Ann Arbor’s Treasure Mart goes up for sale

Photo: Meredith Bruckner

ANN ARBOR – The owners of The Treasure Mart have announced that the longtime consignment business in Kerrytown is for sale.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the store posted two photos of its brick-and-mortar building from 1960 and present day with the caption: “Hopefully this is not the end of an era!"

The local community took to social media for answers, and a personal Facebook post by owner Elaine Johns revealed she and husband Carl put the business -- and property -- up for sale on Monday.

The move is not something the Johns’ had planned or wanted. Elaine was diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease, in November, and her condition has made it difficult for her to continue the store’s day-to-day operations.

“In November 2018, Elaine started to develop some symptoms of some sort of problem,” said Carl. “And it took several doctors almost a year to finally narrow it down to ALS as her symptoms got worse. There are no drugs for ALS right now to help a person deal with symptoms; they just continue to get worse. She’s still working her five days right now, but eventually that’s not going to be possible. It’s a tough reality, and we have to be proactive here (about the business)."

The Johns’ said the store is not closing, and their hopes are that someone takes it over to continue its consignment footprint in Ann Arbor. Elaine and her sister own the business, the property, as well as the apartment house adjacent to it.

“We are not closing the Treasure Mart as of now,” said Elaine. “We are hoping that we can find someone to buy the store and the property and keep it running. There are so many people that love The Treasure Mart, so we are hoping that someone will be inspired.”

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Carl said one buyer has expressed interest, but wanted to move the store to a new location.

“Part of the charm of The Treasure Mart is this old building," said Carl. “It’s not going to work in a strip mall. If we didn’t own this building, I don’t think we would be successful."

For decades, customers have been pulling up to the consignment shop on Detroit St. to both consign and buy items, some on a daily basis. On average, consigners have to wait two months to become members.

In April, the store will mark 60 years in business. Elaine Johns’ mother, Damaris Cash, originally opened the shop that quickly became a destination of discovery for the community. Elaine took the business over in 2000 when her mother passed away.

“Treasure Mart has been in my life since I was 10,” said Elaine. “I started working full-time during the summer of 1974, and then I got sucked in and never left. It has always been so much fun knowing that we were helping people downsize. We have had such amazing items over the years. Carl and I have been truly blessed to be a part of this business for so long.”

Carl came on board 28 years ago after a career in construction. He is often seen on the floor in a cowboy hat, and handles bills and payroll, while Elaine manages the office and inventory.

He said he is seeing many Ann Arbor businesses closing because of aging owners whose children aren’t interested in taking over the family trade.

“The tough thing about Ann Arbor now is that so many places that have been around for so long are closing," he said. “Our kids are not interested (in taking over)."

While the Johns’ said their customers are understanding of the situation, it doesn’t make it any less difficult.

“Most people are so sad that The Treasure Mart might be closing,” said Elaine. "We have customers that have been coming for years both to consign and to shop. Some people always talk about how they came here with their parents as a child, and now they are bringing their children and grandchildren here. Most of the customers have become our really good friends.

“We are hoping that we can find that perfect person or persons to buy the business. Only as a last resort would we close and just try to sell the property.”

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