You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Renaissance clothing store closed for renovations, possible rebranding after December fire

By Lizzy Alfs


Renaissance clothing store in downtown Ann Arbor is empty after a fire and flood destroyed the inventory.

Melanie Maxwell |

Losing your entire store’s inventory to fire damage during the month of December might sound like a retailer’s worst nightmare.

But downtown Ann Arbor’s Renaissance owner Roger Pothus remains optimistic and said his decades-old clothing shop will be back “better than ever.”

“December is the busiest,” Pothus said. “It’s like two (sales) months in one.”

“But what are you going to do? You can be miserable about (this) or you can make the best of it, so we’ll just make the best of it,” he continued.

The floor at Renaissance was flooded after a small garbage can fire set off the sprinkler system in the clothing store on Dec. 4. It’s located in the McKinley Towne Centre on East Liberty and South Division streets.


Renaissance interns Kellen McCoy and Lisa Wang decorated mannequins in paper clothing after a fire in December destroyed the store's inventory.

Melanie Maxwell |

Smoke damage from the fire ruined all the clothing in the store, and Pothus is working with an insurance company to assess the loss. He said the clothing was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and dry cleaning wasn’t an option because it would alter the clothing.

“They’re not new clothes anymore,” he explained.

“It took me about five days before it finally settled in that I wasn’t going to be able to open and Christmas as I knew it was over.”

A month and a half after the fire, Renaissance is empty except for mannequins dressed in elaborate paper clothing — a project Pothus’ interns Lisa Wang and Kellen McCoy hoped would bring life to the now-empty window displays.

“We went to Michaels and got construction paper,” Wang explained. “I’ve done this stuff before with (SHEI Magazine).”

Renovations are under way on the space, including replacing the carpeting and fixing the dry wall. Pothus, who doesn’t expect the store to reopen until mid-March, said he’s in discussions with landlord McKinley for a rent abatement.

“You just cover your costs and you’re not making any money for that period of time,” Pothus said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

When the store reopens, it will be stocked with spring items that Pothus already had in storage and the new inventory he purchases. The store won’t be fully resupplied until October, based on the fashion-buying season.

“We’re going to open with a huge, huge sale,” he said. “A grand opening/clearance/fire sale.”

Also in the works, Pothus said, is some rebranding potential for the 42-year-old store.

“We’re looking at one concept that will be more style, less money,” he said.

In the meantime, Renaissance is still providing its custom clothing work, where customers can come to the store, select material and have measurements taken for custom dress clothing.

The store is getting an updated website, and they also threw an end-of-the-year party to stay in front of customers.

“We decorated the whole store, invited all our customers, just so we could be exposed to them during the holiday season so they don’t forget about us and go to Somerset Mall for the rest of their lives,” Pothus said.

“We’re just really happy for the support we’ve received from our manufacturers, our landlord and our customers and clients,” he continued.


One of the decorated mannequins at downtown Ann Arbor's Renaissance clothing store.

Melanie Maxwell |

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

Ms. Alfs: From the middle of the story: "The store won't be fully resupplied on October, based on the fashion-buying season." ?? Is there a typo there?

Lizzy Alfs

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Yes. Thank you!


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

we are s0 thankful this A2 icon will be re-opening in March and are looking forward to the new look!


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Good luck Roger!

Andy Piper

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

Sorry about the loss. The mannequins are very eye catching. Very creative.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

i hope they reopen. while expensive, they provided alternatives to the stuff at the mall