After their lease ended at the end of April, Hunter House Hamburgers closed its doors permanently. For the last five years, Hunter House has been a popular eatery among University of Michigan students and the Ann Arbor community.
In the spring of 2014, Hunter House Hamburgers opened a second location in Ann Arbor on William Street, approximately double the size of the original, family-owned restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan. Kelly Cobb, owner of Hunter House Hamburgers and a University alum, said Hunter House was already well known among the student community at the time, which motivated them to bring their burgers to Ann Arbor.
“We felt Ann Arbor was a natural home for us,” Cobb said. “We have a great brand that was known in Ann Arbor, and much of the student base were Hunter House fans coming from Metro Detroit.”
Additionally, Cobb said the Ann Arbor menu was more diverse compared to their store in Birmingham.
“Our chicken and waffle slider became incredibly popular,” Cobb said. “We put a veggie burger and lamb burger on the menu and had a great lineup of unique shakes.”
According to Cobb, the city’s business environment has changed since they originally brought their burgers to Ann Arbor.
“When we opened, the mom-and-pop small businesses still dominated the downtown area,” she said. “We see ourselves as one of them but have since seen many of those shops close, too.”
The Ann Arbor market can be difficult, she said, and it is especially tricky for small mom-and-pop businesses like Hunter House.
“(The market is) seasonal with students coming and going,” Cobb said. “Rent and city services are pricey compared to most other communities. It’s difficult for a mom-and-pop business that sells $2.10 burgers to operate in that sort of environment. We’ve seen many other businesses like us, downtown, close or move to the suburbs as a result.”
LSA senior Jean Tyan, who lives on East William Street near Hunter House, said she loved the diner and is upset and disappointed about its closing.
“Every time I walked past Hunter House on my way home late at night, the place was always busy, filled with both stressed college students and other members of the Ann Arbor community who stopped by for delicious food and a good time,” Tyan said. “It was my go-to place for lunch, dinner or late-night food. It was always open past the closing time of all other restaurants.”
Tyan recalled being introduced to Hunter House as a freshman by her older brother, a University alum.
“Since then, I have told many others about it and was even planning on bringing one of my friends, who will be a freshman at U-M next fall, to visit,” Tyan said. “I’m very sad that I will no longer be able to do so.”
Information senior Somya Bhagwagar said she was treated like family at Hunter House and expressed how the friendly, welcoming atmosphere made Hunter House special to the college town.
“It served as one of those mom-and-pop type places where the servers recognize you as you walk in and joke around,” Bhagwagar said. “In the Ann Arbor climate, with everyone so focused on school, it’s nice to go to a chill place where you can watch them flip your burgers, joke around, be informal and chill.”
Cobb said Hunter House will miss being a part of the Ann Arbor community.
“We loved being a part of the Ann Arbor and student community for five years,” Cobb said. “We’ll miss it tremendously.”