zingermans in ypsilanti, through the eyes of ann arborites

The “Ann Arbor Observer” recently ran a piece on Zingerman’s and the prospect that they may expand into Ypsilanti. The story, I guess predictably, focused quite a bit on the challenges of doing business in Ypsilanti, with it’s high poverty rate, etc. Jean Henry, one of the principals pushing the project forward inside of Zingerman’s, recently submitted the following response to the paper. She was told that she missed the deadline for their next issue, so I thought that I’d run it here.

To the editor:

I am one of the people working with Paul Saginaw to develop a vision for a Zingerman’s project in Ypsilanti. While I am grateful for your interest in our nascent endeavor, I would like to clarify a few points. We are interested in doing business in Ypsilanti because the city is exciting and compelling with many under-appreciated assets, perfect turf for innovative, grass roots enterprise. Those with entrepreneurial drive sniff out potential where others see obstacles. Ypsilanti teems with potential. Your description of Ypsilanti mentioned only its poverty rate and median income. These often repeated statistics tell just one small part of the city’s story.

Exploring Ypsilanti for this project, I was immediately struck that much of what I miss about the “old” Ann Arbor had up and moved there. In Paul’s words, it is Brooklyn to Ann Arbor’s Manhattan. New immigrants, young innovators and even older creative class members can’t afford to live in Ann Arbor anymore. They move to Ypsi—- taking with them a diversity of culture, creative energy and economy-driving dynamism. Commercial rents are affordable for start-up businesses like VGKids, plus Ypsilanti still offers basic services and a hardware store downtown. The city itself has tremendous historical presence with a river running through it fronted by parkland designed by the Olmsted brothers. An independent, city-wide wireless network is in the works funded by good-will and cooperation not tax dollars. The Shadow Art Fair draws a capacity crowd away from Ann Arbor for truly creative and cutting edge commerce. Dreamland theatre produces edgy provocative puppet theatre from a storefront downtown. Growing Hope offers healthy food, education and empowerment from the fertile soil of community gardening. Only in Ypsilanti, could the idea of a bicycle-generated outdoor movie series take hold… first movie suggested, “Night of the Hunter” screened next to the river. Indeed, the very idea for a sliding scale restaurant did not originate with Zingermans, but in Ypsilanti with Paul Metler (also working on this project) at the now-defunct Oasis Cafe. These initiatives and others like them would have taken root in Ann Arbor when I first came here 25 years ago. From this perspective, the persistent dismissal of Ypsilanti by Ann Arborites begins to look like denial of what we have lost.

Even income and poverty statistics are somewhat misleading. Ypsi’s poverty percentage (not to mention its tax base) is drawn from a city population of just 22,000. The surrounding township population and median income are much higher. Within that, scope the poverty challenge diminishes. Within an entire county of close to 325,000 people and considerable wealth, problems of poverty and access in Ypsilanti start to appear surmountable. The city was originally a downtown hub for the larger surrounding region, drawing revenues from well beyond its own boundaries. If the city of Ypsilanti can function once more as intended, it can grow out of many of its problems.

The story of Ypsilanti’s downtown is the story of main streets across America. We miss them. Concerted efforts like Michigan’s Blueprints for Downtowns, in which downtown Ypsilanti is participant, are working to bring them back. Ypsilanti’s downtown has the capacity to serve the whole county as a unique, fun, exciting place to spend time. Part of our mission is to encourage the county as a whole to embrace the city, to help Ypsilanti move itself along for all of our sakes. Turning our backs solves nothing and sacrifices obvious potential.

I guess I’d choose the diverse community and dynamism of a shared bench to a lonely, over-stuffed armchair, no matter how comfortable, any day. My bet, our bet, is that others feel the same.

Thanks— Jean Henry, former owner Jefferson Market

From what I hear, our Mayor, Paul Schreiber, submitted a somewhat similar letter, and it will be published in their next issue.

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  1. egpenet
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jean.

    I’m also happy to know that the new owner of the Jefferson Market will keep wonderful food and pastries available.

  2. nearby
    Posted April 27, 2008 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I miss the original incarnation of the Oasis.

    Chef-inspired and touched food and a staff trying to do something mainstream, was my impression.

    It was a lot of fun, a lot of good food, and left a good feeling on many levels.

    Ypsi is trying to bust out all over, and if you look, it’s succeeding.

    AA has a definite mixed-income population (that’s AA-speak for “low”). For some reason, “those people” don’t go downtown, (quoting a west-side coworker).

    I think Ypsi can have plenty of room for all.

    There is a HUGE suburb area that is really interested in going wherever there are offerings available, and sampling them.

    Oh– and the locals, who in my observation are really starting to stay local for their purchases, too.

  3. schutzman
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I suppose this is the part of the story where I pipe up and say “We already have the Ypsilanti Food Co-op for local, organic food and Cafe Luwak for great handmade sandwiches,” and then somebody else pipes up and says “The More the Merrier! Competition is good! Everyone will benefit!” and then I sulk off while muttering under my breath.

    So I won’t even bother.

  4. egpenet
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Mark … don’t tell Schutzman … but Jim at Cafe Luwak said EXACTLY that to me about a week ago … “Competition will build traffic.” Shutz’ll die if he finds out.

  5. schutzman
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    i would have died eventually anyway, ed.

  6. edgeof the sprawl
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    “The story of Ypsilanti’s downtown is the story of main streets across America.”

    Exactly – and that’s why we left. Tired of high taxes and high density living with its associated problems. Tired of pompous elected officials who grab for more and more of our hard earned money to fund programs of minimal benefit to the majority. Tired of elected officials who hide unnecessary pet projects in budget line items and threaten to cut police and fire at the first indication that the taxpayers can’t afford the latest projected increases in taxes and fees. And now, with their backs to the wall, with an insatiable need to keep services at a level that they can’t hope to afford with their tax base, there’s an orchestrated effort to have the surrounding townships and county pick up the expense.

    Please tell AATA that asking rural township residents to pay for inter-urban bus service is not an equitable solution. Please tell city council to stop wasting money on studies that show the city police can “save” a million or two if only the surrounding townships doubled or tripled their cost for policing and chose to consolidate services with the costliest police department in the county. Please ask city council to stop using taxpayer money for failed attempts at revitalizing downtown. The only thing that will revitalize the downtown is for businesses to be able to make profits. The business school didn’t create foot traffic or increased sales, the speculative Waters Street project was an unnecessary risk, and new signage and more advertising will just throw more good money down the sinkhole. For the economic prosperity of all the residents you need to cut expenses and learn to live within your budget.

    I don’t doubt that some people really like living in the city of Ypsilanti. There probably are a few people who prefer the “diverse community and dynamism of a shared bench” and who want to pay others to maintain historic homes and facades on Mich. Ave. I don’t doubt that there are people in the city of Ypsilanti who get excited about the Heritage Festival and like hanging around an old freighthouse on a Saturday morning. If that’s what you want and you can afford it – then by all means go for it. Just don’t ask people who live outside of the city to pay for your preferences.

    I didn’t buy a home in the township because I preferred the high cost of city living. I very much prefer watching wildlife in the quiet solitude of my yard. I very much appreciate the township officials who work very hard to provide only necessary services at minimal costs. We have our own economic challenges, a large percentage of low income households, and the highest number of foreclosed homes in the county. So please, stop the talk about consolidating city and township, and start rolling up your sleeves and work hard at electing honest city officials who will provide city services and government at a cost you can afford.

  7. mark
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got a few thoughts on this, Brett. Please take them for what they’re worth.

    First, in order to get Water Street moving, we need an anchor tenant to come to the table. Realistically, we’ll get some kind of big box retail. Best case scenario, we get someone like Costco that pays their people fairly well. It might be futile, but I keep looking for a way to get around that. And, when it comes to local companies with the clout to pull something like this off, Zingerman’s is one of the few to come to mind. I’d tried in my own little way to lure Google here, but, as you know, they decided on Ann Arbor. Zingerman’s, however, is at least receptive to the idea. They want to do something in Ypsi, and, while I don’t think they want to build something new, there’s at least a remote chance that they’d consider it. As of right now, that’s all I’ve got to cling to, so I’m going with it.

    Second, I don’t know that it would hurt the co-op, which I happen to patronize and feel protective of. Interestingly, a reader of this site was here in town last week and he looked me up. He’s the manager of the Wheatsville Co-op in Austin, Texas. And we talked about this very thing at length. He’s of the opinion that co-ops do better when stores like Whole Foods move in. He’s of the opinion that stores like Whole Foods open up people’s minds to the concept of natural food, and, once they start thinking about it, they often come to discover the co-op. He provides great customer service, and he runs a shop that’s well intergrated with the local community. Once they come into his co-op, many of them stay. They like have a local option, and they like feeling more a part of their community. I haven’t talked to Corine at the Ypsi Co-op about it, but I suspect that she’d agree.

    So, I’ll keep beating the Zingerman’s drum, hoping that a Zingerman’s outlet of some kind downtown will get people to stop their cars and look around. And, hopefully, these people would find other shops… And, as I see it, the alternative is worse. An un-developed Water Street doesn’t help anyone.

  8. mark
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    And, Edge of Sprawl, I’ll move your comment up to the front page. I’m sure there are others in the audience who could respond better than me.

  9. Ed Paul
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Edge of Sprawl. I can only assume that in mentioning the associated problems with high density living you mean you had to interact with people a little different from yourself. If so, I think you made the right choice. On behalf of the City of Ypsilanti and all those that took your place, a sincere thank you for leaving. Please give my regards to the critters.

  10. schutzman
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:18 am | Permalink


    as for water street in general, we need to get the existing structures re-inhabited. I frankly don’t understand why anyone in the city gov’t has been wasting any time doing anything but that, and now they’re apparently going to borrow even MORE money to tear them down.

    if there’s a tax vote or a mayoral election, everyone wants to complain about how the city’s handled water street. Now that those are both over, all the same people want to just give them unchecked power to do something potentially even stupider than the original plan.

    zingerman’s isn’t going to move in to ‘create business,’ they’re moving in because they see that ypsilanti has slowly evolved to the point where there now IS business, and so they want that business for themselves. period.

  11. edgeof the sprawl
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Well Paul, your assumption would have no basis in reality. The problems associated with high density living include loss of privacy, increased crime, noise and light pollution, traffic congestion, brownfields, unaccountable city officials, public health concerns,… to name just a few. The township is a widely diverse group of citizens, many of whom are very different from myself as well. And the township has much better integration throughout, not just a few islands of isolated minority groups.

  12. egpenet
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    That why A&P invented paper bags, Edge. If life in the city gets rough on occasion, put one bag over your head and the issue goes away. When the truly undesireable thing happens, double up on the bags.

    All of the noises I hear in Ypsilanti appeatr familiar to me. It’s the gunfire coming from the Township I sometimes wonder about … but I’m an old bird hunter and can almost still tell the weapon by the sound.

    The farmer/writer, Wendell Barry, made “use” of his property and wasn’t primarily distancing himself from society. I don’t question your right or your need to live where you live … but I DO wonder about your concept of citizenship, wheree its the duty of the good citizen to actively work against bad government and band together. Our duty … win or lose.

    It wasn’t the citified folkswho whipped King George, it was the townshipper types from outside the big cities. I wish townshippers in Augusta, Salem, Pittsfield and Ypsilanti would be fighters supporting the citizens in the city centers to rise up and get the eastern half of the county to act.

    One more word of advice … those handles on the paper bags can’t be trusted. And avoid plastic bags or you’ll suffocate.

  13. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Jean Henry’s missive is phenomenal. He say SO much good about Ypsilanti, so concisely. It is a wonderful piece.

  14. Jean
    Posted May 16, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    “zingerman’s isn’t going to move in to ‘create business,’ they’re moving in because they see that ypsilanti has slowly evolved to the point where there now IS business, and so they want that business for themselves. period.”

    Dear Schutzman,
    There is a good chance that the business Zingerman’s would open will be non-profit (don’t worry…a sales/property tax paying non-profit). Certainly, Zingerman’s community of businesses is not expecting to profit from the Ypsi project. As envisioned up to now, any money generated would go back into Ypsi initiatives. The model we are developing is extremely progressive and very much about providing access and opportunity in Ypsilanti along with great food and great service.

    I would be happy to meet with you sometime to discuss what Ypsi is up against and what we’re looking to do. Meanwhile, the short of it is that Ypsi needs businesses with draw to work its way forward. Zingerman’s has always been community-minded and socially progressive (not perfectly so, but then who or what is?) and the Ypsi project is intended as an extension of that commitment.

    It appears you’d like Ypsi to stay just where it is. I don’t know too many people in your corner. I do know it is a lot easier to dismiss than to engage. Don’t drink the hater-ade, Schutzman; you’re likely to bloat.

  15. schutzman
    Posted May 16, 2008 at 11:08 pm | Permalink


    Yes, you’re pretty much correct, I would like Ypsilanti to stay where it is. I would like it to change in several ways, certainly, but none of them have the slightest thing to do with an Ann Arbor sandwich shop opening a location here.

    You probably don’t know many people “in my corner” because of the socio-economic circles you travel in.

    As for your business plan, it will be increasing Zingerman’s “community image,” improving their brand recognition, and down the line, bringing in profits.

    At the same time, Ypsilanti’s image suffers, as it plays the part of the “Charity Case” that needed you to come in and help save it from itself.

    I don’t think that’s a fair proposition.

    Ypsilanti needs businesses, yes, that’s very true.

    The businesses it needs above all else, however, are the heavy industrial types that once provided the bedrock of our local economy. All other professions, business, and prosperity must flow from that.

    Instead, though, we’re rapidly moving towards “Bedroom Community” status, and focusing our efforts on attracting more small-scale luxury businesses such as Zingerman’s will do nothing to prevent it, and will more likely accelerate the process.

    If you were opening up a paper mill, though, I’d be behind you 100%.

    P.S.- When you wrote your letter to the Observer, you failed to mention our 33-year-old Food Co-op. That fact still troubles me.

  16. egpenet
    Posted May 16, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Amen, Schutz.

    And a SUCCESSFUL co-op at that, thank you very much … which, rumor has it, may top $1 mil this year for the first time! Let’s hear it for buy local, eat well, and be merry, with solar panels on top of it all.

  17. ideaperson
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I think the charity work Zingerman’s does it great. And I also think it is great that Paul and Ari take meetings with LOTS of people and hear their ideas about how Zingerman’s can grow etc. etc. But, this happens every few years or so, someone calls Paul and wants to talk to him about Ypsilanti. He takes the meeting, he is very nice, but nothing ever comes of it, or they try but Paul is just (honestly) tooo busy…
    What Zingerman’s has done over the years with their ZCOB is nice, but anyone can do it in Ypsilanti without Zingerman’s help or their high overheads. Lots of other Michiganders know how to give “Great Service and Great Food!”, and know how to run charities too.
    Zingerman’s has become pros at branding and marketing, and a good portion of the food costs you pay when you shop/eat at one of the ZCOB business goes straight back into marketing their brand.

    I LOVE Queen of Hearts, Cafe Luwak, the co-op…I agree why give them competition? What we need is a local independent grocery or butcher(!)near Depot Town/Downtown. (Kroger’s meat department sticks) Independent groceries do still exist in other counties and cities in Michigan.

    Take Paul’s advice about charity work and how Zingerman’s can (and does) help Ypsilanti, but I don’t see how there high cost products could help Ypsilanti right now.

  18. mark
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    We need business in Ypsilanti. In my opinion, I’d rather have a locally-owned business with a history of paying good wages and investing back in the community. With all respect to Schutzman and Ed Penet, I think it would be idiotic to discourage them from looking into it at this point, especially if there’s even the slightest chance that that they might locate on Water Street and thus spur other development.

    As for the co-op, I haven’t spoken with Corinne, but I suspect that she’d be into having a Zingerman’s business here. As I mentioned, when our friend Dan, the manager of Austin’s co-op, Wheatsville, was here visiting, we asked him what he thought, and he said that he felt that it likely would lead to increased interest in the Ypsi co-op. If you scroll through the archives, I’m sure you can find my post on it.

  19. Jim Karnopp
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Well normally I don’t comment on the blogs after spending an evening at the Corner Brewery, but it seems to always work well for Ol Ecross, so I guess I will give it a shot.

    Let me preface my comment by saying that we just had our biggest day of the year so far today. The Ann Arbor News ran an article on my café yesterday, and our business today was almost triple any Friday we have had since last summer. From a financial standpoint this is great news, but from a business standpoint it was devastating. I didn’t have the staff scheduled to handle that much business. I worked through our lunch rush today trying to get orders out looking at people waiting 45 minutes to an hour to get a sandwich, and all I wanted to do was burry my head in the sand. It was embarrassing and humiliating. My business is an extension of me, and when customers aren’t being served properly, it tears me apart. I can make all sorts of excuses, but in the end it is my fault for not being prepared. It is very disappointing to have so many new customers come into my place and walk away thinking that our service is slow an inefficient. I pay attention to all complaints, and I work very hard to make sure that days like this don’t happen, but as with any business they do. My only hope is that I learn from the mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.

    As for Zingermans coming to town, I have mixed feelings. Right now I have the best sandwich shop in town, and I don

  20. mark
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Jim. I don’t want to speak for Zingerman’s, but, for what it’s worth, I don’t get the sense that they’d be opening a sandwich shop here. I don’t think their desire is to come here and sell expensive sandwiches, like they do in Ann Arbor. My sense is that they’d open something like a small market, focusing on selling high-quality staples at an affordable price. At least that’s the sense that I get.

    And congratulations on the best day ever for Luwak.

  21. UBU
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Man the barricades, comrades! They are bringing bagels!

  22. egpenet
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Bret is correct. We need employers in Ypsilanti.

    Zingerman’s, in fact, is a large employer. Zingerman’s is many businesses … deli, coffee roaster, bake shop, cheese, Roadhouse, etc. Read all about it in the NYTimes this weekend.

    Their products are pricey, because the quality is so high. Their margins are thinner than Kroger’s. And a good deal of the gross goes into their staff, training, and product.

    Louis’ Restaurant, as I recall from Louis himself, had a 55% food cost, labor, etc. on top of that. 55% is quite high, and his food was tasty.

    Jim’s point is well-taken. There’s room for all levels of quality, tastes, service, and atmospherics. It won’t be a matter of beating or matching Paul & Ari if they come into Ypsilanti, it will be a matter of maintaining whatever brand you DO have. There’s one Cafe Luwak, one Sidetrack, one Cady’s, etc., which is how it will continue.

  23. Jean
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, the Z backlash was bound to happen eventually. I guess I’d rather get it out of the way early than later. I do need to say that we are very early in the process here; nothing green-lighted etc. so I’ll address concerns in generalities as best I can. Things don’t happen quickly at Zingerman’s. Paul’s interest is and always has been sincere. Eventually something will happen… my bet is sooner rather than later.

    1) Zingerman’s is not opening a sandwich shop. They’ve done that and don’t repeat themselves in their new business ventures. It will almost certainly be a restaurant in some form, as that’s what Zingerman’s knows. The market piece is more fuzzy. It will be accessible and welcoming to those in all income brackets. Paul wants to provide what Zingerman’s does best …food, training and service..to a broader clientele and employee base. His impulses are very purely democratic and entrepreneurial. Zingerman’s isn’t from Ypsi, but we’re about as local an economic powerhouse as you’re gonna get. This 800# gorilla’s really a big puppy dog.

    2)The project is not charity. Food Gatherers is charity. Zingerman’s founded it and is heavily engaged in its mission. This project aims for empowerment in the form of social venture; progressive business that helps to revitalize an economy. Most restaurants function at around a 5% profit margin. To pull off a sliding scale local foods venture, non-profit may just be the only way to go.Certainly this is not about profiting or improving Zingerman’s brand… the risks run quite a bit in the other direction. It is, in part, about having an employee/customer base and corporate culture that looks and feels more like the whole community…. not a standard business or marketing plan.

    3)I’m all for manufacturing jobs, but that’s not what we do. I’m also not so sure how realistic an expectation that is, plus paper mills are pretty nasty, dude. (I grew up in PA when steel crashed. The jobs came back slowly & were nothing like the old ones… a lot were actually in weapons manufacturing funded under Reagan… not a great option in my book) Numbers-wise, restaurants look a lot like light manufacturing, labor costs running at around 30% in ones that actually prep and cook their own food— higher at ZCOB businesses. As said, profits industry-wide run at about 5%. In a locally focused business, most of the other money coming in goes back out to the local community in wages and cost of goods. Restaurants also provide community public space that factories don’t. They are good citizen businesses.

    4)The Hyett Palma downtown plan highlighted an “upscale restaurant” as the number one priority for revitalization. The Z business would not be upscale in the traditional sense, but would be a big draw to Ypsi as well as an asset for locals. I owned a community-based restaurant that struggled with lack of by-the-door volume. Everybody loved the local feel, but we worked our asses off to create draw so we could keep afloat. A Zingerman’s/Ypsi biz should help float all boats by drawing more people to Ypsi. Jim’s experience at Cafe Luwak after the A2 News review tells me how much people want a reason to go to Ypsi. I know there are already plenty of good reasons to spend time in Ypsi, but a Zing venture could help create that critical tipping point that spurs more businesses and makes the potential gel.

    4) Zingerman’s has never opened a business and sunk a competing business. A business can only do this to a competitor with predatory practices or when the competition is weak already. An already solid business should do better in a competitive environment. Zingerman’s has traditionally expanded the market for whatever goods they produce or sell… olive oil, artisan bread, local produce. This part of the capitalist puzzle works. Add the local and heartfelt part, and business doesn’t have to be a dirty word. I can tell by Jim’s response that he has his whole heart in Cafe Luwak. I’m sure he’d prefer a steady flow of customers to deluge and drought. A steady flow can be planned for. A deluge will expose every weak link and a drought will just kill you. The food business takes no prisoners. You can’t imagine the heart and risk involved, Schutzman. I think you’ve greatly underestimated the challenges facing your town’s existing, beloved businesses. I wouldn’t be in this if I thought it put them at risk…honest.

    5) What we’re attempting to do is pretty off-the-grid in terms of Zingerman’s and restaurants in general, so some confusion and suspicion is inevitable. It is my mission in this to keep the idea as true to its vision and as Ypsi-specific as possible. It’s just really exciting to try something new in a town that invites investment and initiative. This is so much more about how cool Ypsi is than about how cool we think we are… for real. I hope we live up to our own expectations and defy some of yours.

    PS As for me & ‘the socio-economic circles [I] travel in’, Schutzman, I associate with everyone. I worked in damn near every diner in Ann Arbor back in the day and grew up in a town that makes Ypsi look fancy. Lebanon, PA is no college town, just farms, bologna, sewing shops, chickens and fertilizer. I’m a single mom with a boatload of debt and a really paltry income. I’ve seen all walks and had all my assumptions defied. The only thing I know is, rich or poor or middling, people are people wherever you go. We ain’t pretty, but we sure are interesting… Strike up the Merle Haggard, please, “because I wear my own kind of hat…”

  24. Jean
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Also, for Schutzman… Many apologies for leaving out the co-op in my letter to the Observer. I couldn’t include a lot of great businesses and institutions; there was nothing personal in it. The focus of my comments and our project is mostly downtown, not Depot Town. I don’t see any conflict between the Ypsi-Zing project and the Co-op. Your loyalty is impressive, but your sense that we pose a threat is misplaced, I think. It sounds like the co-op is doing just great.

  25. schutzman
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    1) That’s your opinion. My “sandwich shop” comment was a joke, in case you and mark didn’t get that. I’m at a loss, really, to even define what your business will be, as it seems like Zingerman’s itself doesn’t know, and I really wish that had been worked out before this buzz-building process had started.

    2) That’s also your opinion. “corporate culture that looks and feels more like the whole community” sounds an awful lot like branding double-speak to me.

    3) Fine, try building a civilization of restaurants, then, and let me know how that goes.

    4) Hyett-Palma. They’re the ones who also thought Water Street was a swell idea, and that was just about the worst thing Ypsilanti has ever done, and was a very clear attempt to officially institute the “Bedroom Community” status I mentioned earlier. If I don’t think that a business in Ann Arbor knows enough about Ypsilanti, do you honestly think I’d give credence to a Virginia consulting agency?

    4)[sic] Zingerman’s has stuck to Ann Arbor thus far, where there’s a lot more money to go around.

    5)[sic] I hope you defy all my expectations as well. “The Town,” to be clear, is not exactly holding an election concerning your proposal. A handful of people in city hall, and another handful of wealthy ypsilantians, and finally your own management, are the ones making it seem so inviting.

    PS- I don’t believe we need to start comparing salaries, here, but I do know that historians make significantly less than waitresses.

    Your final addendum seems just vaguely worded enough to convince me that either the co-op might be threatened, but you hadn’t yet thought of that, or that it will be threatened, and you’re avoiding saying it.

    And for the sake of clarification, I am discussing theory here, and have nothing against you personally. The interwebs can confuse that matter, at times.

  26. egpenet
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Interesting concept broached in last week’s NYT Magazine was that “we the people” should be buying our food based upon the nutrient value and taste appeal rather than by the pound.

    I know it’s priced that way.

    But it gets to the point about buying local, or buying fresh from the garden, or picking it from our own gardens, rather than letting Kroger’s decide what’s the best value.

    I have ranted here about Ypsilanti simply settling for what they get, rolling over like an old dog for just one more belly rub.

    We all have our habits and our preferences, but there’s always a first time to learn about what is really a good tasting “whatever” … and learning how it can be prepared in our own homes.

    We need good jobs for our people. And those jobs have to come before we can think about braised Veal Shanks and morrels, IMHO. But in the meantime, perhaps we can think about food as a central “thread” as families try and get the best for their own that they can afford and entrepreneurs in town look at business concepts that involve eating right and eating well in these times.

    Mosd of us are doing OK. Most of us can afford a happy hour once in a while, a birthday dinner out, a bakery-fresh loaf of bread or even a cheesecake. There’s cream of potato soup and there’s cream of potato soup. There’s blintzes and theree’s blinies. I’ve been in delis wheree the bowls of bortsch are flying against the walls … they were so poorly made.

    I want choice. I want Jefferson Street Market … and Luwaks … and Sidetrack … and even the Bomber. Add a Zed to the alphabet and I am a happy guy.

    Now, what was that about a job?

  27. Jean
    Posted May 17, 2008 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Schutzman— an academic?! really?

    1)Premature… heartily agreed, but Mark himself first threw this thing out for public consumption. I just follow the threads and respond where necessary. Is this really necessary?

    2)Corporate-speak like academic-speak is lamentable but unavoidable. Corporate-speak all sounds like marketing; academic-speak all sounds like mental self-gratification. I can only promise you this effort isn’t about marketing. There’s a department for that at ZCOB, and I’ve yet to meet anyone in it.

    3)Was I trying to build a civilization? I can tell you that the last business standing in any down-on-its-knees town is usually a diner. It sure isn’t a factory.

    4)I’m not clear on how Hyett Palma are aiming to make downtown Ypsi a bedroom community… kind of the opposite. The intention is for Ypsi to broaden it’s own economic vitality, becoming a downtown that serves the wider area as originally intended. Did you actually read my original letter to the Observer? It was meant to defend Ypsi against the perception that it is a basketcase and Zingerman’s some kind of knight in shining armor… which doesn’t mean we’re predatory either.. just a piece of the puzzle. As for Water St., it wasn’t a bad idea, just poorly executed and timed… not sure how that’s H.P.’s fault. I agree that H.P. and Z. don’t know enough about Ypsi; that’s why I’m responding now despite my better instincts– to learn. So how long have you lived in Ypsi exactly?

    4)sic…got me there didn’t you? Our idea is to bring more people and money in to Ypsi, not rape it’s existing resources. If we fail to do that, our model won’t work… no loss to you I guess.

    5) sic again… Any business is subject eventually to the vote by patronage (or not) of its intended customers after a lot of time, heart, money and energy is invested. It is a hell of a gamble… easy to criticize from a desk.

    re PS– Ask any waitperson or store clerk who he’d rather wait on, a yuppie or an academic and guess who they’d pick? and it isn’t because of tips.

    As for the co-op addendum, honestly and for real, no threat posed or intended. Where do you get this stuff from?

    I’m wondering right now if an honest response to your thoughts is what you wanted. After 20+ years in Ann Arbor, I’m pretty over the academic parlay thing, frankly. This is not about “theory” for me, it’s about action… big difference there. It’s not personal, but it is important. For real— Jean

  28. ideaperson
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Just FYI- for those of you that don’t know, years ago Zingerman’s vowed to NEVER open any “duplicate shop” 0r Franchise of the deli. Yes, they have a “Community of Businesses”, but they are all different. So, they won’t be opening a sandwich shop here in Ypsi.

    Schutzman – you are making great points!

  29. mark
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, Mr. Schutzman, was also against the Shadow Art Fair, saying it would be bad for local business and artists. He was also against the Corner Brewery. I’m not saying that he’s not raising valid points. I just think you need to consider his track record with regard to this stuff.

    My point, as I mentioned above, is that business is going to come to Ypsilanti one way or another. There are people at this very moment who would be happy to sell Water Street parcels off to big box retailers who don’t give a damn about our community and its inhabitants. Zingerman’s has a track record of creating good jobs and investing in the community. (As Jean mentioned above, Zingerman’s started Food Gatherers.) With all due respect to Schutzman, I’d like to know what businesses he’d like to see settle here in Ypsi and what he’s doing to attract them.

    I love you, Brett, and, as I’ve told you before, I think you’re a brilliant guy, but I’d really like to see you focus your energy in a more positive direction.

    Anyway, I am glad to have you posting on the site again, I just wish that you could try to find some common ground. For instance, why not suggest business areas where you feel that Zingerman’s can positively effect the local community, instead of just saying right off the bat that we don’t need a yuppy-friendly, expensive sandwich shop, when that was never their plan?

  30. Ingrid
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Are jobs that pay under $10/hour great jobs? Hmm.

  31. Mark H.
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s sheer fantasy to imagine that the future of Ypsilanti -or of Michigan — will be ensured by the return of manufacturing jobs. Let’s welcome those that may come, and promote green manufacturing, but let’s not put up bars against non manufacturing businesses.

    And a Zingerman’s for Ypsilanti would be terrific. The company has unique shops, real value, and lots of employees with high degrees of satisfaction. Not nirvana, but a pretty good company nonetheless. Capitalism is a heartless system, but there are some credibly humane businesses that do real good in the world by finding ways to navigate the ‘market’ while also treating people with respect. Ypsilanti – and Michigan and the world — need to welcome those businesses. Zingerman’s is one of those.

    So, Jean, I’d be delighted to hear more about this Zingerman’s plan. Reach me, please, at mhigbee at emich dot edu. let’s have coffee at an Ypsi shop, or a drink….

  32. mark
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Ingrid, you’re right. The food service industry doesn’t pay extremely well. I’ve never worked for Zingerman’s, but I’ve had my share of those jobs. And I have friends that work for Zingermans now. I’ve never asked what they make, but I suspect they take home more than $10 an hour. The margins in food service are small, though. But, if we could leverage Zingerman’s to bring other business – green manufacturing would be great – then I’m all for it… And back to Zingerman’s, I’m sure they pay their people better than 9/10ths of the local companies in their industry. We’ve got plenty of employers here in town who pay their people less than $10 an hour. Should we start picketing them?

  33. bee
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m following this with great interest-

    1) I think Mark is amazing, and I stumbled upon his blog after meeting him
    2) I’ve worked for Zingerman’s
    3) I love Ypsi, and yet have absolutely no ‘history’ with it
    4) I’m doing everything I can to open a smallish cafe downtown

    I come from two distinct and interrelated backgrounds: tourist regions and food service; I’d lived in Petoskey for 10+ years where the economy is completely based on tourism- and the opportunity to open a cafe in an area that has a stable year round population 10x that of Petoskey is exciting enough, but add to that the beauty and potential and existing strength of the greater Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor community and my excitement galvanizes my long time plan of opening a sweet little shop.

    What Schutzman is saying really hits a nerve- if only because it incites my belief that the way the world does business is pretty fucked up.

    If we don’t change the way we do business, we aren’t going to have a sustainable existence- new ways of thinking are needed for new business; new economies need new thinkers. New thinkers generally think history got it wrong, or at best, is remarkably short sighted. It’s easy to glamorize the past , but ain’t nobody got it right yet. Factory jobs? To what avail?
    So we have solid incomes to go out and buy more crap? So we have automatons living dis-integrated lives and mostly unwittingly contributing to the demise of our cultural ability to… buy more stuff, better stuff.

    How about we break that cycle? How about we band with communities and localize? How about we draw on the vast agricultural resources we have available? How about we learn new ways to use money?

    How about we spend money when we have it to initiate long term sustainability and diversify while our economy is in the crapper anyhow? (Instead of buying up real estate cos the market is so soft only to fill it with mass produced Made in ________ crap that’s going to end up in a landfill when little Johnny Rottencrotch wants the newest, biggest take-your-pick…)

    Lest I come across as some super smug ann arborite who can “afford” to buy “overpriced” and sustainable products- I am a youngish, single mom who has never had a car (oops, I think that makes me extra smug) and I’ve learned how to plan, make different choices, and spend my money a whole lot differently without giving up what matters most to me: love, nourishment, compassion, warmth.

    This ended up all over the place, apologies.

    Ultimately, I hope that Zingerman’s brings the plan together; like Jean said, things don’t happen quickly at Z. And the plan as it is on the table right now, is going to take a whole lot of support from the 15ish other partners to even get it off the ground. If people like them don’t use their influence and financial resources to further a new way of doing business, regardless of the industry, things won’t change.

    And one thing I’ve noticed about change in my time on this earth, is that it always gets worse before it gets better… If communities can come up in times of economic distress (Luwak’s best day, Ugly Mug’s reno, Bombadill’s packed…) imagine what Ypsi looks like when things spin back ’round? It’s gonna take a lot of work, and a lot of time, (not an economic stimulus check, but thanks Mr. President!) but we have the ability to change the world, change our town for the better- be it through a sandwich or a cup of coffee, homegrown tomatoes, Food Gatherers, good beer, advances in technology that start HERE because we’ve provided all the good things above for smart, talented, engaging individuals to WANT to be in Michigan!

    Energy begets energy, so let’s gets our noses out of the history books, off our collective asses and create the future to create a history of our own…

  34. mark
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Thanks for taking the time to write that, Bee… And send me a note sometime. I’d like to discuss your plans for Ypsi.

  35. John on Forest
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to second that challenge to Schutzman, that Mark made:

    Brent, what hopes and vision do you have for Ypsilanti?

    What kinds of new businesses do you want to see come here. How can we accomplish that?

    What do you like about Ypsilanti, that you won’t want to see change?

    What about Ypsilanti do you not like and would like to see changed? How would you want it changed? [The second question here is the more important of the two.]

    Here are my own answers: I would like to see businesses locate in Ypsilanti so that I don’t have to drive all the way to Carpenter road for stuff I need (printer ink cartridges, lumber, nails, electrical switches, gardening supplies, groceries, socks). I’d like to be able to go downtown and pick up an item I need after I get home from work and have finished dinner and I’d like to be able to rely on that business being open when I get there regardless the day of the week.

    I like the hometown feel of Ypsi. I like the freight house. I like Depot Town. I like Corner Brewery. I like the Co-op. I like RAC and What is That. I like that I know the first name of the Chief of Police and he at least knows my face, if not my first name. I like that we have neighborhood associations. I like it’s diversity.

    I don’t like the seedy reputation that Ypsi has. When I moved here 16 years ago, a good deal of the reputation was true. We had gangs and drug trading in town. We had crime. We’ve come a long way since then. Our community policing is SUPER. We have further to go. We still have prostitution problems in the city, for example. Ypsilanti needs to do a better job of dispelling the rumors and restoring our reputation. We need a good PR campaign, and we need to address those rumors head on. We should admit to problems we had in the past and then dispel them where they are no long true. We need to confess to problems we still have and show what our action plans are than are in place or coming to fix those problems. We need to have area realtors selling our community without biasing comments about crime that dissuade potential new home buyers.

    I don’t like that we’ve had to give up things we used to have: Fully funded recreation department. HIghly visible community policing. Holiday Festival of Lights. Play ground equipment in Riverside Park. To name a few.

  36. schutzman
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Jean, I am not an ‘academic’, at least as far as i understand how you’re defining that word.

    Mark, my complaint with the corner brewery’s arrival was basically just that you were talking about it like it was a huge economic godsend, and I just pointed out that it wouldn’t actually bring that many (or, at first, any) jobs to Ypsilantians; I think the corner is fine, and i go there often. The shadow art fair simply wasn’t as regionally specific as i would have liked to have seen it.

    Bee, I’m not sure where, or if, you’re disagreeing with me.

  37. Posted May 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    A Zingermans in Ypsi suits me more than just fine. I am always pro competitive business and pro entrepreneurial enterprises.

  38. Posted May 18, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    The CB was a huge boost…Did you see that building before they fixed it up?

    Zingerman’s to Ypsi – absolutely yes! End of argument.

  39. degutails
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    “The More the Merrier! Competition is good! Everyone will benefit!” as Schutzman said, and he is a man with whom I agree on many things, the recent mayoral race standing as an exception.

    I do, also, agree with the above statement, although he said it tongue in cheek.

    But, I wonder, why is Ypsi a charity case? As a single mother with two jobs, I sometimes chose to spend my disposable income at Zingerman’s, and I’m not alone.

    Open Zingerman’s by all means, but make it for profit. If the food is good enough, the respect, and the money, will be there.


  40. Ingrid
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink


    You say that “I have friends that work for Zingermans now. I’ve never asked what they make, but I suspect they take home more than $10 an hour.”

    I’ve had friends who worked on and off for Zingermans for ten years and made less than $10/hour. They complained about how difficult it was to raise a family on the pay.

    You write ” I’m sure they pay their people better than 9/10ths of the local companies in their industry.”

    Why are you sure of this when you don’t know even know how much your friends get paid?

    You write. “We’ve got plenty of employers here in town who pay their people less than $10 an hour. Should we start picketing them?”

    I don’t recall advocating any direct action of any kind towards Zingermans or other local businesses. I’m just questioning whether Zingerman’s jobs are good paying jobs. I don’t think that they are. I don’t think that you, Mark, would be happy with the pay that you would receive on the sandwich line at Zingermans. Check it out and get back with me. Can you support a family on those wages?

  41. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Can someone help me by clarifying the issue here?

    I’m a little baffled by the “Ypsi needs manufacturing not more food” talk. Is it that Zs moving into the Visteon plant or that we need manufacturing into downtown storefronts?

    Ingrid. Are you saying we shouldn’t have businesses that don’t pay clerks/waitstaff more than $10 an hour in Ypsi? What’s your point? Does Zs pay better or worse than most food service jobs? How much more should it pay?

    Schutzman. I’ve got my own struggles with nostalgia, but I don’t understand your attachment to the period of history on the land we now call Ypsilanti when paper mills ruled. Why that blip of time?

    No. A sandwich (or whatever) shop won’t save Ypsilanti. But really, all this over a whatever shop? I knew I should’ve been more concerned when World of Rocks opened. If only a solar robot bra mill had filled that space, all would be well.

  42. bee
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    schutzman- I don’t if I was disagreeing or not; just engaging in some friendly discourse, because it really got me thinking about what matters- and to me the answer isn’t a paper mill, or underwear factory, or car manufacturing or any of the other great jobs that Michigan/Ypsilanti has proffered through the years.

    I’m also sensitive & interested because I want to open a sandwich shop, but it’s so much more than that. Not in terms of products or wages, but of teaching people a different way to be, to do business, to adapt in this crazy world. The only way I know how to do that is through cooking and just being a part of a person’s (hopefully hundreds) daily life.

    So I don’t know if I can answer your query- just discourse and inspiration. Thanks for that.

  43. egpenet
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    The booms and busts, bank failures, railroad scandals, not to mention the Civil War and reconstruction itself, through the 1800s; and history since then … McCain and Keating combined … have now been dwarfed by the trillions in global losses and the spillover into every other economic aspect.

    My American history prof, Robert Dacey, defined history as “people in events.”

    The event we are facing in Ypsilanti, spread over the last five years (and lasting, most likely, another five) appears to be a major shift in response to the loss of a factory- based economy in favor of a more diverse, light industrial, service and creative class economy.

    The business plans that I write and the consulting I do locally tell me that more and more entrepreneurs are accepting the changing conditions, establishing their base closer to home, reducing their costs of doing business and being better able to launch on a slimmer margin.

    I used to live in Ann Arbor ot here and drive and fly all over the place. Budgets were fabulous and the world was analog. Oooh the pain following the shift to digital. Now everybody is an expert with a point-and-shoot. The principles of art, the elements of professional craft, and the process of effective communication have not been repealed.

    More megapixels and greater capacity memory sticks great art doth not maketh.

    Bee, we welcome you with open arms … and open pocket books. No need to defend, jus’do it. Jean, too. Take all thye time in the world … the “whatever” will be worth waiting for.

    What DOES suprise me is that the city allows a wholesale cheescake factory (god bless new businesses) on N. Huron, while jawboning about encouraging pedestrian traffic and new retail. I will pursue this one.

    Calling all entrepreneurs … plan, get your plan on paper (which I can help you do) … but plan, refine and then GO for it.

    What’s that old typing class exercise: Now is the time that tries, etc. … I’d revise that to: Now is the time, there’s none better or worse, go for the gold, fill up that purse.

    Type that ten times and then get some rest.


  44. Luke E. Stryke
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I think now is the perfect time to announce my plans to open my Severed Unicorn Head Mega Mart and new line of intimate attire, Ypsiscanties.

  45. bee
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    oh, I’m comin’ and I expect a hug!

    and some kum-ba-ya and toasted marshmallows and a whole line of can can dancers and and and a red carpet! ;)

  46. Ingrid
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Ol’ East Cross:

    An assertion was made that Zingermans pays well. They do not. That’s all I’m saying.

  47. Pauline
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read through this whole thing twice and don’t see where anyone has said that “Zingermans pays well”.

    It is said that they pay well relative to other food service employers but that’s it.

  48. Hillary
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Water Street doesn’t need an “anchor tenant”. It needs upwards of $125 million dollars in investment to pay off the existing bonds. There’s no need to worry about a big box store moving in because they would have to get approval from the HDC and planning, and the area would have to be rezoned. Why would a big box retailer bother when Ypsilanti Township is so inviting? Not coincidentally, all these limits are the same reason no one in their right mind is trying to build anything in Ypsilanti.

    If you think that buying up large tracts of heavily contaminated land on Michigan Avenue across the street from a plating company for residential use was ever a good idea, I have some magic beans that I would be willing to part with for only $125 million dollars.

    The fact that Zingerman’s doesn’t think they can turn a profit in Ypsi should tell you something. The same “progressive” trend is happening here in Hamtramck, where people open new businesses as non-profits, pay themselves salaries as executive directors, and run the other for-profit enterprises out of business. Only here, they don’t pay taxes.

    I’m not a fan of GM Poletown or the circumstances which led to the plant construction, but it does bring close to 2000 people to Hamtramck on a daily basis and provides an equal number of jobs to Detroit. Without GM and American Axle, many of the bars and restaurants here would close.

    The worst thing to happen to urban areas in the US was cheap gas, and soaring oil prices are sure to be one of the best things to happen to US manufacturing. A train stop is inevitable, and Water Street is ideally suited to industrial use, especially since the railroad preserved their right to put their rail spike back. Continuing to pursue “visions” of residential use and historic-looking buildings is holding the city back from embracing other possible options that have yet to be explored.

    For the record, I lived in Ypsi two or three years, which was long enough to realize that opening a business there would be a poor business decision. Whenever we talked about the things that have to change in order to have a healthy business atmosphere, we were criticized as being “negative”. All the talk about what sort of businesses you would like to see have been and will be a waste of time, so long as the underlying economics and unreasonable requirements by the city remain.

    A side note… I had dinner at my favorite local restaurant with an employee of Zingerman’s Roadhouse once. She was shocked that our bill for 4 people was $24 because her per plate goal at work was $28.

  49. Ingrid
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Pauline: Here is what Mark wrote: “We need business in Ypsilanti. In my opinion, I’d rather have a locally-owned business with a history of paying good wages and investing back in the community.”

  50. Pauline
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Saying they pay good wages isn’t the same as saying they pay well.

  51. schutzman
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    how are we defining the word “blip,” incidentally?

  52. ideaperson
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Ok. My best friend worked at a Zingerman’s business eight (8) years ago for, her starting wage was $7.75 for an sales/office position. Right now when I see Zingermans advertise on Craig’s List or Ann Arbor news, they state that their starting rate is $8.00, which has been there “starting wage” for about seven (7) years. But they do offer “great training sessions” which they remind you that the public pays over $400 a day for.
    Anyone who has lived around here long enough, knows that Zingerman’s doesn’t have a great rep. when it comes to long term employees. Ever heard of the Big Ten Party store?

    Anyway, I must add that Hillary is on point about the waterfront project. It makes me sick to drive into Ypsilanti on Washtenaw and see a boarded up gas station, an empty Framer Jack, and empty K-mart parking lot (at least they are hanging on), 3 empty buildings in a row, blah blah blah… Then as I drive out of Ypsi. on Michigan avenue all I see is the stupid waterfront land, and sadness.
    It’s just like those pretty flowers in the middle of Michigan avenue…”maybe if we plant flowers in the middle of the road, the downtown customers/business owners won’t notice that the parking lots are crap and that we took away the easy in and out parking on the street! Cool lets hire a consultant and plant those flowers!”
    “Maybe if we put a “zingermans'” or a “brew pub” in Depot town, then some big developer will buy water street!!” I agree with Hillary, Industry doesn’t work like that. Maybe if we all put some energy into the Ypsilanti Public schools and they became amazing, people would want to move here. Businesses would be encouraged that they could hire good entry level people from Ypsilanti. hmmm a freight house that has a cozy fireplace, another Zingerman’s coming attraction or a good school system…
    which do thinks attracts more families and businesses?

  53. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Over and over I see well-intentioned people, erroneously trying to create the fruit of a successful community instead of working to create a fertile environment in which business will thrive.

    If they never address the acidic environment, their fruit simply rots because the mechanisms that replenish it do not exist.

  54. egpnet
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Once BASF and the other chemical bad guys, including the City of Detroit water treatment folks, got their acts together in Wyandotte all sorts of fun things began to happen, including neighborhood revitalization across from BASF and up and down Biddle (the main drag).

    The steeel mills are gone, but there’s other work, new shops, small manufacturing and assembly, service, Health Care work, jobs across the spectrum.

    We need that range of jobs here for kids, college students, heads of households, spouses willing to work … skilled and unskilled.

    As a city center, including depot Town here, we attract a lot of folks for entertainment, shopping, relaxation in our parks, etc. from outside of the city. The more we can offer, the more choices they have to come here, the healthier our economy will become.

    Office worker stats have increased, as have loft residents, and they require services and demand places to go and things to see. Others of us simply want to meet more of our needs on foot or bicycle. Those other services and products will come.

    I’m also feeling quite positive about the new EMU president and her initiative to revitalize alumni loyalties and campus activities, plus community relations. Our EMU-affiliated residents are important to us and we want them to feel that this is their town too.

    What I’m seeing is people finally DOING stuff … taking risks … having some success … moving along. Come on out on the streeets and get involved in something, DO something, STOP talking and get something going. THAT’S what’s happening here these days.

  55. A Different Ed
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    What specifically makes the business environment “acidic”?

  56. Jean
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to point out that people are simultaneously complaining about the wages at Zingerman’s and the cost of their food. Zingerman’s wages and benefits are at the top of the heap in terms of food service, on par with their prices…no coincidence. Zingerman’s also offers loads of educational/training opportunities that provide skill sets and experience that can either lead to advancement within ZCOB (and better wages) or a great resume for work elsewhere. Employees at Zingerman’s are also encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial projects within Zingerman’s (with tremendous financial, mentoring and service support available) and independently. Zingerman’s does in fact have a solid record for employee retention, especially given it’s location in a town with a largely transient population.

    Zingerman’s offers good jobs, but it is never going to be easy to support a family on a sandwich line. I wish I could change that, but it is a reality of the food business that at all levels risks are high, profits low. No one in food is paid adequately, especially those operating responsibly. I’m sure there are folks in Ypsi who will be happy for jobs that pay more than average for the field, provide benefits and opportunities for education and advancement, and treat them with respect and decency.

    For the record and hopefully for the last time, what we are looking at doing in Ypsi is a sliding-scale restaurant… the sliding scale piece is the part that may require non-profit status. The idea presented that we would open a non-profit to hobble existing businesses is pretty remarkable. Firstly, establishing a non-profit is really difficult, substantial hurdles exist… it’s not just something you do to guarantee a salary.. or to be an asshole. Secondly, we are doing this in Ypsi because we like Ypsi and its potential. We want to encourage more entrepreneurial activity and visitors there. I don’t know what in this seems suspect, what we would gain by more empty storefronts.

    There are people within your community who do not have adequate access to healthy food or decent employment. We are trying to help address this issue in a very small way. We also want to create a community gathering place and destination for the whole region. In community meetings I’ve attended, all these things were mentioned as desirable. Am I wrong?

  57. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Different Ed,

    The “Henrietta Fahrenheit” narrative is the textbook on why Ypsilanti is difficult for business development.

    Highlights: lack of code enforcement, bureacratic nightmares, anti-density policy, and “visioning” done by people without a nickle of investment capital.

    This all makes for OUTRAGEOUS rent for space that’s too far from white box retail.

    I think we’ve gone through this about ten times and nothing’s changed.

  58. egpnet
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Cherry:

    Henrietta, herself, who had a most generous landlord as a matter of fact, is NOT a textbook story. What it is is a story about someone who had a creative and imaginative business idea, but hadn’t thought through all of the usual hoops necessary. And there were other issues, like 70% of her clientle was out of town. Hmmm.

    Code enforcement … we got that. Ask me about the Freighthouse sometime.

    Bureaucratic nightmares … nothing to fear but fear itself, Dr. Cherry. Plan, ask questions, lots of businesses have opened in the last several months. No one has lost any sleep.

    Anti-density … actually, tooth decay is down in Ypsilanti.

    Visioning done by non-business types … AHA! Bingo, bango! Gotta agree with you there. Lots of talk, no green. My posts above chide people into stopping the talk and walking the walk. Too many committees that have no money on the table. To be on a committee in Ypsilanti, my idea is that you have to ante up at least $100 or keep quiet.

    Rents are NOT outrageous, sir. Rents have beeen slashed to the point that serious risks … and I mean serious risks … are being taken by retail and loft space landlords.

    I also disagree with the “ten times” … we’ve been through this hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the last 20 years.

    I stand by my comments above. Stop talking and DO something people. Ante up! Buy a home, start a business, DO something. Mark shopuld also charge people to blog on such topics unless they are a stakeholder.

    That goes for outta town folks, too. Got money on the table in Ypsilanti? Cool.

    Nuff’said. G’night.

  59. Posted May 19, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink


    It’s a great idea that Water Street could be an industrial site. Not practical though. We’ve lost Motor Wheel and haven’t found a replacement industrial business. We lost Exemplar and although we’ve filled the building, it isn’t industrial, per se. We are about to loose ACH, aka Visteon, aka Ford, with no new buyers forthcoming. We don’t need any more industrial properties in Ypsilanti. We’d love to have more industrial business in Ypsilanti, but we can’t sustain them. Water Street needs to become something viable. Industry doesn’t seem to be the likely candidate.

  60. egpenet
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Manufacturing is far from “done” in the US of A.

    Are we to let it revive in Cleveland, Birmingham, Arlington, or wherever? Or are we to fight the good fight here in Michigan to change the thinking of our leadership nand legislature regarding taxes, and the whole enchillada?

    As far as Ypsilanti goes, the biggest issue now is NOT how much to pay AATA or what routes to negotiate … its the Depot itself.

    The Riverside neighborhood Association is losing neighbors who are selling because of the riffraff and crime and crude that goes on at the AATA Depot.

    AATA … clean it up or we will deal with you in a public manner that may make it very difficult to carry on bus service. Get your security people in there ASAP and clean house. Our neighbors are lining up to serve.

  61. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    To all, I still don’t get why there’s this much hubbub over a sandwich shop opening downtown. Anyone?

    Schutzman, That’s a good question, but not a good answer. But, if I must. I define blip in the context of a billion years or more.

    I’m a person of many interests but few passions. As such, people with passions interest me. And, I’m conflicted about history. Part of me is like, “It’s a crying shame someone knocked those noses off statues.” Another part is like, “Don’t we learn so much more about history from the fact that folks knocked off the noses off those assholes.”

    I’m just genuinely curious what drives your interest. I realize this could be a long diversion from the topic at hand. Feel free to link to preexisting explanations. Or e-mail me. Or, lets meet for a lecture over beer. Or, decide that your time isn’t worth pandering to my shallow interests. I just don’t understand why you want more paper or why we have to be narrowly locked into a certain previous use of any property in town, business or residential, for perpetuity.

  62. broke!
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    egpenet – unless you are going to buy me a vehicle of some sort, please do not do attempt to make it very difficult for the AATA to carry on bus service.

  63. Jean
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Definitions of Blip on the Web:

    Green costumed female.

    A detector is referred to as BLIP (background limited) when its detectivity D* is limited by the noise associated with the photons from the background radiation and not by intrinsic detector noise.

    Quickly rev then release the throttle

    a sudden minor shock or meaningless interruption; “the market had one bad blip today”; “you can’t react to the day-to-day blips”; “renewed jitters in the wake of a blip in retail sales”
    a radar echo displayed so as to show the position of a reflecting surface

    I would not say our industrial/manufacturing economy was a ‘blip.’ I would say it’s never going to be what it was or provide the job security or income levels it has in the past. SPARK East and town and gown reps are hatching plans (in the very early stages) to re-vamp the entire “Eastern Corridor” including ACH into some kind of research park. Maybe this conversation could be re-directed to try to suss out what they are proposing. It may bear more heavily on the concerns expressed than ‘a sandwich shop.’

  64. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


    I have been away for a few years and apparently in the mean time you’ve fixed all the issues with Ypsilanti’s business climate hurdles. Except maybe for the anti-density issue, which you addressed with the Chewbacca defense.

    I guess all you need now is sticks to fight off the hoards of investors.

    Finally, it’s a fantastic idea for mark to charge people $100 for sharing their opinions though I forsee his hosting company charging a bit more for service.

  65. Posted May 20, 2008 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I am positive that a form of Zingermans would do very well in Ypsilanti. All of their establishments are destinations and people from all over the country stop by Zingermans when they are in the area. We would certainly welcome them to our Thompson Block development in Depot Town.

  66. Brackache
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Hey Stewart, I saw your guys fixing the bricks down at sidewalk level on E Cross St. today. Was something cracking and/or falling off or what? Just curious.

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