by Sally Mitani
With shelves picked clean, Bello Vino Marketplace closed its doors on January 8, a week ahead of the schedule it had announced shortly before Christmas.
“It actually wasn’t Pfizer,” says Jennifer Ferris, disputing the conventional wisdom that the closing of the nearby research lab killed the fancy food and wine store. Ferris, company vice-president (and daughter of owner Louis Ferris), acknowledges that “Pfizer had an effect on us—more than we originally anticipated—but then there was a gap.”
Going through the store’s sales records, she says, she can spot subsequent declines as competition increased—“We saw Plum opening up; we saw [the new] Whole Foods”—and high gasoline prices kept shoppers home. But she insists that even all that wasn’t enough to close Bello Vino.
“When the economy downturned more dramatically in November, when all the retails were really hit, we were poised to weather it,” she says. “We had a really good staff. We were totally ready to go through it. But we had spent five years in a very difficult building.” With something always leaking or giving out, she says, they finally asked themselves, “How much money can we put into something? If we put in a new floor, it becomes the landlord’s floor.”
Ferris, at twenty-six, is also vice-president of Bello Vino’s parent company, Federated Capital Corporation, which owns a railroad (the route of the hoped-for Ann Arbor–Howell commuter line), railroad cars, a working farm in Superior Township, and two companies that provide information technology to businesses. In the evenings she works on her M.B.A. at the U-M and then commutes back to her home in Royal Oak.
She’s also still vice-president of Bello Vino. “Ideally,” she says, “we would like to come back with another market someday. We’re still looking at spaces for a beer and wine store.”
[Originally published in February, 2009.]
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