When my then-girlfriend, now wife, moved back to Michigan from Chicago in 2012, she immediately set about looking for a house in Ann Arbor. My awesome bachelor apartment above the manager’s office at Sunnyside Park—which looked like a cabin Up North—wasn’t going to cut it.
Our friend Theresa Taylor set us up with Realtor Alex Mishtelyn, who showed us a quaint Sears catalog home from the 1920s before it went on the market. It had a picket fence out front, a large back deck, and a fenced-in backyard. We immediately fell in love with all the catalog homes in the neighborhood. There’s so much variation and charm; they’re easy to spot, but no two are the same.
We were both sold on the spot—in spite of the beige paint slapped on the exterior to cover its pink past and a garage taken over by squirrels. Sure, catalog homes are smaller than homes in newer subdivisions but they’ve got more character than contemporary developments. And let’s face it: you better love your 100-year-old home because it is going to have some issues.
To repay the favor to Alex, my wife appeared with him on HGTV’s House Hunters. Back then, Pure Michigan wanted to encourage buying homes in Ann Arbor. Anybody remember 2008?
For a Michigan beer nerd, having the Ann Arbor Party Center practically across the
street with its deep booze and beer selection is fantastic. And as my friends love pointing out, the 70s era sign in its window actually reads “Party The Center.”
Next to it was the independently owned gas station Mallek’s Service, an anchor to the neighborhood for almost eighty years and beloved by townies. Sadly the business closed in June 2022, after the death of longtime owner John Mendler. As the City Guide went to press, rumors about the future of the triangle where Jackson and Dexter divide ran the gamut from gas station to coffee shop to condos to dispensary. I’m pulling for a coffee shop.
Also beloved by townies and walking distance from our house is the original Knight’s Steakhouse, known for its well-priced, mouth-watering steaks and burgers as well as its generous pours with drinks. The menu, service, and ambience are a comforting constant in a frequently changing Ann Arbor restaurant scene.
Haisley is a great neighborhood for walking, with low speed limits on neighborhood streets and a bunch of great parks. Maryfield Wildwood Park features an impressive fleet of neighborhood-donated push cars and scooters, while Miller Nature Area is a wooded oasis on the north side of the neighborhood.
Veterans Park is one of the city’s gems. In winter, there’s ice skating and sledding; in summer, the park comes alive with five baseball fields and three tennis courts. And, barring rain or snow, the Ann Arbor Skateboard Park in the northwest corner is alive with skateboard enthusiasts of all ages year round. Opened with much fanfare and an appearance by Tony Hawk in 2014, it’s since become a model for the explosion of skateboard parks in the midwest.