After 58 years of selling chotchkies and china on East Liberty Street, the John Leidy Shop will close its doors at the end of February.
Since the shop’s opening in 1951 by Ann Arbor resident John Leidy, the store has been known as a high-end family gift shop, which sells fine china and other goods. But, as has been the case with many mom-and-pop shops, the economy and the changing gift shop market took a toll on the store, prompting the family to decide to close the shop.
“It wasn’t something we decided a year ago and just announced,” said Leidy’s son, Peter Leidy. “It was just the economy and changing practices in the way people do their shopping. It was a recent, final decision after a long couple of years heading in a direction we would have liked to turn around.”
Since the family’s announcement in late December, the shop has received an outpouring of community support and has been very busy with customers who are taking advantage of their last chance to buy the store’s unique merchandise. The family hopes this business will continue until all of its products are sold before the lease on the shop’s space ends on Feb. 28.
“A lot of our regular customers know that the store is closing,” Peter Leidy said. “Our hope is that it continues to be busy and that most, if not all, of the merchandise that we still have will be gone hopefully sooner than the end of February.”
Because of the store’s family atmosphere, the shop and its owners have developed relationships with customers and the Ann Arbor community throughout its existence.
“Our family has relationships with hundreds — if not thousands — of people,” Peter Leidy said. “It’s a sad time of saying good-bye to the John Leidy Shop, but it’s also years and years of great friendships and memories.”
The store has suffered from the changing gift market in which customers shop for gifts at large chain stores online instead of at smaller, local shops. Peter Leidy said the family has tried to strike a balance between maintaining the store’s identity while keeping up with customers’ changing tastes.
“There are certain lines of crystal and china that the store has been carrying since almost day one,” he said. “There is other stuff that goes with how people’s tastes have changed over the years. The tricky thing is you can only change so much before the whole identity of the store changes.”
For both loyal customers and the occasional shopper, the shop has been known to have a variety of gifts that can suit almost any person’s needs. In 1959, the shop not only occupied one storefront next to the Michigan Theater but also another on the other side. One shop sold China, while the other sold dinnerware.
The second storefront closed in 2006, and the Leidy family consolidated the shop’s goods into one space.
The store has always been a family business, and upon John Leidy’s death in 1993, his wife and children continued to run the store.
Four of the five Leidy children have other careers, but Peter Leidy said his sister Liz will be the most impacted by the store’s closure because she is most actively involved in the day-to-day business operations.
“She’s not really thinking a whole lot about that because there is a whole lot of energy with the store right now,” Peter Leidy said.
All the merchandise in the store is on sale. For now, the family is focusing on selling as much of it as possible before the lease runs out.
As of now, there are no definite plans for the space the shop currently occupies. However, the landlord has been talking to potential new tenants, according to Peter Leidy.
While the Leidy family is sad to say good-bye to the shop, Peter Leidy said the family takes comfort in having 58 years of memories they can reflect on.
“It’s a bittersweet thing and not all doom and gloom but years of joyful memories,” Peter Leidy said.