by Sally Mitani
Circuit City closed its Arborland store in March. The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November but announced in January that it was unable to work things out with its creditors and would be closing all stores.
Chris Johnson, audio and video specialist at Big George’s Home Appliance Mart, says this should be a good thing. “The market has to correct itself.” Ann Arbor, he says, is glutted with electronics stores: Circuit City, ABC Warehouse, and Best Buy all carried substantially the same low-end electronics merchandise, while Overture Audio, Eyemedia Sound & Vision, Paragon Sight & Sound, and Big George’s cover the high end of home theater. “In a lot of areas we don’t compete for the same customers,” says Johnson. “Circuit City’s highest-end sound system is a couple of grand, and that’s where we start.” But where they do overlap, things have been tough the last few months. “When they were on their way out, they were selling things at cost as a desperation measure,” he says. “And we have a price-match policy. So it’s like a ‘good riddance’ thing.”
How bad is it? When a dollar store closes, you know the economy has ¬really cratered. To be fair, the dollar store at Stone Plaza, the small shopping strip on the corner of Ellsworth and Stone School roads, was a hybrid: Import Kitchenware and Dollar Plus Store was half devoted to Middle Eastern tea sets and other specialized ware aimed at customers who shopped for groceries next door at the Mediterranean Market. Landlord Rod Issa says the dollar store closed three or four months ago, and he hasn’t found a new tenant for the space yet. “It’s tough times,” he says. “Even people with money don’t want to start businesses unless they’re really sure they’re going to work.” To weather the storm, he says he’s trying to turn Stone Plaza away from retail and toward professional services: “Dentists are doing well.”
New York Pizza Depot plans to close its South University store, on the corner of South Forest beneath University Towers, April 14. “It was not working,” says owner Marco Telemaco. “We wanted to give back some space and get a lower rent, but we couldn’t reach an agreement with the landlord. It wasn’t worth it to invest in the spot.” One of the workers adds that parking was difficult. “Our pizza drivers were always getting ticketed.”
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[Originally published in March, 2009.]
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