Just before Christmas, Fox Tent and Awning, a family business that opened in 1920 and spanned three generations, locked their doors, folded their tents (and awnings), and silently slipped away. “We retired,” Becky Fox says. “It was time.”

Fox and her husband, David, both in their early sixties, took over David’s family’s business in 1982. The company made and supplied tents and canopies for weddings, graduations, barbecues, and pretty much anything else important enough to warrant shelter from the elements. Their motto was, “If it’s made of canvas, we make it!”

David’s grandfather Alex Fox founded the business ninety-one years ago in Ypsilanti, moved it to its longtime Ann Arbor location at the corner of South Ashley and West Mosley in 1936, and continued to operate it until his death in 1955, when his wife, Myrtle, took over. “She was the family matriarch,” Becky says. “She controlled it until we took over.” That leapfrogged the business right over David’s father, Dwayne, who worked there most of his life but never actually owned it. Although David didn’t take it over until the early 1980s, he had worked there steadily since he was a teen, with a brief time out in the early 1970s for a hitch in the army. He and Becky met in 1972 and were married a year later.

Although the Foxes have three grown daughters, all three chose to pursue careers of their own. But it’s still possible that Fox Tent and Awning will survive in some form. Becky says they’re in negotiations with a potential buyer. If they can’t come to terms, she says, “we’ll probably just have an auction and sell the assets.”

Several generations of Ann Arborites relied on Fox for tent rentals for special occasions. While Becky sympathizes with their loss, she points out that they, at least, have other options in the area. But if you’re looking for someone to fix a hole in your tent or sew a canvas tote for your artwork, that’s another story. “There’s really not anyone that does canvas repairs,” Becky says. “That’s the sad part. People are saying, ‘Well, where are we going to go?’ I feel bad about that. But we can’t be here forever.”

You don’t really need a house to name a business “house of something-or-other.” International House of Pancakes pretty much took the down-home flavor out of that title. But House of Sofas really was named after a house. The original furniture store, opened by Bob and Juanita Murphy in 1983, was in the old Scio Township schoolhouse (now the Ann Arbor Sewing Center on Jackson Road, its 1846 chimney still visible). Bob and Juanita were a pretty down-home couple too: their son Matt, who has run the business along with his mother since his father died in 1999, says that Bob and Juanita met, Romeo and Juliet-style, in 1960s Flint. She was a waitress (on roller skates no less, at some place like A&W, though he isn’t exactly sure) from the wrong side of the tracks, and he was from a more established middle-class family. Forbidden to see each other, their romance ensued, enduring until his death. Murphy had learned the furniture business working as a salesman at Worldwide Furniture (“the Art Van of its day,” says Matt), and by age eighteen he owned his own Flint furniture store.

When House of Sofas grew too big for its schoolhouse, the Murphys built the current building a few doors down, eventually expanding to 19,000 square feet and adding dining room and bedroom furniture to the sofas. But even in a better economic climate, Matt says, “it would have taken ten of me to fill my father’s shoes,” and he can’t compete anymore with the huge marketing budgets of Art Van and Gardner-White. Their game is “selling the false discount, and we’re a one-price operation.” Murphy has been planning the liquidation sale, which started January 1, for the last eight months, and he’s not buckling to the temptation to offer false discounts now. “Most going-out-of-business sales, they mark up the prices four times so they can offer great discounts. I didn’t want to go out that way.” He guarantees that “anything you’ve seen here is now priced lower.” The store will close “when everything is gone.”

A month after opening Frita Batidos (see review, p. 27), Eve Aronoff announced that she would close Eve, her dinner restaurant in Kerrytown, on January 16. She opened Eve in 2003. On Eve’s Facebook page, Aronoff gave the reason as “unable to come to agreeable terms to re-sign our lease but will look to re-open in the right time and place in the future.” And a day later, when fans questioned her real reasons, she pleaded for people to believe her: “The landlord [Kerrytown owner Joe O’Neal] didn’t do anything drastic … We just HONESTLY couldn’t agree on lease terms…”

On January 11, Aronoff, bustling around Frita Batidos as if it were a normal day, elaborated: “We were in love with the space aesthetically, but it wasn’t right for us.” She says she sometimes would turn away “forty people a night on weekends,” but with little foot traffic, she had to drop lunch last year, and even some weeknights were slow. Last year, she says, was her best yet, but it just didn’t make sense to sign a new five-year lease.

The last year has not been easy for Aronoff. When interviewed in December about the opening of Frita Batidos, she was lying on a portable bed, which she said she often worked from since fracturing her sacrum last summer in Honduras. Though her nerve damage is showing signs of improvement, “they won’t even accept me in a physical therapy program yet. And there I was hobbling back and forth between two restaurants.”

Eve had fiercely loyal fans, but it also had its detractors. Most people agreed that Eve excelled at simple fish and steak dishes, but many had trouble understanding her complexly spiced dishes, which mixed traditional French with African, Cuban, and Vietnamese influences. And, of course, some complained about high prices–though that seems to be inevitable for any restaurant that charges more than McDonald’s.

The State Street food business seems to be in a little more flux than usual lately. One State Street area merchant muttered darkly about corporate chains pushing out the small businesses, specifically directing her ire at the forthcoming CVS and the recently arrived 7-Eleven. But the sudden January closing of Cosi (part of a 100-restaurant chain) proves that even deep corporate pockets aren’t immune to the vagaries of State Street economics, where the supply of hungry undergraduates remains more or less constant, but their endlessly mutating tastes are unpredictable. Cosi will be replaced by La Marsa, a small Tunisian-Lebanese restaurant chain out of Detroit.

Also suddenly gone is Beyond Juice. The juice and smoothie shop on Liberty near State closed at the end of 2009, was revived by new licensees Maureen and Michael Policella last January, and closed again at year’s end. Finally, Great Wraps will close January 31. Wendy Shinde opened it six years ago, selling her famous Buffalo Bill wraps: “Crispy chicken, provolone, blue cheese or ranch [dressing], and lettuce wrapped in a tortilla,” she recites. “Everybody loved them. But the economy is down and the landlord wants more money,” she sighs, then laughs: “You know what? I’ve got two children who have been saying for years ‘Mom, do you have to go to work? Can’t you stay home today?’ So now I can make them happy.”