Rich Magner, the owner of Blimpy Burger, was in the kitchen. He opened the fridge to check on the hamburger meat, which he and his employees still prepare the old-fashioned way: hand-grinding it.

Once he finished checking the beef, he returned to his vat of onion ring coating, mixing in vinegar and then pouring in a barrel of raw onions. He then strained the onions before covering them in seasoning and a dry rub.

At one point, he turned away from the work and said with a weary grin, “Let’s be honest. The bottom line is that we’re tired.”

Blimpy re-opened Friday at 304 South Ashley Street — just over a year after closing its original location on South Division and Packard. The University purchased the property for $1.075 million to construct the $180-million Munger Graduate Residences.

Though it was a rainy, gray morning, nearly two dozen lined up outside of the burger joint before its opening at 11 a.m. Over the next two hours, the flow of traffic was consistent, with about 40 people in line at any given moment.

Magner said they considered closing for an hour Friday to recuperate before opening up shop again for the dinner rush. But really, it’s just business as usual.

The restaurant is plastered with polar bear paraphernalia. The most prominent item is a standing, human-sized stuffed bear christened “Grand O,” who is propped up adjacent to the cash register.

The polar bears stem from an old tradition. Blimpy Burger’s mascot is a bear, and Magner built snow-bears outside the restaurant one winter to attract clientele. Since then, the joint has been celebrating polar bears even when the sun is shining.

Tom and Johanna Westrick, who are from Dundee, Michigan, were the first to get their burgers. Tom got two double burgers with cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickle and onion, while Johanna had one double with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

“We’ve been waiting all summer for it to open, so we thought we’d come down and check it out,” Tom said.

The two, who live 30 minutes south of Ann Arbor, have been Blimpy Burger patrons for years.

“I worked in Ann Arbor and used to eat there numerous times per week,” Tom said. “(The food is) just like I remember it. Seems like it was still at the old place.”

Returning customers reported they like the new restaurant, which is roomier than the old space. This one provides a separate ramp on the side where customers can line up and order, as opposed to queuing in between tables as they used to.

However, one customer, 21-year-old William Scott, an Ann Arbor resident, said it’s “too clean and too new,” and that he misses “that vintage feel, like the resurrected from some hole-in-the wall back in the ’50s feel.”

“They could put some laminate flooring down so it gets sticky again, that would be nice,” he said.

Small details aside, Magner said the feedback has been positive.

“Most of the comments that I’ve had are that the burgers taste the same,” Magner said.

Magner and his wife, Chris, said it has been a long year preceding the business’ re-opening. They closed in Aug. 2013; their final days had queues up to three hours long.

The couple was originally considering a storefront on East William Street, which fell through, before choosing their current location on Ashley. They also ran an Indiegogo campaign which raised 34 percent of its $60,000 goal.

Blimpy had a soft-opening last week, where Magner invited 50 people who were involved in getting the restaurant running again.

Ultimately, they said they were happy to be back.

“It means a lot of things to a lot of people,” Chris said. “Just because of the years they’ve been here and been going to it.”

Nostalgia was pervasive as customers filled the eatery, many discussing their meal plans and Blimpy memories.

University alum Herm Steinman began eating at Blimpy Burger in 1958.

“I’m at the point where if I don’t have my Blimpy fix at least once a month, I get shaky,” he said after finishing his burger. “I have brought two wives, several girlfriends, four kids, seven grandkids and one great-grandkid so far.”

Steinman’s enthusiasm for Blimpy extends beyond inhaling cheeseburgers: he’s known to provide in-house tunes. A bagpipe player for 30 years, Steinman has marked several Blimpy milestones in a kilt and the Celtic wind instrument.

“I piped ’em out when they closed the other one, and I piped ’em in. I’m the house piper,” Steinman said. He also plays at weddings and funerals, even having performed at the funeral of the restaurant’s original owner.

What Steinman said he loves most about Blimpy is the rapport. As a regular customer for the last 56 years, employees know his order by heart. For years, he brought his grandkids here as a last day of school tradition.

He taught them how to order in the Blimpy way. The cook asks if you’re ordering anything fried, you respond; the cook asks how many burgers you’re having, you respond; the cook asks what you want on your burger(s), you respond; the cook asks what kind of bun you want, you respond; the cook asks if you’d like the bread to be grilled, you respond.

Customers who diverge from this system risk getting yelled at.

“If you weren’t embarrassed at Blimpy’s, you should feel offended,” Steinman said.

The favorite memory of another loyal patron, Ann Arbor resident Daniel Webber, involves just that. Webber, who came to the opening with his mother Nancy, has been frequenting Blimpy for 12 years.

Former University President Mary Sue Coleman was in line in front of Webber once and would not get off her phone. Phone chatting while in line is verboten at Blimpy’s.

“This 50-year-old woman who used to work here came and grabbed her by her arm and pulled her out of line,” Webber said. “(Coleman) said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and the lady said, ‘Yes, leaving.’”

Ann Arbor resident Jeania Getty has eaten at Blimpy for the last 25 years. She said Blimpy is “the only place and time that I ever drink chocolate milk.” The beverage, alongside a triple burger with provolone on an onion roll with everything on it, is her tradition — one of many that were revisited on Friday.

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