Playing chess on Water Street… Ypsi Food Co-op takes Family Dollar in three moves

So, yesterday, as Arlo and I were chasing “Sammy the Turkey” around Feral Farm, it kind of came to me in a flash what we should be working toward on Water Street. It would take some strategizing on our part to make it work, but I think there’s a chance that, if we play all of our cards right, the citizens of Ypsilanti might be able to avoid the worst of what’s on the horizon (i.e. the lowest common denominator strip mallification of our downtown). Here, to begin with, are the main facts as I know them.

1. A few weeks ago, over the objections of many in the community, our City Council, concerned about the economic calamity ahead of us, voted to accept a $210,000 bid by Core Resources LLC for a parcel of City-owned land at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Park Street. (The company’s stated intent is to build a dollar store on the lot.) Assuming the company breaks ground on schedule, this will be the fist new construction to be undertaken on 38-acre downtown parcel commonly referred to as “Water Street,” since the City assembled the property nearly 14 years ago, in hopes that doing so would usher in a new era of prosperity.

2. Several folks in the community, for reasons that we’ve discussed on the site before, are hoping that the Family Dollar, which is slated for the site, fails, like the Quizno’s in Depot Town (which is now Harvest Kitchen), the Long John Silver’s on Washtenaw (which is now Tuptim Thai), and any number of other large chains that have attempted to thrive here, only to ultimately create space for our beautifully parasitic local entrepreneurs.

3. The Ypsi Food Co-op needs to expand. Their annual gross sales have grown from $500,000 in 2005, to $1.6 million last year, and they’re in desperate need of space. (Their current retail space is 1,600 square feet.) Over the past several years I’ve had numerous conversations with people at the Co-op about either opening a second location downtown, or moving the whole operation to a larger building that can better accommodate the needs of the community. At one point, we even discussed the possibility of opening a new Ypsi Food Co-op on Water Street, but, as I recall, it was determined that new construction would be far too costly, even for the successful community-based business.

I know that it’s unlikely, but, assuming that the dollar store is a foregone conclusion, as it now appears to be, let’s imagine the best case scenario…

Core Resources invests $1.2 million in the construction of a 8,320 square foot facility at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Park. Said facility closes for unforeseen reasons. And the Ypsi Food Co-op moves in, purchasing the property for a deep discount, more than quadrupling their space, and bringing groceries to the underserved south side of Michigan Avenue. And, who knows, maybe they even buy the adjacent lot so that they can operate that Water Street farmers’ market we’d dreamed of.

Is it a long shot? Absolutely. Anything could happen on the site. The Family Dollar could thrive. Certainly their market research has shown them it’s likely. And, even if they were to fail, there’s no guarantee that the Co-op would inherit the space. The building could, for all we know, evolve into a blood plasma center, or a pot dispensary. There’s no harm in dreaming, though… And I really do think this is the best possible outcome – a locally owned food co-op in the heart of downtown, next to the small native prairie that we just planted. That, I think, would usher in real, sustainable economic development a lot more quickly than a dollar store. (Can’t you just picture the cohousing community being built along the banks of the river, right behind the thriving co-op?)

So, let’s keep that vision in our minds, and not lose hope, alright?

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  1. Edward
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    This is what economic development should look like.

  2. Ann Schneider
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Has the game of chess ever included picket demonstrations? This could be a first, too. Or maybe we could bake them cookies and give them a warm welcome to placate them before they’re squashed.

  3. Dan Gillotte
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Of course, I love this idea, Mark! Having a vision for what you want the downtown to look like is crucially important to have it become real. I would love to see the food co-op expanded to a good-sized store because it would be awesome. You go Mark!

  4. Knox
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    When you mentioned “three moves” in the title I was hoping there would be actionable steps, but I don’t suppose it would make sense in the post to say “drive family dollar out of business through shoplifting, intimidation and a liberal application of vermin”.

  5. Alice Krum
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I have a question. Let’s say Family Dollar fails. Is there anything prohibiting that location being used for other types of business, like the hypothetical blood plasma center Mark mentions?

  6. Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I know the City is going through the process of zoning Water Street, so that it’s more clear to future developers, so, every time a new project is brought up, it doesn’t need to be voted on by Council. I’m not sure, however, what kinds of businesses might be precluded under the new scheme. Furthermore I don’t know if any understanding reached with Core/Family Dollar would continue onward should another entity take over the building. For instance, right now, there’s apparently a use restriction which would keep competitive businesses off the site. Here’s a clip from the article.

    …The city is agreeing to “burden the balance of the Water Street property” with an exclusive use restriction for the benefit of the Family Dollar parcel precluding the remaining property from being used as a variety discount store, like a Dollar General, Bonus Dollar, or Dollar Tree. A big box discount department store, like a Target, Walmart, K-Mart or Meijer is expressly allowed…

    One would assume that the first grocer on the site would have a similar agreement.

  7. Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Like I said in the post, I have no idea what the future holds for Family Dollar. All I know is that other national chains have tried Ypsi and failed. And, furthermore, I know that Family Dollar is growing quickly in hopes of gaining market share from entrenched competitors. Given that, I think there’s a chance, albeit slight, that they might overreach and then cut back. It’s certainly happened in other instances. These companies poke in their blood funnel, and, if they aren’t getting enough out, they cut their losses and move on. So, I think there’s a chance. Here, with more on Family Dollar’s current situation, is a clip from the Motley Fool last month.

    A couple of years back, uber-discount stores were the market’s retail favorite, as the economy was still in the dumpster, and people liked the idea of spending no more than $1 on any given item. For Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO ) , whose five-year chart shows near 200% gains, the dollar business has been a winning formula — up until recently. Traditional retailers, from food to department stores, have fought back to regain their discount customers — and with some degree of success. Now, with the bulk of growth behind it, how will Family Dollar and its peers perform going forward?

    Earlier this month, Family Dollar released its fiscal second quarter earnings release. The headline numbers looked relatively encouraging –earnings per share bumped up 5.2%, to $1.21 per share, while comparable-store sales ticked up an attractive 2.9%. Total sales increased nearly 18%, to $2.9 billion, partially driven by the opening of 126 new stores. Investors need to note, however, that this quarter included an extra week. That week yielded an additional $189 million in sales — or $0.07 per share. Gross margins declined by 146-basis points.

    The company is in the midst of an overhaul — renovating its stores in hopes of continuing its growth pattern from the past few years. During the second quarter, the company renovated, relocated, or expanded 330 stores, and is on track to transform 850 by the end of the fiscal year. Management did not break down comparable sales figures for the renovated/relocated stores, but claims the returns (on investment) are on target and show better numbers than the untouched locations. Management noted that the company gained both foot traffic and market share in the quarter.

    Overall, it seems the company is wisely addressing the fact that the immediate period after the financial crisis, which was advantageous to their business, has now passed. Sales are still growing, and comparable sales are up, as well — but what are we looking at in the future?

    One of the ways in which the company is trying to widen its draw is by expanding into apparel and home goods. Family Dollar, along with its discount brethren, is known for affordable consumables. In the most recent quarter, consumables still accounted for nearly 70% of sales. However, the company’s push into discretionary spending is concerning due to the fact that they are going head to head with immensely successful discount discretionary retailers such as TJ Maxx.

    Family Dollar is pushing into a hyper-competitive space with a name that does not carry the same weight in discretionary spending as it does with consumables. Management, again, is not blind to this. In the conference call, the COO mentioned: “Our Apparel and Home sales remain challenged. Our customer is making choices, and this has caused us to reset our expectations for the rest of the year.”

    In an otherwise encouraging quarter (with the exception of margin pressure), this is clearly a troubling new area for the company. Investors need to keep an eye on the renovated stores, and if they are successful in drawing in home and apparel customers.

    Family Dollar trades at 14.3 times forward earnings, compared to 13.6x for Dollar General, and 14.66x for Dollar Tree. TJ Maxx, though not a direct competitor, trades at nearly 15 times forward earnings.

    Given tepid growth prospects, despite the attractive market share gains, I don’t find Family Dollar’s valuation to warrant an investment at this point. This company, along with the other dollar stores, has made its fantastic run — it’s likely time to look elsewhere for big gains.

  8. K2
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    According to their website, they open stores aggressively and close very few, but it’s still a good idea.

    “Family Dollar closes very few stores, and the landlords with the least tenant turnover usually have the best cash flow in their centers.”

  9. jcp2
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    All you have to do is put on a local version of the color run every month, and with the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised with each event, buy up parcels on Water Street and donate it to the local co-op.

  10. Mc5
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Why didn’t our local officials, knowing that the co-op was looking for space on Water Street just give them the land five years ago and help them raise the money to do it. It would have been possible. Or at least it would have been worth a shot. Instead, after a dozen years, we have a dollar store that won’t do shit to change things. I’m left to think that our bloggers and elected officials should change places.

  11. Posted May 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    if only the wishful child-of-successful-developer (nee Stuart Beal) that owns the Thompson Block building would have put a roof and flooring in his structure many years back- you know, back in the time frame he said he would do so.

    The entire thing could have been 3000 sq foot proven-successful retail below, and guaranteed-rented apartments above.

    Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’m sure the vunderkind who is in charge of that brick pile will find some smart folks to take this particular opportunity cost off of his taxes.

  12. chess punt
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    “sustainable economic development.”

    Sounds good. But I prefer: “sustainable social redevelopment.”

    Can you flesh out what “sustainable economic development” means in this scenario? If one simply defines the words, it sounds like people making money for a long time.

    The other term that confuses me is “dollar store.” Is that a:

    a) Store with “dollar” in its name,
    b) Store where everything costs 1 dollar, or
    c) Store that accepts payment in dollars?

    Preface: I love the co-op. Loyalist. Take it or leave it.


    1. How would this conversation be different if “Family Dollar” was changed to “Trader Joe’s.”
    2. Which business would move us closer to becoming Ann Arbor: an expanded Co-op on Water Street or a Family Dollar.
    3. Which business (above) will be more likely to service, and less likely to displace, current residents most near Water Street.

    (Op-ed: The real failure of Water Street isn’t economic. It’s that from day one it was about displacement and replacement. It was about economic development … for a narrow economy and their property values. “Sustainable” is a value high up the hierarchy of needs.)

    I recall the discussion of “dollar stores” took on a different timbre here:

    We wanted to live in a city where I can get all of our goods and services without a car, and that will never happen in Ypsi as long as the Historical District prevents rehabilitation and the master plan prohibits corner stores and increased residential density.

    I (and presumably Steve) agree that people from the suburbs are not interested in Ypsilanti, and that is why Michigan Avenue has no businesses. Michigan Ave will stay empty as long as City Council continues to pine for businesses that will never locate in Ypsi while preventing anyone else from trying to open one.

    Posted May 29, 2006 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
    Mark: I buy our cleaning products, office supplies, toothpaste, yarn, canning jars and lids, kitchen utensils and other housewares, and hundreds of other things at dollar stores. Dollar stores are the modern equivalent of the old five-and-dime.


    What’s “sustainable social redevelopment”? Google it. Then create it.

  13. chess punt
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Final thought. Remember when lots of people were all worried that if the Thompson Block allowed “The Barracks” (reborn as Woodruff’s; post flames) to open in Depot Town all parking (and the neighborhood) would be shot to hell?

    I haven’t checked. But I’ve heard Woodracks opened. And I can still park.

    Might it be, that our worst fears and grandest ambitions, are what hold our present Utopia in …

  14. Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Chess. As I’m falling asleep, I don’t know how far I’ll get, but I’ll try to get started on it.

    1. As I have friends that work at Trader Joe’s and speak highly of the company, yes, I’d say that I’d be more willing to have a Trader Joe’s in my backyard than a Family Dollar. Family Dollar, on average, pays people something like 4-cents over minimum wage, whereas Trader Joe’s pays significantly better. And it’s my understanding that insurance is easier to come by. So, if I had to choose, I’d choose Trader Joe’s. They also carry relatively inexpensive dairy products, and good assortment of staples… like those peanut butter filled pretzels.

    2. With that said, though, I’d likely prefer the Co-op to Trader Joe’s, even knowing that insurance is probably less easy to obtain, and the pay is likely less. It’s something that I struggle with, but I think local ownership is important. More of the money that I spend at the Co-op stays in the community. And I like knowing the people that I do business with. Trader Joe’s, while their food is good, is owned by a German company, if I’m not mistaken. I still shop there on occasion, so I guess I’m a hypocrite to some extent, but I still think the Co-op would be a better fit for downtown.

    3. Granted, I haven’t been in a Family Dollar in some time, and I realize that they don’t strictly conform to the “all this shit from China that didn’t sell anywhere else just costs a buck” model. They have items that cost more than a dollar. And, from what I understand, their stuff tends to be less disposable. So, in the whole scheme of things, things could be worse. We could be getting a Dollar Tree, or some other place selling odd lots of junk food and assorted crap. With that said, though, we’ve already got two. There is a Family Dollar at 1821 E. Michigan Ave, and another at 1001 Emerick. In my opinion, we don’t need another downtown, adding to the homogeneity. I believe that (downtown) Ypsi has an edge over places like Ann Arbor in that we’ve been able to maintain our uniqueness to some extent (not all by our choosing, but still), and I’d hate to throw that away with just another downtown strip mall of check cashing places, dollar stores and fast food franchises. Yes, people apparently patronize those places, but it’s my belief that we’ll never really find stability with that as our base… I don’t want to see anyone here priced out of the market. I don’t want gentrification. But we need to attract young, bright creative types, entrepreneurs, professionals and people with ideas if we’re going to be successful. We need to start businesses, we need to invent things, and we need to grow our tax base. And that won’t happen, in my opinion, with dollar stores.

    4. I like my vision as I’ve laid it out in this post. I like the idea of a larger Co-op with a farmers market next door, abutting a native plant commons, with residential cohousing units along the river. That, to me, would be what a forward-looking community would look like… one that was positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the future. And I’d bet money that I’m right when I say that a community like that would fare better than one that sold off property to the likes of Family Dollar.

    I really am falling asleep now. Sorry.

  15. Posted May 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    As for Woodruff’s, I’m told that some of the criticism was from business owners who didn’t want another competitor. Personally, I think competition is good, and I don’t think we’ve reached our saturation point yet. So, no, I wasn’t expecting the world to end when Woodruff’s opened their doors. As I understand it, there was also a little racism at play, with some people thinking that Andy would bring the “urban” bar scene with him from Ann Arbor to Ypsi. That also never materialized…. I guess your point is that the world won’t end when Family Dollar opens its doors. I never said that it would, though. I think it’s the wrong thing for downtown, but I’m not going to throw my hands up in the air and give up when they open their doors. There are still other things that need to be done…. and other opportunities.

  16. karen
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    if the co-op needs to expand so badly, maybe we should boycott bona sera. the family dollar isn’t built yet, but bona sera is a business we could drive away now.

  17. K
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It’s not that the Co-op needs to expand badly, it’s that a second store, on the South side, would be a boon to the people of our city.

    Co-ops are a beacon in the landscape of greed and private enterprise, in that no one profits from them.

  18. Eel
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Mark, can you offer a remedial course in reading comprehension for your readers? We could do it after hours at the library, working around Karen’s schedule.

  19. Dennis
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Isn’t Corrine the general manager of the co-op and the owner of the building? Why would she be interested in losing a tenant?

  20. Pete Murdock
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    @mark and MC5 – As to the Food Co-Op, it wasn’t “widely known” that the Food Co-Op was looking for space on Water Street, and in fact, they weren’t. Sure others talked about that possibility and when the City approached the Co-Op about moving to Water Street, they said that weren’t in a position financially or otherwise to undertake that. The City even suggested the possibility of the Co-op partnering with the developer that was looking to have Aldi’s as a tenant when Aldi’s dropped out. But again the Co-Op wasn’t ready to do that. That was then. If circumstances have changed and now there is in interest in the Food Co-Op relocating as an owner or tenant on Water Street that certainly can be pursued.

  21. 734
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    More co-ops. Fewer chains.

  22. chess punt
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the reply, Mark. For the record, I’m not speaking from the perspective of strongly held views on the merits of a Family Dollar. I like raising questions on topics I’m still thinking through, in a forum where I can benefit from other’s thoughtful perspectives.

    I won’t drag this on, but two more things I’m weighing:

    1. I’ll admit it, I’ve got a bug up my butt about Trader Joe’s. It seems all packaging and no substance … including paying enough above minimum wage that their higher-income clientele isn’t uncomfortable with the outdated hairstyles of cashiers. (TJs cashiers seem almost universally cool, right? Therefore, TJs is cool.) Yes, they have items labelled “organic” intermixed with the blueberries from Chile and apple juice boxes from China. But, I think it’s important to ask how much above minimum wage the apple juice boxers in China are making before thinking of the company as progressive due, largely, to aesthetics (which includes cashiers tattoos. When was the last time you saw someone who “looked” underpaid at TJs? Everyone at Kroger looks underpaid. How much more do TJ’s employees make?).

    And, I recall one of the early “wants” for Water Street was a chain grocery store which would be much more of a threat to our co-op than Family Dollar. I think if Water Street had landed a TJs, there would be (not saying from you, Mark) high-fives from dusk til dawn.

    2. This is the biggie:
    I don’t want gentrification.
    But we need to attract young, bright creative types, entrepreneurs, professionals and people with ideas if we’re going to be successful. We need to start businesses, we need to invent things, and we need to grow our tax base.

    But that is gentrification. Why do we need to attract, start, invent, grow? To what end, if not gentrification? How could you possibly attract, start, invent and grow and not gentrify?

    And what will gentrification get us that we don’t already have? Lower crime. Better schools. Higher property values. Trader Joe’s…

    Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Brooklyn, didn’t gentrify over night. Baby steps. We’re are taking big ones. If Family Dollar slows us down a bit … eh?

    …if we’re going to be successful.

    So how do define success? And who can afford to live here when we achieve it?

    Appreciate any perspectives. Especially those other than my own.

  23. alan2102
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Searching “sustainable social redevelopment” yields nothing; “sustainable social development” seems to be the phrase. However, it is used overwhelmingly in international and global-development contexts; i.e. world bank, UNESCO, etc., etc.; little that can be easily related to a discussion of small local issues in the U.S.

    Very difficult to find any use of the phrase dealing with anything below nation level; e.g. (see chart 3 on page 13):

  24. alan2102
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    “So how do define success? And who can afford to live here when we achieve it?”

    Great questions!

  25. anonymo
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    First we need to answer the questions, Who shops at Family Dollar, and Why?

    Then we need to answer the question, Why do most liberals shop neither at food co-ops nor at Family Dollar?

    Then we’ll be getting somewhere.

  26. Posted May 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Alan Haber has a phrase that I like. He says, “revolution without executions.” It’s not quite the same but i like “economic development without displacement.” I don’t want to see people pushed out. But, at the same time, I want more opportunities for those of us who chose to live here…. at every level of the income scale. I don’t know how realistic it is, but I think that it should be the goal. And I think the alternative – remaining on course – is untenable.

  27. Posted May 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    As for shopping, I presently buy groceries primarily at Meijer, the Co-Op, Trader Joes, Dos Hermanos, Whole Foods, and the occasional Indian grocery. It depends on the route I’m taking and what I need. When I go to Trader Joes it’s usually for dairy, wine and various snack stuff. As for Whole Foods, I generally try to go there for antibiotic and hormone free meat, when I can afford it. Everything else I generally pick up at the other places… Or the farmers market. (we’ve had a CSA share for the past several years)

  28. Posted May 29, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Also, Mr. Punt, according to, the average Trader Joe’s sales associate makes between $12 and $13 an hour. It’s not a comprehensive study, and I’m sure there are fluctuations by region, but it would seem higher than minimum wage. And, Wikipedia would appear to verify this. “As of 2013, pay for entry-level Crew Members was $10 to $12 an hour,” the online encyclopedia says. As we’ve discussed before, Family Dollar appears to pay just a few cents above minimum wage on average.

  29. Posted May 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment, Pete. I wasn’t aware that the City suggested that the Co-op look at Water Street. That fact never came up in my limited discussions. I do, however, remember having met with Co-op management to brainstorm as to how they might finance a downtown location, and, in that context, Water Street was definitely mentioned. I don’t know how “widely known” it was, but I can tell you that it did come up in my talks, and I’m sure if I knew about it, others did as well.

  30. chess punt
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I feel like to pull off a revolution without executions must require a fair bit of pre-planning … getting everybody with a machette on the same page. Likewise, economic development without displacement, since it’s maybe never been done, would seem to require a common, pre-planned, coordinated effort. You and I share a common goal, but there may be a reason “gentrification” is a familiar noun but there is no noun, that I’m aware of, for “economic development without displacement.”

    I realize there are a lot of assumptions here, but, can we assume that if there were a Trader Joe’s opening on Water Street, there would be less objections?

    Yes, Trader Joe’s pays U.S. employees significantly more than Family Dollar. My assertion is that they do so for public image at relatively low cost. Six to eight cashiers earning a few dollars more, looking hip, is a low business expense, especially since it is also part of the marketing budget. I want to know if Glassdoor can tell me how much the apple juice processors in China are making. Or the blueberry pickers in Chile. Or where most of the products in a TJs even come from? My maybe foolish assumption is that TJs pays the bulk of its global suppliers the same rates as Family Dollar.

    Certainly, they come from the same places with different labels.

    If we’re going to be serious about global sustainable practices, we can’t be fooled by smoke and mirrors. TJs may pay U.S. employees more than other discount stores, but it’s a discount store, a major importer, WalMart meets Family Dollar at a Tiki Party. (TJs doubles Whole Foods profit per square foot. Doubles.)

    If you can conceive that Trader Joe’s is basically a Family Dollar branded for a different crowd … and if you can presume that a TJs is as (more, or nearly as) globally unsustainable as a Family Dollar … and if a TJs would be more welcome in Ypsi and if TJs was a greater threat to the more sustainable co-op … a lot of ifs, I know. Judge for yourself how many ifs are is.

    One final if. If Trader Joe’s was opening on Water Street, would Mark (Mark, you can answer) have posted a hope that it fails? If so, why? If not, why not?

    For the record, I’ve bought produce at Target. More than twice. No judging.

    P.S. Alan2102: “Searching ‘sustainable social redevelopment’ yields nothing.” Nope. It doesn’t. It’s extremely rare to find a string of three common words that, placed in Google, yield nothing. (You only have to change one of those words to get a lot more results.) I think Ypsi is making pretty good headway in the realm of sustainable social redevelopment…

  31. Edward
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    What would you have us do, Chess Punt? Should we not attempt to grow jobs in Ypsilanti and increase our tax base? Should we leave things as they are, and allow an emergency manager to come in and sell off our assets? Would that be preferable to running the risk that property values might rise, forcing some renters from Ypsilanti? Is cheap rent more important than having a fire department?

  32. karen
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    wouldn’t it be funny if family dollar did fail and was replaced by a giant quiznos? i’d laugh my ass every day while enjoying delicious grilled sandwiches.

  33. K
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Chess Punt is awesome.

  34. jcp2
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t think economic improvement without eventual gentrification is possible. That ideal of a bustling commercial district surrounded by residents of all economic backgrounds may be a transitory and an inherently unstable one. Either the area is attractive, and people want to move in, thus bidding up the price of residency, either in rents or property prices, or the area is not attractive, and people move out, driving down the price of residency. Putting in special rules to guarantee affordable housing is fraught with all sorts of problems, including setting the rules of what is affordable, setting the price of what is affordable, and having people game the system to fall within the rules.

  35. double anonymous
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Do you really think that gentrification is the biggest issue facing Ypsilanti right now?

  36. Dennis
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    The biggest issue facing Ypsilanti right now is hoop houses.

  37. Ypsi
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Karen has stated previously on this site that she doesn’t mind peeing and pooping in front of people. This also goes a long way toward explaining her posts.

  38. Elliott
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure what we hope to gain from your hypothetical, Chest Thump. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Mark would prefer a Trader Joe’s to a Family Dollar, and a Family Dollar to a junk yard. What does it prove? We all rank things on a continuum based on the data available to us. I don’t know all the factors he considered, but, when you asked him about it, he mentioned that Trader Joe’s pays significantly better, and has good prices on quality staples like dairy and wine. (I’d add that retail investment in the area would more likely follow the opening of a Trader Joe’s than a Family Dollar, but he didn’t mention that.) You seem to think, however, that he really likes Trader Joe’s better because they hire “hipster cashiers with tattoos”. Clearly you have an issue with Trader Joe’s, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to a conversation about Mark’s desire to have the Ypsi Food Co-op move into the Family Dollar building. He wasn’t even arguing for a Trader Joe’s. I’ve enjoyed your comments, but the straw man argument about Trader Joe’s is just stupid.

  39. Posted May 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    A food coop is VASTLY preferable to a Trader Joe’s for many of the reasons Chess cited. But there are many more, some of which Mark cited: local ownership (US, the members) is key. Also the fact that no shareholders profit. Also that money stays in our local economy. Also that international ethical principles guide the business decisions. Also that it has more than 200 local supplies/vendors/farmers. Also that it cares to install 60 solar panels that power not only the Co-op but also surrounding businesses on sunny days with renewable energy. Also that it has a beer & wine license. (MARK!!! Buying wine where???) Also that it sponsors outstanding important sustainability projects like Solar Ypsi and the Local Honey Project. Also that we can shop there by bus, bike, or on foot.

    Don’t know what point I was really making except going off on a tangent of Co-op Love.

  40. Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Yup. I drink cheap wine. I don’t have a very sophisticated palate, and Charles Shaw fits my budget… and I think it’s pretty good. But, yes, I’ve also bought beer and wine at the co-op. I’ve also been known to splurge on a pie when I’ve got a little extra money to spend. You’ll get no disagreement from me about the co-op being a great local asset…. Which exactly why I started this thread, suggesting we somehow get them into the Family Dollar building.

    And I’m not sure how this thread came to be about my desire to get Trader Joe’s on Water Street, as I never said that. I’ve been pretty consistent, I think, on my no-chains stance. It is true, though, that I don’t hate them as much as most. But that doesn’t mean that I think they’re right for downtown.

  41. chess punt
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    We’ve been led to believe that Ypsi is in a state of crisis. That our skin doesn’t look young enough, that our public schools are failing, that there is a criminal on the loose hiding under our kitchen sink, that our jeans don’t flatter our butts, that we’re a commercial or economic plan away from safe or catastrophe.

    Do you really think that gentrification is the biggest issue facing Ypsilanti right now?

    Yes. The gentry are never satisfied. They always want more opportunity. growth. progress,. success. Progress, progress, progress. More for less. More for less. Don’t tax me. Give me more for less. Best at less. Clear my path…

    They aspire to something undefined beyond their own ambition and, therefore, they crash into through to the unattainable …

    Ypsi is, today, right now, in the moment (and has been for some long time), pretty fucking awesome. Full of life, friendship, danger, fruit … and [fill in] on it goes. Gentrification will ruin the present in a blink.

    Gentrification is the biggest threat since a) it is capable of displacing residents more quickly than any other threat and b) the other big “threats” (schools, public safety, etc.) can be defeated by us being willing to pay for those services as much as we pay for cable and cell phones.

    The threat to Ypsi, as it now lives, is not declining property values or increasing tax rates. It’s the gentry who value property values and tax rates as the measure of success.

  42. anonymous
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    CP, I think you’re going to lose people with your “gentrification is the biggest threat to Yspi” stuff. I can accept that it’s a threat, but when we’re laying off teachers and fire fighters right and left, it comes across as naive. Do yourself a favor and look at the Water Street debt. That’s a real threat. Soaring rents are not. It could be an issue in the future, but it’s not the most pressing concern we’re dealing with today. No one disagrees that Ypsilanti is a wonderful place. You make it sound like people want to change the city because it’s not cool enough. No one is saying that. People are saying that they want jobs, and a tax base that supports basic public services.

  43. Posted May 31, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Sounds like we need to organize our chess pieces, players and strategize together.

  44. Dan
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    So stepping back to the original post. Mark’s dream for Ypsi is to lure corporate chains to build buildings, and then run them out of town? Fill those buildings with places like Pacific Burrito, J Neils Mongolian Grille, etc. and then iterate on different failed restaurants and businesses until downtown looks like a conglomerate of old taco bells selling everything from soul food to tobacco.

    Isnt that what Washtenaw Ave did? Personally, I’m embarassed at how shitty Washtenaw looks. It looks exactly like a main road that cant keep a business for more than a year or two. This is the goal?

    Secondly, that entire premise relies on having businesses fail. Empty buildings for the “parasites” to move in to.

    Arent there enough vacant buildings downtown and in the city? If there were such a market for this type of thing, why are so many of the old buildings still vacant? Why hasnt somone moved into the old Piano Bar. or the various places around it?

    The thing you continue to fail to realize (and the council is finally accepting) is that the hipster eutopia you dream of will only happen when the market dictates it. There’s a reason why Family Dollar wants yet another location. There’s a reason why Burger King was willing to build a new restaurant there, why Aldi wanted to build there. There’s a reason why check cashing places open up. There’s a reason why mostly the places that thrive in Ypsi are fast food joints, liqour stores, and bars. it’s called market demographics.

    Forcing your dream of art parks and urban chickens caters to maybe 5% of Ypsi (probably being very generous there). The rest want cheap groceries, cheap food, and couldnt give a shit about where the food comes from. They are trying to make ends meet, trying to not get evicted or foreclosed.

    you talk about not wanting gentrification, but thats EXACTLY what you want. You want to force the people that cant afford to eat at Bona Sera out. You want to force the people that dont buy coffee from the Ugly Mug out. And thats the VAST majority of the population of Ypsi. Most will buy pre-ground coffee from Family Dollar or Kroger

    Also, the people you want to attract already have a home down the road. They have no reason to move to a city with astronomical tax rates, despicable schools, and horrific budget issues.

  45. Elliott
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Dan, Mark did not say that his dream is to have corporations open businesses in Ypsi, only to have them fail, making their buildings available for local entrepreneurs. He was against Family Dollar from the start. What he did say, however, is that we might be able to salvage things in this instance, if Family Dollar closes and the Co-op moves in.

  46. Chess Punt
    Posted May 31, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Why wait for Family Dollar? Walgreen’s is a nice, big retailer. Let’s put Walgreen’s out of business and move the co-op in. There employees are underpaid, anyway, and should find employment elsewhere. They probably hate there jobs.


    -Does not vote for tax increases that would keep public safety on the job.
    -Does not send its kids to public schools.
    -Does not shop at a co-op or a family dollar.
    -Does not want homeless or different looking people around.
    -Does not want tattoo parlors.
    -Does not need libraries.
    -Does not need public pools.
    -Does not need public transit (or what it carries).
    -Does not value socio-economic diversity.
    -Does not have a real mix of housing values.
    -Does not have spaces artists or addicts can afford.

    If you define “Ypsilanti” as the thing it is, the state that it exists in today, then I do think gentrification is a bigger threat than laying off teachers. At least in that case, if Ypsi was less gentrified, there would certainly be more students in Ypsi schools.

    (Please note: “Chess Punt” is a character, albeit one that I find persuasive at times. But Chess Punt’s author is not entirely sold on all her points.)

    Most importantly, gentrification is never satisfied in the moment. You don’t hear Ferndale or Royal Oak saying … oh, look, we’ve gentrified, enough. Job well done.

    Ypsi can get rid of the Family Dollar. Through gentrification. Until then, it’ll be a place people in the community work and shop.

    An obvious list of “does wants” could follow.

  47. Edward
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    “Abandoned Walmart is Now America’s Largest Library”

    Wonderful things do happen when corporations retract.


  48. anonymous
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “Dollar Tree buying Family Dollar for $8.5 billion”

    How will this change things on Water Street, if at all?

  49. Posted September 16, 2015 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    I am just reading this for the first time! Now, in the fall of 2015, when the Ypsi Food Co-op’s sales have fallen dramatically and they are in jeopardy. Sounds like they were doing phenomenally well when you wrote this article? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR CO-OP???

  50. maryd
    Posted September 16, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    good question CreateHarmony.

  51. Posted September 16, 2015 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Given how obviously difficult it is to start a business in Ypsi, I would be surprised if anyone at all moved there, ever.

    If the World Bank did an ease of doing business rating for Ypsi, it would likely be equivalent to a place like Zimbabwe.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Ypsilanti Immigration Interview: Scott Straley on July 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    […] the seed bombing occurred) will have contributed more to the economic viability of Ypsilanti than the Water Street dollar store we’re told is in our future, but my sense is that others aren’t seeing it that way. They’re just seeing the $30,000 […]

  2. By Water Street Flats… What are your thoughts? on January 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

    […] I’d envisioned a co-housing development, a year-round farmers’ market, an expanded food co-op, a thriving public arts park, and space for locally-owned businesses. There were a million ideas, […]

  3. […] I hear that they’re opening a dollar store in Ypsi. People seem excited about. I searched the company online once, and discovered that, on average, […]

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