years and years and years," says O'Leary, a former Ann Arbor resident who now lives in Tecumseh.

Trett, who lives in Ypsilanti, remembers being allowed as a child to buy one item during visits with her mother.

"You never know what you're going to see," she said, gesturing around her, where tables were filled with Waterford crystal, shelves held beer steins, and a rack displayed quilts.

O'Leary and Trett say they made this Treasure Mart trip after learning in late January that owners Elaine and Carl Johns had put the business up for sale.

The move was prompted by the worsening health of Elaine, who was diagnosed in 2018 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The Treasure Mart is listed with Southfield-based commercial realtor Tim Guest of CBRE, and there have been several serious inquiries from prospective buyers, the Johns say.

"I'm pretty confident that they're out there," says Carl Johns.

The couple hopes to find a buyer who will continue to run the shop in its current form and be "really truthful about what they are doing," he says. They do not want someone who will keep it open for months "and then turn it into condos."

The Johns have not set a price and do not have a deadline for the sale. But Elaine says she wants the transaction completed "sooner rather than later."

The consignment shop was opened in 1960 by Elaine Johns' mother, Demaris

...continued below...

Cash. She transformed a wood planing mill that later housed a fruit and vegetable business into a place where Ann Arborites could consign antiques and other collectibles for sale.

Elaine, who was ten when the business opened, began working there in 1974. She took over when her mother died in 2000. Carl, who'd previously worked in construction, joined her twenty-eight years ago.

With baby boomers clearing out big houses, and other consumers decluttering, these have been good years for consignment stores in general and the Treasure Mart in particular.

There's so much demand to sell items at the Treasure Mart that appointments are booked through April, says Elaine.

The store sets prices for each item, comparing notes with similar items for sale on Ebay and other auction sites. It takes a percentage of the sale and mails a check for the rest to the consignee.

As the Johns chatted with a visitor, three sellers came into the office, bringing items that included green glass dishes, a tapestry, and fine china.

Along with their regular sellers, the Johns say they see some local customers daily. Others are outpatients at Michigan Medicine who wander over for a break from their medical treatments.

"I like to say we're like their local bartender," Carl says. "We know their stories, and they come in and talk to us."


Meanwhile, in the Kerrytown Market & Shops a short walk away, another longtime Ann Arbor business is undergoing a major change.

Hollander's, the book bindery and paper shop, plans to leave the center in June, just shy of its thirtieth anniversary.

Owners Tom and Cindy Hollander will keep about one-third of the business going, including the book-binding business that operates on the lower level at Kerrytown.

They plan to sell specialty papers and continue offering classes, working from a small space they are renting in a warehouse on Carpenter Rd. But, says Cindy, "No more weekends."

Ann Arborites who are familiar with their retail store and book business may not realize how important the website has become, she says. Hollander's has three full-time employees filling orders that come from all over the country.

Hollander's plans to begin a closing sale on April 1, and the store most likely will close in mid-June, she says, since they have to vacate their two floors at Kerrytown by June 30.

Unlike the Johns, the Hollanders decided not to sell the business. "We wanted to take the name with us," Cindy says, "and that kind of sealed the deal [with brokers] in not pursuing it."

The unusual nature of their business, a manufacturing and retail hybrid, was also a drawback.

"We kind of operate in a little bubble," Cindy says. "We wouldn't be able to do this in many small towns. Even New York doesn't have a paper store" that also crafts and prints books.

"It's pretty incredible that we've been able to survive here, with so much support. I think that's what we'll miss most. We'll miss the other merchants but the customers most of all."

Like the Treasure Mart, which Elaine Johns says was swamped as word spread of its prospective sale, Cindy says shoppers have been pouring into Hollander's.

Even before the sale begins, many are taking home stacks of greeting cards. "They tell me they don't know where else they are going to get them," she says, "and we're selling a lot of puzzles."

Meanwhile, the Treasure Mart has found that the store's Facebook page has been a way to move merchandise quickly, especially higher-priced items.

One recent post featured mid-century stainless steel furniture, which Carl Johns said he wasn't sure would find a customer. Almost immediately, the store got a phone call from a buyer who happily paid the $8,500 price.

"He drove out here from New York City, sight unseen, and picked it up," Carl says.

Sprick, the Community High student, says he was impressed by what he found. "They definitely have some cool stuff," he nodded.

Treasure Mart, 529 Detroit St. (734) 662-1363. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Closed Sun.

Hollander's, 410 N. Fourth Ave. (Kerrytown Market & Shops). (734) 741-7531. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.     (end of article)

[Originally published in March, 2020.]


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