Breakfast and brunch restaurant Wilma’s closed unexpectedly Tuesday after nine years in Ann Arbor. An announcement on the East Washington Avenue restaurant’s website alerted customers to the closure and thanked them for their support.
“Due to… well, you know… we are saying goodbye to this location as we prepare for an even more delicious future and new ways to serve you,” SavCo and the Wilma’s Team wrote.
The permanent closure comes after Wilma’s announced a temporary closure March 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its sister restaurants, Sava’s and Aventura, remain in business and Sava’s is open for takeout. Wilma’s, named “Fred’s” until 2019 and "Babo" until 2016, moved to East Washington Avenue after several years on South University Avenue. It was a favorite among students and Ann Arbor residents for its coastal feel, Instagrammable decor and variety of healthy menu options.
Former employees of Sava’s, Wilma’s sister restaurant, have brought forth numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Sava’s staff.
SavCo did not respond to a request for comment on Wilma’s closing at the time of publication but posted on their Instagram account Wednesday explaining the company's decision to close Wilma’s permanently.
“We have made the difficult decision to not reopen this location as a response to the times and feasibility of surviving reopening with all of the challenges we are facing,” the post read. “Small businesses are struggling right now and will continue to struggle as we recover from this world event which has impacted our industry in a significant way.”
Business junior Alex Lynch, a Wilma’s regular, was saddened by the closure because she felt the restaurant helped give Ann Arbor its welcoming feel.
“It’s a little pricey, but you’re willing to overlook that because it’s the kind of place you could sit in all day and feel good,” Lynch said.
Lynch remarked that she and her friends spent a good part of their sophomore year at Wilma’s, appreciating its photogenic interior.
“It’s the person that I want to be,” Lynch said. “You look at pictures all day on Instagram of what you want your apartment to look like in the future and that’s kind of the look everyone wants to go for but is too scared to go for.”
Wilma’s was the scene of college milestones for many, like LSA sophomore Megan Zhao, who had her first “roommate date” at the restaurant. With an Ann Arbor establishment like Wilma’s going under, Zhao worried about the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on other local businesses.
“From what I saw, they attracted a lot of business,” Zhao said. “I know a lot of people are probably sad it’s closing and it makes me wonder if other places are going to close.”
LSA sophomore Sahil Tolia knew Wilma’s for its upbeat environment, noting its open seating at wooden tables and abundance of natural light. Anticipating the effects of long closures and the early departure of the student population this year, he said Wilma’s closing could be a sign Ann Arbor businesses will look quite different in the fall.
“I thought it was doing pretty well, but I think it just goes to show the broad impacts of COVID-19 and especially on industries like restaurants that don't operate on very big margins to begin with,” Tolia said.
Many Ann Arbor small businesses are relying on community donations to survive COVID-19 closures. See The Daily’s list of GoFundMe pages for local businesses and restaurants still offering takeout and/or delivery service.
Summer News Editor Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: A previous version stated "Fred's" was the name of the restaurant before Wilma's. This article has been corrected to include "Babo" as one of the previous names of the restaurant Wilma's within its 9 years of being located in Ann Arbor.