ANN ARBOR – For 25 years, MD Bagel Fragel has been serving up fresh bagels and the famed fragel at 1760 Plymouth Rd. on the north side.
Next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, it is closing its doors at that location for good.
It is not by choice, according to the owners. They learned of the news recently when they received a notice from the lawyers of the building's new owners saying they had two days to leave the premises.
After some back and forth, they convinced the lawyers to give them one month to fulfill longstanding holiday orders and dismantle their kitchen.
The new business moving in is a marijuana shop from Toledo, Ohio.
"In April, we heard somebody was looking to buy it (the strip mall)," said MD Bagel Fragel owner Patricia Rockette, who co-owns the shop with her son, Michael.
"Because back in April, I was talking to the other owner about my lease. He said, 'There’s somebody who’s looking to buy the place, and let’s wait and see what happens.' And then it was probably June or July when we started seeing signs go up for a marijuana shop. The wings place (next door) was empty. They moved out, so we were thinking, 'Oh, the marijuana shop wants to go in where Wings used to be.' We never thought anything about it."
When another business took over the space next door, Rockette thought that meant the marijuana shop wasn't going to move in after all -- until she and Michael got a letter last month.
"On October 29, we got a letter FedExed from the lawyer of the new people who bought it," Rockette explained. "They bought it the week before, they closed on the Wednesday before and we got a letter on the Monday after they closed saying they wanted us out October 31. We were like, 'There’s no way. How could we be out in two days? Do you realize we’re still open?' We have hospital orders all the way through April of next year. We told them there’s no way, so they told us, 'We'll give you one month. Be out by November 30.'"
She tells us the new owners are also the owners of the marijuana shop.
"Of course, we were devastated when we found out," said Rockette, fighting back tears. "At first, you get it and you think this isn’t real, this isn’t happening. As the days go on, it sets in and it’s like, 'Wow, this is our last full week. Really?' And we try to have the best customer service. And you deal with it for so many years. They’re taking away our whole business."
The Rockettes bought The Bagel Factory back in 2007, when it ran out of business due to a new lease. It was originally located on South University and was frequented by University of Michigan students, staff and visitors to the downtown area.
MD Bagel Fragel is open seven days a week. From 6 a.m. until they sell out for the day, Patricia and Michael are there almost every day, serving customers with a smile, many of whom they know personally. They only have one part-time employee at the front counter and one baker, so the operation is small.
Moving out of their current space requires dismantling and storing their industrial-grade oven, walk-in refrigerators and freezers, the bagel kettle, sinks, cabinets, counter tops and more.
"I don’t know how to take all that down," said Rockette. "I don’t even know who to contact to take that stuff apart, to take stuff off the roof, the condensers, the fans, everything. That all has to be taken apart by professionals."
According to the new owner's lawyers, anything left past the Nov. 30 deadline will be confiscated.
"If they would give us at least until the end of the year, we hopefully could find a space and at least move and sit the equipment in the new space and then get a permit to hire new people to come in and put it all back together," Rockette said.
"They didn’t even give us enough time to find a space. We have to try and deal with this and stay open so we don’t disappoint all the people that come in here every single day. We have so many people that come in every day."
Aside from the logistics of taking apart equipment, finding storage and a new location, Rockette says she is most upset about the effect this will have on her loyal customers.
"We always refer to it as being like the show 'Cheers,'" she said. "They all come in and we know their names -- that’s how half the people are here. You know what’s going on in their life; they know what’s going on in yours."
Rockette says they are currently looking for a new space nearby, but so far, nothing has been a good fit.
Downtown is out of the question because of rising rent costs.
"We're a family-owned business, not a big name like Panera," said Rockette. "We can’t move anywhere and take business. We have to stay on this side of town, where people know us. There’s not big profit in bagels. We do it because we like it (and) because we come in and we talk to the people. I don’t think we would make it anywhere else. So we have to find a space on this side of town, or we'll be gone forever."
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