Nestled between State and Maynard streets, Nickels Arcade is a quaint outdoor walkway adorned with decorative columns, stone tiled floors and a glass atrium ceiling. The walkway is home to some of Ann Arbor’s oldest specialty shops. The offices there range from clothing stores to a hypnotherapy center to a law office.
But of all its shops, Nickels Arcade’s oldest is Van Boven’s, an upscale men’s clothing store. Pete Van Boven, a former University baseball player, and two of his friends founded the store in 1921.
The store replaced a butcher shop that opened in the same space five years earlier. It’s currently owned by second-generation members of the Van Boven family.
Van Boven’s salesman Leonard Edick said the store’s customers are mostly comprised of University students and faculty members.
He said older alumni often visit the store to see if it’s still around.
“There are still a lot of people visiting who remember the store from when they were students,” he said. “If they like what they see, they’ll buy.”
When asked how the store functions when students leave for the summer, Edick said the business operates just fine.
Sales aren’t what fluctuate most during the summer, he said.
“The energy level goes down when students leave,” Edick said.
Edick said it’s rare that a family-owned store like Van Boven’s, which won the 2007 Ann Arbor’s Choice Award for best men’s clothing, would stay in the same location for so long.
“There are few cities and towns that have stores like this,” Edick said. “This kind of store is disappearing fast. The larger stores are just too much competition. The smaller ones just can’t make it.”
The Van Boven Shoe Store, also in Nickels Arcade, was once owned by the Van Boven family, but it lost its ties to the men’s clothing shop when the family sold the store to different people.
The Van Bovens owned both the shoe store and men’s clothing shop at the same time for more than 50 years before the sale.