“The writing was on the wall,” says Tommy York, co-owner of the newly renovated York cafe and bar on Packard. Until recently, York was Morgan & York–a specialty deli, wine, and grocery store founded by York and his former Zingerman’s Deli coworker Matt Morgan. When Morgan left the business two years ago, York began evaluating the store’s future.
“When the market crashed in 2007 and 2008, we lost about a third of our volume,” says York. “We went from being a $3 million company to a $2 million company.” Competition from large quality-focused chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s didn’t help. Having so many choices is “awesome for the consumer,” York says. “For the individual retailers, it’s scary.”
He and Morgan took a chance and put a small cafe in the back of the store, and pretty soon “that started growing about 20 percent a year, while the retail kept going down.” After Morgan’s departure, Noah Kaplan (founder of local manufacturer Leon Speakers) approached York with a vision of what he thought the space could become. “He said … ‘Let’s redo the whole thing. Where do you think it’s headed?'” says York.
He and York came up with a master plan: “Let’s be a community neighborhood oasis,” York summarizes. “Let’s minimize our retail food–keep some of it, like the deli–keep our retail wine, and get a liquor license and start serving. So that’s what we did.” Kaplan didn’t buy in, but his brother Ethan came aboard as a hands-on owner, along with husband-and-wife partners Elan Ruggill and Sarah Okin–together all their last names serendipitously create the acronym YORK. They began working with Synechdoche Design on a renovation.
The front of the store now features a bar and a walk-up lunch window for Ricewood barbecue’s new indoor kitchen. The food truck’s former spot now functions as a sectioned-off outdoor patio, where patrons can enjoy their drinks and occasional live music.
The cafe, with an expanded menu of breakfast and lunch dishes like avocado toast and quiche, is around the corner from the bar. Since they serve hard alcohol now, they can no longer sell it bottled, but the local and craft wines and beers are still available in large selections.
York, 1928 Packard. (734) 662-0798. Mon.-Thurs. 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. morganandyork.com
Ricewood hours: Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon. ricewoodbbq.com