leopold brothers leaving ann arbor

So, a few days ago, Todd Leopold mentioned that he was going to be taking a trip to Denver. I asked if he was going to be meeting with any realtors while he was out there. He said no… It seems that I was pretty close though. I just received the following note from him. [It’s reprinted here with his permission.]


So….when you asked if we were meeting with Denver real estate agent when I’m gone in late Feb, you missed the target, but hit the tree. I had ALREADY met with them, and we signed a lease for a new plant this past Friday.

We would’ve opened in Ypsi in a hearbeat, but the laws governing spirits sales makes it so we couldn’t sell half of our product line at a new bar (our Rum and Whiskeys). To top it off, self-distribution is legal in Colorado, and that make all the difference.

I’ll be having a little sendoff in late Feb at my place as yours truly is leaving before our bar closes in the summer. I’ll drop you a line when I have a firm date and time.


I’d been working on Todd for a while now, trying to get him to move his business to Ypsi. I even threatened to send goons over to talk with him. It sucks that he couldn’t get things to work here, but I wish him all the best in Denver… And, yes, that sound you hear is yet another nail being pounded into the coffin of funky, old Ann Arbor… Hopefully they figure out what the hell’s going on before it’s too late.

update: Todd also wrote to Ann Arbor is Overrated. Here’s what he had to say to them.

…Our lease expires in the summer, and shockingly (note heavy sarcasm), our landlords asked for an obscene amount per month in rent, so we’re done. This move has zero to do with the economy, or sales levels, as we are coming off of our strongest year of sales at the pub since we’ve been open. We moved here in 1998, and since that time our rent has tripled, and our new landlords want even more…. because, of course, that’s what the market will bear…

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  1. egpenet
    Posted February 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s no secret … soon preservation will have no meaning in Ann Arbor save for a few jars of Smucker’s Jams & Jellies on Kroger shelves.

    It should also be no secret that we’d love to have pedestrian attractive businesses here in downtown Ypsilanti. Can we run ads in the Ann Arbor News … “Come’on Up To Ypsilanti!” …

    I’m all for property owners and devlopers to make a big buck, but the direction Ann Arbor is headed … highrises & McLofts … combined with franchised this and that … is making for a wholly different community look and feel.

    It’s happening in many places and on many streets around the country that I loved … from Telegraph near U. C. Berkley … to Brown Hill near RISD/Brown/Pembroke in Providence … to some of the more charming streets in the Village in NYC.

    Our little island City … “only four square miles” is relatively safe from such ripping and tearing, while at the same time ripe for refuge for the unique, daring, give it your all, entrepreneurial go. It’s also ready for a smaller specialty manufacturer or two or three to turn the lights back on in a few of the abandoned factories within our borders.

    And then, there’s Water Street.

    I think we have a lot to offer … including US! We’d make fine neighbors and good employees. So, let’s get out there and sell, sell, sell!

  2. DanIzzo
    Posted February 4, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    This is a real shame. I really enjoyed Leopold Brothers and wish I had a chance to sample their homebrewed liquors prior to me reducing my heavy drinking.

    The real shame of it all is how obscenely expensive the Main Street Ann Arbor retail rental market has become. Having been on the receiving end of an outrageous rent request, and losing my business as a result, I can empathize. It seems that the prevailing mentality is “I’m sitting on a gold mine, so why should I take silver mine prices.” This despite an increasing number of empty storefronts and an abundance of high end restaurants. It’s really a damn shame.

    Some pressure needs to be brought to bear on landlords that would rather sit on empty properties rather than accept rents that are below what they think they can get. It’s one thing for there to be transitional periods of vacancy, but when properties sit empty for extended periods (years, I’m talking), it contributes to the overall depression of downtown areas.

    Imagine if we could get the landlords in these areas to accept triple net deals with low/no rent. They’d have their carrying costs of the property paid, and would help to increase traffic in the area, creating an overall increase in the rental values of the properties. Sure, you might get a bunch of weird, off center, quirky businesses in the area (art studios, yoga studios, head shops, mom and pop retail), but wouldn’t that be better than another empty storefront.

    Or not . . .

  3. Lisa
    Posted February 4, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Y’know, a lot of it just seems to come down to ownership. I can’t tell you how many of Ann Arbor’s well known independents tell me they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t own their building.

    But here’s what I don’t understand. People who own property, LIVE IN THE AREA, and yet put their own narrow self interest above the well-being of the area by charging rents not accessible to good quality locally owned businesses. I’m not talking about asking property owners to take a loss or not make a reasonable profit on their investment. I’m talking about owners whose mortgage is the same, but triple their rent because they can, even though they know it will force a long standing local businesses to leave. Leopolds isn’t the only one. (Or in the case of some Ypsi property owners, owners choose to sit on empty properties instead of rent it). WHY do people do this? Is it fear of being left out of a real estate boom? Certainly some of it is greed but I like to think it is not as simple as that.

  4. todd
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Well, for the record, Lisa….our new landlords are charging market rates. Nothing out of the ordinary. The problem is twofold. One, they just bought the building in 2007…hence the full force of Prop A takes hold on the tenant (us). And two, they paid ~$1.8M for it, forcing their hand as far as rent is concerned. Couple these facts with the places up the road going for well over $30 a square foot, and you wind up with rent our little business can’t afford.

    I don’t blame the landlords, per se. It’s just Ann Arbor market forces, plain and simple.

    The landlords that can afford to give AA commercial tenants “good” rents and taxes bills are paying prop. taxes like it’s 1964. Assess at current value, and that goes bye-bye.

  5. K
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    If the landloards can get such great rent for their properties how come there are so many empty store fronts on Main street? They can’t be pulling in too many dollars standing vacant.

  6. todd
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Here’s the annual Real Estate Roundup where they sit with the prominent Real Estate/Property Owners in Ann Arbor:


    Here’s the relevant answer to your question that can be found in the above link:

    ““Aldrich: We don’t want a food use (in 350 S. Main). And we’re holding our rent. What a lot of people don’t understand is that when your market is at 85 percent, you’re 15 percent vacant – most people are still making money. Unless you’re substantially below that level of vacancy, there’s no reason to drop to what the market perceives to be the value of the space. So you wait – that’s what we’re doing. We’re not going to play the game with B tenants who want to look at A space.””

  7. Mr. X
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor is Overrated thread has more comments, but the comments here are more substantive. I’ve noticed that before, but I’ve never said anything.

    I love the quote: “We’re not going to play the game with B tenants who want to look at A space.”

  8. Posted February 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    At least my thread has produced some great ideas for what to call Todd’s beers when he moves to Denver! If that’s not substance, I don’t know what is. Assuming he wants to go with a product-naming scheme based on arcane Ann Arbor inside jokes.

  9. Meta
    Posted February 5, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    On A2 City Councilman Ron Suarez’s blog today:

    “A Cancer is Destroying What used to Make Ann Arbor a Desirable Place to Live”


  10. Posted February 5, 2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Someone needs to start a blog called “Ann Arbor is Over.”

  11. Posted February 6, 2008 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    You mean Ann Arbour?

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted February 7, 2008 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Well, let’s be honest, on the Mich. brewing list, the beer at Leo Bros. was mediocre. The only real charm of the place was the billowing heat ducts.

    You know, it was a gimmick brewery.

    (Now that they’re leaving Mich., we can start bad-mouthing them, right? I mean, Todd has already left town, it’s not like he’s coming after for me any of this, right, heh?)

  13. CTS Corp.
    Posted February 7, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I run an efficiency consulting firm in the greater Cleveland area, and I may have an interest in this space. I have an idea for a business that I think might go over well in Ann Arbor.

  14. Posted February 7, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I meant Annarbour.

  15. egpenet
    Posted February 7, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    “Efficiency” is not a word used in Annarbour, despite the fact they think A2 is funny. The word in that town is “expedicious.” (Thank you Garrison Keillor.)

  16. Ken
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I was very very i repeat bummed when Todd quit making the best beer i ever tasted “phils” and started making in the name of “more profit” Spirts. Well i tried his gin and sorry, not impressed. not sure about his whiskey or other spirts. I’m just stating that Todds “phils” keller style unfiltered beer was the best beer i ever tasted !

  17. Posted January 20, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Your article is much more informatics for all of the visitor. I am very happy to read it. This is really very nice. Thank you for it.

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