The spruced-up Washtenaw Commons at Washtenaw and Yost continues to add new tenants. Most recently, California-based Blaze Pizza joined the T-Mobile store and Ann Arbor Thrift Shop there, and an Olga’s is slated to open in the fall.
Founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (Wetzel’s Pretzels), Blaze lets customers design their own pizza with some help from staff. You choose from four types of sauces, eight cheeses, eight meat toppings, and more than a dozen vegetables. Employees pile them on assembly-line style, and the pies go into a very hot, wood-fired oven for about three minutes. Rachel Albritton, PR consultant for Blaze Pizza Midwest, calls it “a hybrid between a full-service pizzeria and a delivery service … the perfect concept for a college town like Ann Arbor.”
Creatively blocked customers can opt for pre-configured pizzas ranging from the Meat Eater to BBQ Chicken. There are gluten-free and vegan options, and a selection of desserts and salads rounds out the menu.
Blaze is the first foray into “fast casual” for Northland Investments. Based in Houghton Lake, the group already operates seventy Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s, and Old Chicago franchises. They’re just getting started with Blaze: Albritton reports that another location is scheduled to open soon in Cranbrook Village on Eisenhower.
Olga’s Kitchen needs no introduction. The wrap-sandwich chain “has had a long history in Ann Arbor, beginning with the restaurant on campus in the 1980s and 1990s, and we currently have two existing locations” in Briarwood and Plymouth Green Crossings, says Mark Schostak, executive chairman of Livonia-based Team Schostak Family Restaurants. None are as visible, though, as the new location across from Arborland. “We felt that Olga’s Kitchen deserved more of a presence in Ann Arbor,” Schostak says.
And the location was perfect: Schostak says that a key factor “was that it has a left-turn traffic light into the center, which is ideal because we do a lot of carryout business at each of our locations.”
Blaze Pizza, 3500 Washtenaw Ave. (Washtenaw Commons). 997-5373. Sun.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Olga’s Kitchen, 3500 Washtenaw Ave. (Washtenaw Commons). Hours to be determined.