- James Coller/Daily
By Will Greenberg, Daily News Editor
Published September 25, 2014
Blimpy is back.
At its new location on Ashley and West Liberty streets, the historic, Ann Arbor-favorite Blimpy Burger held an operational soft-launch Thursday in preparation for an anticipated full opening late next week.
Rich Magner, owner of Blimpy for more than 20 years, said he invited about 50 people to the restaurant Thursday, calling it a “test run” for his staff at the new location. Magner said he invited investors, construction workers and others involved in getting the restaurant up and running.
“It went well; people seemed to like it,” Magner said.
Following 60 years at its South Division Street location, Blimpy Burger was displaced in 2013 after the University purchased the property for $1.5 million to build the Munger Graduate Residence Hall.
The graduate residence hall was funded in large part by a $110 million donation from University alum Charles Munger, a real estate mogul. At the time, the donation was the largest in University history, though it was topped a few months later by a $200 million donation from fellow real estate magnate Stephen Ross. The residence hall, projected to cost $188 million and house 600 graduate students, is expected to open in fall 2015.
Magner said moving Blimpy Burger into its new home took longer than he had originally hoped. After looking into a new location that didn’t work out, Magner signed the lease for the Ashley Street spot in spring 2014. Magner said he would have liked to reopen before the Ann Arbor Art Fair this past summer, but various delays arose with contractors and arranging permits with the city.
The menu, prices and general operations are all the same, except for the basic burger, which raised from $2.35 to $2.99. Otherwise, Blimpy hasn’t raised prices since 2008. One addition will be credit card and debit card capabilities, as well as electronic gift cards to replace paper gift certificates.
The restaurant is now further from Central Campus, a change that Magner said may decrease student patronage. But contrary to what most people think, Magner said, roughly half of Blimpy’s business comes from Ann Arbor locals. He said the new location will still draw plenty of townies, and he hopes students will still come out.
“Our first two weeks of September (at the old location), when South Quad and West Quad had mostly freshmen in them, except for football Saturdays, are two of the slowest weeks of the year,” Magner said. “The reason is, the townies stay away because they think students are back and traffic and parking is worse the first few weeks of school.”
Magner said his staff, about one-third of which carried over from the old location, may have another “super-soft” launch with another small group of guests before the full open, which is expected to be the end of next week.