For years now Maple Village has been teetering between two possible scenarios. Dollar Tree and Value World, a failing Kmart, and a honeycomb of small vacancies suggested the needle was pointing downward. Plum Market, hot stone massages, and Bikram yoga pointed up. Finally things seem on the upswing for good. With a newly landscaped parking lot and three companies of solid middle-class heft coming in to fill the abyss left when Kmart finally died, owners Brixmor Property Group decided the time had come to part ways with Value World.
Kristen Moore, spokesperson for Brixmor, says that the old Kmart space will be split into three stores–Sierra Trading Post, Stein Mart, and HomeGoods, slated to open this fall.
Sierra Trading Post started as a discounter of outdoor clothing and gear and became a discounter of all kinds of clothing, accessories, and home goods. It used to sell by catalog only, and more recently through its website, but Moore says that bricks-and-mortar stores are “a new strategy” for the company. This is only the ninth physical store and the first in Michigan.
Stein Mart is also new to the area–the closest is forty miles away in Rochester Hills. According to Moore, it “is not an off-price store” like T.J. Maxx across the street in Westgate, but “a discounted store”–“they position themselves more as a department store” with “brand-name fashion for men and women” (as well as housewares, says its website). The third newcomer, HomeGoods won’t be quite as big a rollout because there’s already one on the other side of town, on Carpenter.
Sierra Trading Post and HomeGoods aren’t too worried about competition, either with one another or with T.J. Maxx: they’re all tributaries to the same river. All three stores are owned by TJX Companies–which sounds like T.J. Maxx because it’s one and the same. (Tracing its family tree back a little further, T.J. Maxx was begotten of Zayre, a Kmart competitor.) Stein Mart is a publicly-traded company out of Florida.
As for the Value World that quickly exited in May, it certainly wasn’t Value World’s choice. “We’ve been there since 2001 with two five-year lease options,” said Value World area manager Brian Kose from his Westland office. But when the options expired, the thrift store wasn’t given the opportunity to renew. “They were not even interested!” says Kose. “It’s a great loss for Ann Arbor,” but perhaps not a permanent one: “We’re actively looking for west-side real estate.”
Value World is part of an enormous for-profit empire of thrift stores including Value Village and Savers, which buys merchandise from–but is not part of–the nonprofit Purple Heart. Kose explains that in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio the stores were renamed Value World in the mid-Nineties.
There are other thrift shops on the west side, but they specialize in home goods and furniture rather than the super-bargain clothing at Value World. A canny customer could save enough shopping there to pay for a trip to Plum Market. Famously, there was no dressing room. It was so cheap you could afford to come home with a few clinkers.
The parking lot upheaval in early June was so extensive it looked like another building might be in progress, but Moore confirms what a guy in a hard hat told us: Brixmor is repaving and adding dividing islands and runoff-collecting bioswales to bring the parking lot up to current code. It will look a lot classier, too.
After Value Village closed, a customer who saw Dollar Tree being measured for new shelving launched a rumor that the dollar store, too, was being shown the exit. But the Dollar Tree people deny they’re going anywhere, and Moore confirms it: “Dollar Tree has not notified us that they are leaving.”
This article has been edited since it was published in the July 2016 Ann Arbor Observer. Stein Mart’s ownership has been corrected.