The State Street shuffle of shops, restaurants and other businesses continued this summer, as retailers swapped storefronts and locations, seeking the perfect formula to win over the fickle student shopper.
After two years in business, Sava’s State Street Café reopened last week across the street from its previous location, replacing the Zanzibar restaurant. The location at 216 S. State St. closed mid-July after about 13 years of business.
Sava’s previously occupied 211 S. State St., but, according to owner Sava Lelcaj, the location change was long overdue.
“We had really grown out of our space,” she said, citing in particular the need for a new kitchen to handle Sava’s burgeoning catering business.
Lelcaj had looked at multiple properties last winter — including the former Earl of Sandwich location and the retail space near the new 4 Eleven Lofts on East Washington Street — before the 216 S. State St. location opened up this summer.
The new location boasts 5,500 square feet of space with a full basement for additional storage. It almost quadruples the size of the former restaurant.
“People are just floored when they come in,” Lelcaj said.
The café’s new home includes a second floor seating area with balcony that extends throughout only part of the building, resulting in high open ceilings throughout the rest of the restaurant.
Lelcaj said one of the most noticeable perks to the new spot is the lighting. The locale also has over twenty large-paned windows.
Lelcaj and her staff took over the new space the first week of August and officially opened Aug. 26.
Besides a change in venue, the new restaurant features an expanded breakfast and dinner menu, and Lelcaj said there are still more changes to come.
Lelcaj also plans to acquire a liquor license that she said could be granted sometime in early 2010. If attained, Lelcaj said Sava’s hours would expand, staying open until 2 a.m.
As for Sava’s prior home, speculation around the addition of a CVS/Pharmacy in the 209-211 S. State St. building has been growing since plans for the business were approved by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission in May.
According to the commission, the CVS/Pharmacy building plan — pioneered by real estate developer Velmeir Companies — is scheduled to go before the planning commission on Sept. 15. Following approval from the commission, the CVS/Pharmacy plan would still require approval from City Council.
The State Street corridor has seen multiple business shifts the past year aside from Sava’s move and Zanzibar’s departure.
Steve & Barry’s apparel shop closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy at the end of last year. M-Den — the locally owned University of Michigan apparel store — took over the space at 303 S. State St.
In addition to M-Den, Great Lakes Team Apparel at 309 S. State St. recently took over the space previously occupied by the Earl of Sandwich, expanding its collection to a 4,500-square-foot space and sporting a new name, “All About Blue.”
Amer’s Mediterranean Deli at 312 S. State St. added the Yogurt Rush business in its store about two weeks ago, after customers started demanding the frozen treat, according to Amer’s employee Ricardo Ortiz.
“The popularity of (the yogurt demand) overwhelmed us,” Ortiz said.
Amer’s now has three machines and a self-serve toppings bar. Ortiz said there has been a steady flow of customers since the addition and the response has been “pretty positive.”
Amer’s new yogurt menu follows the addition of Swirlberry at 209 S. State St. The frozen yogurt chain previously existed only in Plum Market grocery stores — the first located in West Bloomfield and the second in Ann Arbor.
Swirlberry opened about two months ago and prices by weight, just like Amer’s. Swirlberry charges 65 cents per ounce and charges 49 cents per ounce.
Swirlberry Manager Dave Villaverde said the competition from Amer’s and Yogo Bliss — which opened on South University Avenue at the end of winter semester — hasn’t hurt Swirlberry’s business.
“The fact that there’s other places around doesn’t really affect us at all,” he said. “Our product speaks for itself.”
Villaverde is also confident that Swirlberry — which has been likened to other big city frozen yogurt stores like Pinkberry and 16 Handles — will come out a step above the other stores.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” he said.
Lelcaj said there is a certain “revolving door” on State Street as businesses come and go. She anticipates a different dynamic on the street, though now that student housing is in the immediate area.
4 Eleven Lofts opened for this academic year, offering more than 300 spots for students just west of South State Street and north of East Washington Street. And the North Quad Residence Hall is set to open nearby in Fall 2010.
Because the new student housing projects are north of Liberty Street, Lelcaj believes that State Street between East Washington Street and Liberty Street will see more people traffic and business.
“It’s always been a bit different,” she said of the student traffic on this part of State Street, recognizing that before these projects, most students traveling down State Street have been graduate students or theatre students living in the neighborhood.