Limited capacity, push for online and local shopping among Black Friday changes in Ann Arbor area

ANN ARBOR, MI – An annual event of savings on electronics, clothing and household items commonly known as Black Friday will continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But like most everything this year, it will be a little different.

Masses traditionally race to line up at major retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and shopping malls for great deals and cost savings on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. However, the pandemic and spiking cases across Michigan have led to state-ordered restrictions on gatherings and guidelines for shoppers.

But, no matter if you like shopping at big-box stores, shopping malls or in downtowns — or even if you’re preferring online options this year due to coronavirus — the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas have something for you.

Local businesses are especially urging shoppers to support them this season.

Ypsilanti is offering free downtown parking through Thanksgiving weekend, along with 15-minute designated spaces for pickup orders at restaurants and stores, said Bonnie Wessler, public services project manager. Ypsilanti’s Downtown Development Authority also has an incentive program.

Customers shopping at select local businesses can scan a QR code and be entered in a drawing to win a $50 gift card to any DDA business, said Christopher Jacobs, DDA director.

“We will be giving out 25 of these $50 gift cards over the next several weeks through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday shopping seasons,” Jacobs said.

Mark Teachout, who opened Wax Bar in August in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town, is having a “Black Friday Record Store Day.

“I will also be having some specials on the records and to-go cocktails for that day,” Teachout said. “I’ll be selling turntables for people, with the resurgence of the younger generation listening to records now. We’ll be running specials. It’s definitely a good place to come and get gifts.”

Teachout’s business started off strong, he said, until COVID-19 case spikes led to more business restrictions and less activity, which is why he urges the people to think of their local shops before major retailers this holiday season.

“People that live in the community can generally, within a minute or so, can get to all your businesses,” Teachout said. “Ypsilanti is unique that it’s all local businesses. You’re putting money directly in the hands of people who are struggling to pay their mortgages and keep their businesses open to feed their kids.”

Ann Arbor organizations have compiled the Show Your Love guide, which encourages shoppers to support small businesses in Ann Arbor by offering a list of places open for the season. Downtown shopping will continue for Midnight Madness in December, when stores will stay open late and offer discounts during the first three Fridays.

“Everyone has a favorite Downtown Ann Arbor memory, whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day at Conor O’Neill’s or Ashley’s, or walking around Kerrytown Shops and stopping at Zingerman’s for lunch,” Frances Todoro director of the State Street District, said in a statement. “We want to keep the nostalgic charm of Ann Arbor thriving.”

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Women’s clothing boutique to open third Michigan store in Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR, MI – When Laura Horwath noticed a gap in the women’s retail industry, she wanted to fill the void by opening up a space of her own.

a store in a brick building: Outside the future home of Ferne Boutique, 217 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

© Jacob Hamilton | [email protected]/Jacob Hamilton/
Outside the future home of Ferne Boutique, 217 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

Horwath lived in Bay City for six years and encountered a struggle to find unique, trendy and quality clothing that fit her and other women’s interests. She aimed to fill that hole blanketed by the fast-fashion industry in 2015 by opening up Ferne Boutique, a store that has locations in Bay City, Detroit and will soon open at 217 S Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor, which formerly housed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s campaign office.

a person standing in front of a brick wall: Owner Laura Horwath poses inside Ferne Boutique, 217 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

© Jacob Hamilton | [email protected]/Jacob Hamilton/
Owner Laura Horwath poses inside Ferne Boutique, 217 S. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

“There’s often a lot of items that aren’t great quality. There’s more thought put into those items (that are) put into those stores,” Horwath said. “I was looking to do something more purposeful with my life and wasn’t really finding the clothing or items where I was living, the boutique, sort of unique items.”

The sweet spot of Ferne Boutique’s customer base is ages 25-50, Horwath said. It offers anything from everyday clothing, professional attire and dresses for weddings or parties. With the coronavirus pandemic leading to closures and remote working, Ferne slightly changed direction to provide more relaxed, comfortable loungewear.

“Specifically March to May, we were being that retail therapist, helping people feel good about having cute clothes,” Horwath said.

She expects to open the new store during the first weekend of December, pending state-ordered closures due to the pandemic. Despite the COVID-19 crisis causing businesses to shutter or shift operations, Ferne remained afloat, thanks to grants from Techtown Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Wayne County Back to Work Program, LISC Small Business Grant and Bay Future, Horwath said.

Boutiques like Ferne often source inventory from trade shows, hence providing a unique layout that might not have returning items. Horwath typically goes to Los Angeles to source items from smaller brands made in California that shoppers might not find everywhere but can reuse for various occasions.

“The versatility is really important,” Horwath said.

The store also runs an online shopping experience and one-on-one style consultations to help customers choose items, which are then dropped off in a package at their home if they choose to do it virtually.

“I think the team has been fantastic to really care and want to serve the customer,” Horwath said. “There’s so many ways to continue to engage with the customer base. I think it’s fun because human interaction…when it’s taken out of our lives, it sucks honestly. It’s hard not to go out with a friend. I think with FaceTime and different forms of social media technology, we’ve been able to stay connected with people.

“The goal

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Women’s march in Ann Arbor encourages people to vote, empower women

ANN ARBOR, MI — Dozens of people gathered at the University of Michigan Diag Saturday afternoon in an effort to encourage people to vote in the November election.

a crowd of people at a park: Dozens of women filled the University of Michigan Diag on Saturday, Oct. 17, for a women's march that encouraged people to vote in the November election.

© Steve Marowski | [email protected]/
Dozens of women filled the University of Michigan Diag on Saturday, Oct. 17, for a women’s march that encouraged people to vote in the November election.

Nationwide, thousands rallied Saturday to urge people to elevate their voices and encourage people to vote in the Nov. 3 election. In Michigan, there were also marches held in Battle Creek, Flint, Kalamazoo and Petoskey.


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Ann Arbor event organizers Kristina Oberly, Alison Todak and Rachel Phillips said there was nothing organized in Ann Arbor, and they took it upon themselves to create the event, which included speeches from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; State Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township; Washtenaw County Commissioner Shannon Beeman; and State Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.

Oberly, Todak and Phillips created Shine & Rise, an organization supporting women and underrepresented groups working at tech companies in southeastern Michigan, and the march helped amplify the organization’s mission.

“We see this march as an extension of that mission, to be able to elevate and amplify women’s voices and make sure that all women’s voices are heard, but also that everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s vote is counted in this election,” Oberly said.

On the Diag, women held signs with various messages about women’s reproductive rights, health care and empowering both women and men to vote. Many, including Warren, also carried envelopes with their ballots as the group marched to Ann Arbor City Hall after listening to speakers.

Giving people options to vote is one of the many reasons the group organized the march, Todak said.

“We want to make sure that the voter’s rights are upheld, and that we’re not suppressing the vote, eliminating options to vote,” Todak said.

Ann Arbor residents Bailey Reale and Beth Bodiya saw the march as an opportunity to stand up for what they believe in right in their own community. Bodiya added that people might not realize how much effort went into getting the rights that women have today.

“If we can help to show how important they are and how we can continue to work for them for the next generation and our current generation, it’s really important,” Bodiya said.

Voting in general is one of the most important things citizens can do and is more important than ever in the upcoming November election, Reale said. The duo were marching for all rights for women, but the two main topics were women’s reproductive rights and representation in government.

It was important for Bodiya to see female leaders like Dingell, Lasinski, Beeman and Warren in attendance, especially for aspiring future leaders.

“When you see people like you in a position of power and influence, that matters,” Bodiya said.


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