“It has just been a walk-through of hugs and well-wishes,” says Doreen Collins, of the final days of Dream On Futon. Collins and her husband, John, planned to close Dream On at the end of March.
The Collinses have sold futons, frames, slipcovers, shoji screens, and Asian-¬influenced gifts in their shop on the corner of Ashley and Liberty since 1994. They are closing be-cause, as Doreen frankly tells the constant stream of well-wishers, “We can’t pay the bills anymore.”
The gracefully modern brick, stone, and glass corner building, owned by developer Phil Conlin, has always been a kind of bellwether of the downtown economy. Originally a Sears tire store, its most memorable incarnation to many Ann Arborites was Crow Quill Graphics, part of a counterculture triangle with the Fleetwood Diner and Mr. Flood’s Party (where West End Grill now is). The death of Flood’s bouncer Roger Davis, who was shot outside the West Liberty bar in 1975, is commemorated by a stone wall outside Dream On Futon, commissioned by Crow Quill owners Zeke Mallory and John Copley and built by stonemason David Menefee with stones from anyone who wanted to contribute.
The building and the corner seemed to flounder for an identity through the eighties and early nineties. By the time the Collinses opened Dream On, downtown had transitioned to an artisanal boutique, gallery, and restaurant district, and Dream On blended into the new ethos.
Doreen is both an intentional and unintentional keeper of the counterculture flame. With her pleasantly singsong Louise Lasser voice (she looks a bit like her too), it’s not sur-prising to learn that she came to futons via “fifteen years making granolas, trail mixes, and nut mixes for the tri-state food coop warehouse. It was a blast. I just loved that job, but I was killing my body. Once I threw my back out, I could just look at something the wrong way and be down for two days.” In the eighties, John began managing Great Lakes Futon on Main Street, and Doreen sat down at her sewing machine and taught herself to make traditional Japanese futons, eventually starting a production facility out near the Ann Arbor Airport. After Great Lakes closed, the Collinses continued to manufacture futons, selling them from their home until they opened Dream On.
Though Dream On sold all types of futons, even ones with inner springs, Doreen’s handmade futons are thin and portable, “for traveling, for storing away in a closet—just four batts.” She also makes smaller ones for meditation cushions. She would like to continue to make them but says “I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the ingredients anymore.” One supplier, cotton garnetter F. Hyman in Chicago, has listed its four-story factory for sale. (Garnetting is what turns bales of raw cotton into the weblike batts sewn into futons). “I’m sure there are other cotton garnetters, but that was mine,” she says. “This whole thing of buying everything from overseas has put a clamp on businesses. We don’t have any mills that make fabric. We used to have the bedding companies.” She does plan to continue sewing smaller cushions and mats to sell at the Farmers’ Market.