Doing Business in Ypsi…. February 12 on Dreamland Tonight

dreamlandtonightlogoThe next episode of Dreamland Tonight, assuming we can get the script written, the guests lined up, and the video segments edited by then, is schedule for Saturday, February 12. The theme of the show, to the extent that there really are themes to these things, is Doing Business in Ypsilanti. My friend Chris and I have been going out and interviewing business owners on video these past few weeks, and we’ll be sharing their thoughts during the show, as well as talking with a few live guests about the opportunities and challenges of doing business here. Our intention isn’t to give the impression that Ypsi’s a lost cause by any means, and we’ll be talking with people who operate successful businesses here, but we intend to begin the show with a fairly comprehensive list of all the businesses that have shut their doors since January 1, 2010. Following is a rough draft of said list. If you know of any that I’ve forgotten, or think that I’ve mistakenly noted an open business as closed, let me know. And, of course, please feel free to leave a comment if you feel compelled to leave a eulogy for any of these places.

Cafe Luwak
Club Divine
Elbow Room (but it reopened)
Frog Island Creative Services
G’s Carribean Kitchen by Lover’s Lane
Glemps International
The Idle Hour on Ecorse
Hollywood Video
Ink for Life
J. Neil’s Mongolian Grill
The Keystone Underground
Leave No Stone Mortgage
Potts Studio in Depot town
Pub 13
Queen of Hearts Pastries
RealKidz Clothing
The Savoy
Second Chance Consignment on Washtenaw, in the former Kinko’s space
Simply Divine
Ted’s Campus Drugs (formerly Ted’s Pills ‘n Things)
Touramino’s pizza
The VG Kids storefront on Michigan Avenue
West Coast Sandwiches & Grill
The party store on Michigan Avenue, across the street from the library
The carpet and tax places in the former Cannon’s space on Hamilton (may have opened and closed in 2010)
The shoe place on North Washington, by the bus station
Coop’s poker (closed down by the law, could have been in 2009)
Screamin’ Eagle on Cross Street (could have closed in 2009)
Wings Wings (could have closed in 2009)

Tio’s (it’s since reopened as a Middle Eastern restaurant)
Red Sea Ethiopian restaurant

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  1. Posted February 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    And here are the positive stories…. Feel free to add to this list as well.

    Cafe Ollie
    Smarty Katz
    Stealth Hydro
    Brite Idea Tattoo
    LMT party store across from the Ypsi Transit Center
    The new resale shop by Abe’s Coney Island
    The web design firm on S. Washington
    Clean Energy Coalition (could have been in 2009)
    Middle Eastern restaurant in the former Tio’s space
    Sunshine Market
    The rehab of the former Cross Street Station building
    The sale of the Art Attack and Ted’s Campus Drugs buildings on Cross Street

  2. anonymous
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    closed (maybe in 2009)? West Coast Sandwiches & Grill, next to the party store on Cross Street near Ballard. College Inn Pizza seems to be going in there, having closed their place near The Keg on Huron@Forest?

  3. dan
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s just a matter of motivation, and knowing which element to start with.

  4. dan
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    oops, wrong thread.

  5. Aaron
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Mark, Is this one going to be put up online? I won’t be able to drive to Ypsi to see this (my car sucks, and it’s a bit cold to bike 50 miles).

  6. Miz Biz
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Please, please forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think you can add:

    -Frog Island Creative Services (their office now seems occupied by a P.I.)
    -Leave No Stone Mortgage (moved to A2 location)

    A couple things I think are important to note. First, Ypsi’s comparatively low rents make the whole city a bit of an incubator. This is a place where people can afford to take a shot at opening their own business. If they’re successful and bound by location (e.g., a restaurant) they stay. If they’re successful and can move to a larger or more profitable location, in or out of town, they may (e.g., VG Kids).

    Second, since we’re a natural incubator for new business, we can expect to see a good percent of them fail. People debate the numbers, some place the percent of new business failure as low as 20%, others as high as 80%. The most unbiased sources I find place it around 50%. Within that, some new businesses are far more likely to fail than others.

    Please take a look at this 2007 article in Forbes on the 10 highest-risk new businesses. Restaurants/bars and clothing stores are both in the top three. If you compare the top ten to the above list, you’ll find only a couple that weren’t in highest risk categories. (The most notable exception is Wolverine Law, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t close or leave town but just moved a block west to 16 N. Huron.)

    I think it’s worth considering how many of the businesses that closed would have survived anywhere, and whether whether they have afforded to stay in business as long or even open in the first place.

    Of course it’s always worth considering what we can do to make our city a better environment for entrepreneurs.

  7. Ale Roka
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Shouldn’t every business that has been open and successful for years (many for decades) be on the positive list?

    Your negative list includes stores that were open on a few years (and some that never really seemed to open) as well as businesses that had a long history in the city, where as the positive list only includes businesses that opened recently. How can you list “Rapid Shoe Fix” as a negative without listing their neighbor, Congdon’s Ace Hardware, as a positive?

  8. Posted February 6, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Absolutely, Ale. I didn’t mean to give the impression that these were the only successes. There are, as you mention, a number of companies that have thrived for years and continue to do so. The companies that I’ve mentioned here are just the new ones that have formed over the past year…. As for Rapid Shoe Fix, if I’m not mistaken, they’re still in business. The shoe store I mentioned was on North Washington, in the building that sits across from what was the BW3. It was only open a short while.

  9. Posted February 6, 2011 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Miz Biz, I agree completely, and I intend to bring that very point up during the show. Our relatively low rents, in my opinion, are both positive and negative. They’re positive in that, as you say, they lower the bar for the new entrepreneur. The down side, however, is that a lot of folks jump in without really thinking through what it is that they’re doing. I like that our downtown is an incubator, but I’d like mitigate the failures to some extent if possible. And my hope is that a public discussion like this one might help in some small way. We need, in my opinion, more opportunities for our successful entrepreneurs to talk with people considering doing things downtown.

  10. Posted February 6, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    And, yes, Aaron, it’ll eventually get online. It might take a while, though.

  11. Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Aw, Red Sea closed? That’s very sad… though I’ve been expecting it for years, since every time I’ve been in there my table was always the only one full.

  12. Posted February 6, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Totally scattered notes…

    Your “slightly outside the city” list brings us back to the ever-entertaining discussion of “where is Ypsi?” Idle Hour, G’s Caribbean, and Second Chance Consignment are all within the city limits. (Red Sea is “slightly” outside – the city limits cut that particular strip mall in half.)

    Also, re the businesses in the former Cannon’s building – are those closed? Didn’t they *open* in 2010? (If both those are true, do you have a category for that?)

    On the “plus / new” category: Crossroads Bar & Grill, where Screamin Eagle used to be on W Cross.

    Closed: Hollywood Video was a 2010 closure.

    Open: there’s a couple new signs up in the space that used to be U-Brew, just down the street from that. One’s a tax place; can’t remember the other.

    Tios: yes, was 2010.

    Positive: I think The Rocket’s move across the street and doubling of space deserves a mention on the “plus” column, along with the new salon next to it. (And I think the suit place that was in that space is in the “closed” column for that year.) (And the purchase and rehab underway of that building by the continuing juggernaut of downtown development that is Maurer Properties deserves mention in the “positive” column.)

  13. Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    One potentially interesting line of discussion would be to look at the perennially mayfly spaces: those that seem to have a revolving door of similar businesses open and close in rapid succession.

    Some examples, focused on W. Cross, whether because that’s a particular locus of this or just beacuse it’s the part I see most frequently:

    * 301 W. Cross: most recently Toarmina’s – previously Toarmina’s under different ownership, previously Cardozia’s, previously Leonardo’s…and all those opened and closed within the past 4-5 years. What is it that causes a stream of attempts at a pizza place to make a try at a space that’s flanked by Aubree’s, NYPD, College Inn, and Tower Inn all within a few blocks? Among those established businesses, most pizza niches are covered along Cross Street – while downtown you can’t get a slice.

    * 517 W. Cross: Crossroads Bar & Grill now, was Screamin’ Eagle Pub, was Andrew’s Bar & Grill, was D’Angoras, again, all within the last 4-5 years.

    * 505 W. Cross: College Inn now, was West Coast Sandwiches, was Town Cafe (mediterranean), was Taqueria Jalisco.

    Is there something about these properties that makes it inherently difficult for businesses to survive there? Or is it just that, given the failure rate of new restaurants, the places that are vacant for new food businesses to open up will be the places that are recently vacated by old food businesses, leaving a functional commercial kitchen? (A major startup expense.) We’ll see if College Inn – an established biz – breaks the startup cycle of 505 W. Cross.

  14. notoneofthecoolkids
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    For a few more years I think that the only people that can afford to take risks in downtown Ypsilanti are Trust Fund Babies, and rich wives whose husbands give them “a little shop.”(that is only open a few days a week)

  15. Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Huh. I think that sound I just heard was Bee tearing out notoneofthecoolkids’ spine with her bare hands.

  16. Peter Larson
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t think Movies4Sale was a trust fund baby.

  17. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    A couple notes:
    The place in the old U-Brew that Murph mentioned above is a “smoke” shop, or what would have been called a head shop just a few years ago, at least as far as I can tell from looking in the windows. It opened just before Xmas.

    D’Angoras/Andrew’s/Scream’n Eagle/Crossroads has never actually changed hands, it is owned by a man named Gianni, not the same one who owned the restaurant of the same name, this Gianni is Greek. It has been through several managers/investors. I booked music there for Andrew’s and Scream’n Eagle, and the arrangements between the owner and the folks who were “buying the business” were all pretty interesting, from my point a view.

    I think there is also a new resale shop in Depot town.

    There is a party store in the old store front church on Pearl across from the bus station. Its not much of a party store.

    The shoe store that Mark mentioned is also slated for a new shop. Judging from the window art, I’m guessing it will have something to do with Medical Marijuana, and I believe there is another M.M. facility of some sort set to open on Michigan ave.

  18. Bonnie
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    The former U-Brew is now Burn (a smoke shop, but not quite of the headshop variety- more of the tobacco/cigars variety) and a tax shop. There’s a tax shop in the old resale shop.

    I think the tax shop and flooring shop in the old Cannon’s down on S Hamilton are both still open.

    Clean Energy Coalition may well even date back to 2008, off the top of my head.

    Andy, the former-church-party-store you mention is LMT Party Store. The fellow that runs it, i believe, is related to the pastor at that former location.

    I’m with Murph; it’d be nice to see what plays a role in the high turnover at certain locations.

  19. Posted February 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    “Huh. I think that sound I just heard was Bee tearing out notoneofthecoolkids’ spine with her bare hands.”

    oh, murph, please! you didn’t know?! I only work a couple hours a week, Ive been married and INCREDIBLY wealthy this WHOLE time. It’s all been an act.

  20. notoneofthecoolkids
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    My post said, “over the next two years…” I never insulted any current business owner. I guess I have to get long winded and say… No banks are lending any money right now for a start up business. Period. And I didn’t realize that this site was so politically correct that I couldn’t also say that I feel that you have too have money to make money right now. I feel that most people that are able to risk starting a business TODAY in Ypsilanti have to have a lot of cushion, and who has that but trust fund babies or a non-working spouse of a spouse that makes big money. Is “spouse” more politically correct?

  21. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    I think Tom Monahan put some sort of conservative/jesus/pizza curse on 301 W. Cross when he left, causing all who enter to think its a good idea to put another pizza place in there, but dooming them to failure. Wasn’t it some sort of reggae pizza place for a minute, too? I seem to remember a Rasta lion on the sign.

    Bonnie, I thought maybe the party store was somehow related to the church. (As funny as that sounds when you say it.) They carry very, very, little. It seems to be there to cater to the bus stop. Not sure how for they’ll get on that model, but I suppose its worth a try if they already have the building.

    And not to be contrary, but:

  22. Christine M
    Posted February 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I don’t have time to read all these posts but not sure you mentioned the little red store in Normal park across from the pool. It was opened when I first met my Mark back in 2004 I think, then it closed and reopened briefly by a woman who attempted to run it unsuccessfully for a year or so only to close again. It’s been empty ever since.

  23. Smelly Tongues
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    What about that place called Mix at the corner of Washington and Michigan as another positive? I can’t remember when they opened though…maybe it was longer ago than I think. I haven’t actually been in there but it sounds like they are doing pretty well.

  24. Smelly Tongues
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Never mind…according to this article:—mixing-art-clothing-housewares-and-opera-in-ypsilanti/
    they’ve been there since December, 2009. That’s close though right? At any rate, it’s a positive for Ypsi that they are still in business.

  25. dp in ypsi
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    B52’s, formerly Bombadill’s, opened Saturday afternoon (2/5/11).

    I like the remodel, and the sandwich menu looks good too. They even have an ice cream cooler ready for warmer weather in a few months!

  26. Redleg
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Dp, make that B24’s……

  27. dp in ypsi
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Ahh.. yes, a typo probably inspired by subconscious and bad radio/MTV memories.

    On a related note… I have the pleasure of knowing several folks from Germany. Unfortunately, I didn’t consider the cultural implications of taking some of them to the Bomber. While this is among my most favorite breakfast restaurants, and the stuff on the walls and ceilings has long blended into the background for me, the look of horror on the face of my German friends reminded me that the Bomber, and now B24’s, are monuments to what some would argue was unnecessary carpet bombing and endless destruction of Germany and other parts of Europe.

    Let’s say it made for interesting conversation.

  28. Posted February 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I think that Dalat, HAAB’s and Deja Vu should all be listed as positives.

  29. Amanda
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Opens or Plusses:
    Temptations isn’t with the city but is a great local asset and since it’s been re-opened has been fabulous. They’re take out “lunch box” special is an amazing amount of delicious food for not much. Also in that area of Washtenaw Leoni’s Bistro is plugging away– not sure how they’re doing, but they do employ one of our former youth from Growing Hope who sings and plays the piano on Friday & Saturday nights!

    Hawkins Place had a fire and I was worried they might have closed permanently, but they re-opened pretty quickly. I love their soul food & bbq.

    As much as I’m not a chain person, I think the Walgreens at MI and Prospect has been really handy, and I appreciate that they have bike racks (likely the city’s doing?). And, at least I’m now spending my chain prescription money within the city instead of out of it.

    Mix is definitely a big plus– and I hope they continue to set the bar high for *beautiful* window displays (as does the Rocket)…

    Tap Room’s expansion has been newish and great…

    The Beer Cooler has been working with the public health dept to help expand fresh produce offerings, which is great. Dos Hermanos, now there for a few years, continues to fill a great niche for a downtown grocery.

    Closed or minuses:
    On the closed list is Cal’s party store on Michigan at 1st Ave, and that’s sad– fortunately Cal’s still around in the building next door (that has a church and a gym) and he’s a really good neighbor. Cal let us have a running tab and always looked out for our property, even calling police when there seemed to be people up to no good at our place (Growing Hope Center) across the street.

    The donut place in the gas station on Harriet/Spring and Huron got a nice write up about the owners when it first opened, but it closed…

    I’d definitely count more or new predatory tax places as a big negative, not a positive. I think most are bad neighbors.

    I think it’s in about the last year or so that the Mexican place on W. MI Ave next to Paradise Manor closed.

    We also lost my favorite Middle Eastern place– Al Noor– on Washtenaw (maybe not in the city limits), though I’m very happy with Pita Pita (who I highly recommend for catering delicious affordable healthy food– we use them a lot!).

    There’s an NYPD in Ypsi? Where?

  30. Amanda
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    good to note, too, that some places moved (as in leave no stone, though candace didn’t leave town and is still very involved as a resident), or took other forms, and didn’t necessarily fail as businesses… mary potts still has her photography business, just not as a storefront, queen of hearts isn’t (i’m pretty sure) dissolving, but will be doing their cake business without a storefront (and something awesome is going to go in there), and as noted vg kids grew into a bigger space… so those to me go into the success category, or at least not the loss/failure. for folks to realize that their business energy is better put into a different part of their core business– and potentially a retail-esque space isn’t that part, and for them to make a decision to focus there instead, is a good thing… and maybe that storefront, even for a time, allowed them to gain brand recognition, build relationships, and loyalty– then that can be a good part of the incubation-role people mentioned our town plays…

  31. Posted February 8, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    “There’s an NYPD in Ypsi? Where?”

    Perrin Street, between Emmet and Cross, for about three years now? (It’s actually “Uncle D’s New York Pizza Depot”, I understand an independently-owned franchise of Ann Arbor’s NYPD.)

  32. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I think NYPD/Uncle D’s lost their franchise and is now “Ypsi Pizza Depot” or YPD for short. I find that funny, because I heard the reason they were Uncle D’s was because the NY Police Department were not hoppy their moniker had been co-opted, and the pizza place agreed not to use it any more. I wonder how our local police feel about lending their name to a pizza place?

  33. Meaghan
    Posted February 8, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    “I think that Dalat, HAAB’s and Deja Vu should all be listed as positives.”

    I agree with all of those. I live right near Deja Vu and they’re good neighbors. I’d add La Fiesta Mexicana and Materials Unlimited to the positives.

  34. Benja
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Your nuts trying to compare businesses and even their respective stories on Washtenaw, in the Ecorse road area, in Depot Town, on West Cross and in the Downtown as one big pool. It just isn’t valid nor is it helpful to anyone. Each area has their own challenges and benefits, not necessarily related to each other. Just because Washtenaw has a bunch of businesses that come and go doesn’t really relate to what happens in Depot Town for example. Cafe Luwak closing for example had nothing to do whatsoever with Ecorse Road or Washtenaw businesses. If you are going to do what you are considering, why not throw in Ypsi Township, Pittsfield Township, Superior Township and Augusta Township for starters. Let’s make the story really bad for all of those Ann Arbor lovers!

  35. Ester Wekenmann
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Will this be on-line anytime soon?

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