by Sally Mitani
With Borders, @burger, Allure, Poshh, Sole Sisters, Squares, Champion House, and Organic Bliss all having closed in the past year, commerce on E. Liberty has lately been looking like a game of Whac-A-Mole.
Grand Traverse Pie Company just popped up in the location where @burger failed. It's at the campus end of the street, but at first glance, it doesn't seem much like a student-oriented business--what is an undergraduate living in a dorm going to do with a whole pie?
Manager Paul Hannah explains that selling pies is no longer the core of GT's business. This store and the one on Zeeb Rd., both of which are franchises owned by Beth and Dave Ziegler, are more restaurant than pie shop. And the company has already proved that that model can work near campus--East Lansing has had one since 2008.
"We serve breakfast all day long, and lunch and dinner," says Hannah. "It's comfort food. And that isn't always easy to find in Ann Arbor, where we have so many bars, coffee shops, white linen [tablecloth restaurants], and not much in between. Nothing we have on the menu is cutting-edge culinary art, but it's honest food, well made and really reasonably priced."
Hannah can parse restaurants like a sociologist parses ethnic groups because he's worked at Vinology and Zingerman's.Before this, his most recent job was helping Sava Lelcaj set up her gourmet dine-in grocery, Babo.
Of course, pie, too, is comfort food. GT has about sixteen flavors available at any time, by the pie or the piece. The rest of the menu includes breakfast sandwiches, wraps, quiche, lots of hot and cold sandwiches in the $6-$7 range, salads, and, Hannah says, "amazing" pot pies.
Hannah doesn't know how the total destruction of this year's cherry crop will affect GT's prices or menu. Based in Traverse City, the company has relationships with cherry producers, but doesn't own orchards. Since it's currently using frozen cherries from last year's harvest, Hannah says it hasn't been an issue for them yet.
Grand Traverse Pie Company, 505 E. Liberty, Suite 100, 662-8134. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
[Originally published in July, 2012.]
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