Ever fallen asleep during the fourth screening of
“Battleship Potemkin” and dreamt of burritos? Film and
Video and English student Adam Lowenstein couldn’t help but
let his mind wander from the daily grind of junior year.

Julie Pannuto
Adam Lowenstein and Justin Herrick unveil a sign designed by a friend with the Big Ten Burrito logo that they hope to place above their doorway once they receive a permit from the city. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

Returning home to California, Lowenstein met up with boarding
school friend Justin Herrick. The two decided that Ann Arbor was in
desperate need of a burrito place and the concept of Big Ten
Burritos was born. “Ann Arbor has such a drought of Mexican
food,” explains Lowenstein. They headed back to the Midwest
in June, aiming to open a restaurant before the fall football
tailgates.

The two management novices had no previous business experience
but were ready to face the challenges of the competitive restaurant
industry. Lowenstein remarks, “My majors had nothing to do
with business. After so much time spent studying theory, watching
movies and reading literature, I was ready to try something more
practical.”

Herrick has been interested in the business for some time now
but has had a difficult time deciding on the location for the
venture. An Amherst College graduate, Herrick was a biology major
about to enter medical school. While he was working at a hospital,
another friend from the high school days at Midland School in Santa
Barbara County, invited Herrick to open a burrito place.

While the initial plans involved opening a restaurant in the
Midwest, Herrick later found partners for an endeavor in Australia.
When that fell through, the two friends decided on Ann Arbor, from
which they hope to expand to other Big Ten schools.

Opening this business has been nothing short of a rollercoaster
ride: while at the bank writing a check for one venue, a local
restaurant owner convinced them that the landlords were involved in
shady business practices. Walking home disheartened, they saw the
sign outside Mr. Spots, announcing its move three feet north on
South State Street. A quick phone call later, they began
negotiating to lease 810 S. State Street. Within an hour and a
half, the two partners completely changed the location, store size
and landlord of their business.

Their luck continued when they walked into the office of Ply
Architecture. Two Architecture professors, Craig Borum and Karl
Daubmann, head this company, which redesigned the restaurant.
Inside, patrons can find a decoration scheme complete with art deco
hanging lights, mod chairs and a long, wooden table. “There
is only one table for family style seating,” Lowenstein
explains.

The limited seating will encourage carryout, but Herrick
explains the main purpose of the seating is to accommodate a large
crowd. “Everyone eating here should be packed in,”
Herrick describes, noting the ample standing space along the
counter.

The art deco provides an uptown atmosphere usually not
associated with burrito places. Lowenstein hopes to change
perceptions about burrito restaurants. “This environment adds
to the healthy, good and clean — a meal that’s
respectable.”

The 4 a.m. closing time and on-the-dollar, tax-included pricing
should greatly aid post-party, inebriated patrons. With food prices
that peak at $9, Lowenstein and Herrick hope to draw in many
students. “Being so shortly removed from students, the way we
can relate is different from, say, Jimmy John’s. We know not
to charge an exorbitant price.”

The three pizza parlors and four sandwich shops around the block
offer little diversity in the food selection. Big Ten hopes to
provide a healthier option, though the owners remark that they are
not a competitor. “We want to add something to the block
without competing,” Herrick is quick to note.

The owners also comment on the friendly neighbors and their
excitement whenever passers-by note their sign. “I think
there is a lot of comraderie around here,” Adam comments.

Their preparations should pay off when they open this weekend
and Ann Arbor can experience what these entrepreneurs are marketing
as “The Greatest Burrito of All Time.”

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