Anything having to do with our homegrown big box retailer is news, so when the Borders Group announced that it was closing 200 of its small Borders Express stores, including the one in Briarwood, we headed down to the mall. Once there, however, we saw that the Borders closing was only one of a clutch of changes.

In the Penney’s corridor, Windsor opened in late October. “We specialize in dresses–formal dresses, day dresses, cocktail dresses, gowns. Any kind of dress you need, we have, $30 to $200,” says co-manager Allie, who didn’t give her last name. Windsor is a family-owned chain of about forty stores, most of them in California.

A nearby nomenclature change: Limited Too has changed its name to Justice. It’s the same store, finally catching up on having been spun off from founding parent the Limited ten years ago. Its current parent: Tween Brands, Inc.

Down by Macy’s, Ed’s Luggage opened in November, replacing a series of luggage stores in that spot, most recently one called Point A. Unlike Point A, Ed’s is not a chain, but a single, family-owned store (although there is no Ed in the family–it’s a made-up name). Hadayat Azad, who has been selling luggage for twenty years, came up from Virginia to run it. “When something happens in the luggage business, everybody hears about it,” he says, explaining how a Virginia family managed to pounce so quickly on a vacancy in Michigan. Ed’s carries Briggs & Riley luggage, Kenneth Cole briefcases, travel accessories, and a lot of fun International Traveller hard-shell luggage in wild polka dots. As soon as he can find a way to ship a newly purchased 400-pound embossing machine to Ann Arbor, he’ll be able to emboss luggage with your–or anyone’s–initials.

Across the hall from Ed’s is The Walking Company, a chain of about 250 stores selling predominantly European comfort brands, like the Dansko and Sanita clogs so dear to Ann Arbor women’s hearts (this store sells only women’s shoes, though other Walking Company stores sell men’s). It also sells UGGs, ECCOs, and MBT rocker-soled shoes which employees Lindsay Phillips and Kaitlin Graf claim to be “way superior to the Sketchers knockoff. You can blow the Sketcher soles out in three months.” MBTs not only last longer, they promise, but can be resoled, making them practically indestructible.

At the Sears end of the mall, replacing Dollar Dogs, is Very Berry frozen yogurt, with six flavors of self-serve and optional toppings. Three of the flavors are the newfangled ultra-tart stuff. Very Berry is owned by local partners Kwang Taek and Suni, who goes by one name.

In another move, Briarwood refused to renew the lease on the freestanding building housing Bennigan’s, and manager Brandon Gilbert said the restaurant would be vacated by the end of January.

“It’s a lease issue,” says Gilbert. A hot concept back in the 1980s, the bar-and-grill chain lost out to newer competitors and fell into bankruptcy in 2008. Though franchisees kept many restaurants going–“there are still ten other Bennigan’s in Michigan,” Gilbert says–the Briarwood location is closing because its franchisee couldn’t agree on new lease terms with its landlord, the Simon Property Group. An employee at Briarwood–also owned by Simon–says it’s been leased to Red Robin.

Unofficially, we hear from some Briarwood shopkeepers–not any of those listed above–that a Subway is also due to open in the former Sbarro space, and that the recently closed Arby’s will also shortly reopen as another restaurant, this one not a chain. These two tidbits were unconfirmed at press time.

Windsor, 864-0231. Justice, 996-4038. Ed’s Luggage, 995-9082. The Walking Company, 997-9161, Very Berry, 997-9297.

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