Following the closure of White House Market in August, and College Shoe Repair in 2010, two new restaurants are slated to fill the vacancies on East William Street this summer and add to the city’s culinary scene.
Firehouse Subs, a family-owned operation with more than 525 restaurants in 32 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, is opening its second Michigan location in Ann Arbor. For students seeking a slice of pizza rather than a sandwich, they will be able to head right next door to Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza.
John Kupiec — the Michigan representative for Firehouse Subs, which will feature subs, salads and sides such as chili — said the chain’s goal is to open 2,000 locations by 2020, with 59 in Michigan alone.
“We’re looking to expand into trade areas that are expanding in terms of population,” Kupiec said. “Ann Arbor is a great community, and obviously it’s home to the University of Michigan … it’s a great community with plenty of things to offer for a franchise restaurant brand like ourselves.”
Mark Cairns, the director of franchise development for Toppers Pizza, said about half of the company’s stores are located around college campuses and entertainment areas.
“We’re a Midwest franchise; our brand caters towards the 18-to-34 (year old) feel,” Cairns said.
Cairns said he is not concerned by the number of pizza businesses already in Ann Arbor because he believes Toppers uses better quality ingredients than the typical chain-style pizza restaurant, such as Domino’s or Little Caesar’s.
“We grind block Wisconsin cheese fresh in the stores every day,” he said. “We just have a great product.”
NeoPapalis Pizza, which opened Wednesday, is also located on East William Street in the new Zaragon West development. New York Pizza Depot and Jimmy John’s sandwich shops are also located on the street.
NYPD manager Alex Kassem said he isn’t worried about Toppers Pizza opening next door because NYPD has become an Ann Arbor staple.
“They do have very different pizza,” Kassem said. “We are sure we have a better product. Ask anybody in Ann Arbor — they will tell you this is the best.”
Psychology Ph.D. student Alanna Epstein — whose office is located near the future location of the two restaurants — said she personally does not plan to visit either restaurant, but believes other students would.
“If another sub shop and another pizza place opened right there it would seem a little bit redundant to me,” Epstein said. “I personally would prefer to have a healthier restaurant.”
Scott Goci, an Ann Arbor resident and a University alum, said he may have lunch at a new sub shop, but believes there are already too many pizza places in Ann Arbor.