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Posted on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Blimpy Burger owner remains optimistic as he searches for a new restaurant location

By Lizzy Alfs


The owner of Blimpy Burger is searching for a new location after U-M purchased the property where his restaurant operates.

Joseph Tobianski |

Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger owner Rich Magner is confident he will find a new space for his iconic Ann Arbor restaurant before his current lease expires in August.

He said he’s looked at several spaces, but none have been the perfect fit for the 60-year-old burger restaurant.

“I was hoping to have a spot before last month actually, but I’m working on stuff,” he said.

“I’ve got a couple possibilities now and I’m trying to get that figured out. Something else may pop open,” he continued.

Magner was notified in late 2012 that he would need to vacate the Blimpy Burger building at 551 S. Division St. when his current lease expires in August. Patricia Shafer, the property’s long-time owner and wife of Blimpy Burger’s original founder, Jim Shafer, sold the property to the University of Michigan for $1.075 million in December.

U-M also purchased an adjacent building at 545 S. Division St. from Shafer for $425,000, property records show. University officials are discussing possible construction projects for the site, but it’s unclear what their plans entail. The two properties sit next to an existing university-owned parking lot, and between the school’s West Quadrangle dormitory and Perry Building.

Magner declined to provide details on where he’s considered moving Blimpy Burger, but he’s clear about one thing: he wants to keep the restaurant near downtown and the university’s campus.

He said he inquired about the recently vacated Grand Traverse Pie Company space on East Liberty Street, but said the rent was too expensive for him and the landlord was already in negotiations with a new tenant.

Magner said Blimpy Burger customers have been equally supportive and worried since hearing that the restaurant has to relocate.

“Of course, this week the public schools are off, so we’ve got a gazillion kids in here today. It’s been busy the last couple days,” he added.

If he ends up with several possible locations to relocate Blimpy burger, Magner said he might ask customers to vote on where they’d like to see the restaurant move.

Asked if Blimpy Burger could close permanently, Magner said that’s not an option.

“If I win the lottery, I might take a break before we reopen,” he joked.

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


Jello Biafra

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

wherever it is, it won't be the same. for shame.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

What about over in Braun Court? Somewhat of a unique setting, like what Blimpy is now.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Come to Downtown Ypsi. We will welcome you with open arms.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

"Come to Downtown Ypsi. We will welcome you with open arms." I initially read that as "welcome you with open firearms"


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

Blimpie will be hoping with the Heritage Festival and the Thunder Over Michigan event.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

Please some to Saline!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!We will give you plenty of business!

Lets Get Real

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

How about the nightlcub space on Fourth Ave between Liberty and William? Empty, ugly, right on the bus line. How about right inside the new building the UM will build on the spot? What about in the spot at 5 points which has been how many different things? Bet Blimpy would be a success where those others were not. Further out - how about the former bike shop on Packard between State and Stadium? Just some thoughts


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

I took the liberty of passing this idea on to Lizzy, hope you don't mind.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 7:01 p.m.

Lets Get Real, excellent idea!

Nice in A2

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

On the Diag. Fight fire with fire!

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 8 p.m.

velllly intelllesting ...


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

I was thinking close to Washtenaw dairy. Grab a burger and then go for ice cream. Maybe they could share an outdoor eating area. Or, a place they won't go but would make lots of $$ would be the mall.

Shawn S.

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

What the hell was UofM thinking when they bought this property? They know Blimpy Burger is a tradition in a2 and for students on campus. For a school that preaches tradition they sure don't preach it when it comes to making a "profit". Sorry, that is right, we are a non profit university. I guess they forgot to tell the University.

Tim Hornton

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Well all the employees they hire are "for profit" and they are the best paid in the state. It is sad to see this go. I remember the line seemed a mile long out the door there last year after the UM spring game so I just went to pizza house.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

I see that Seoul Korner building at Thompson and William gets the most votes at this point. I hope Mr. Magner is considering that location.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

i think Rich was in negotiation... was interested and Lagos jumped on it... he would prefer to have a mortgage payment than a lease though... it should stay near the dorms...


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Having been a customer of Blimpy since I was 6 years old (when it began) I think I can say that any restaurant that serves greasy, unhealthy food to people can close and I could care less. I would rather see people eat healthier and not end up paying the doctor and the pharmacy. You may be young now and think you can handle this stuff but guess what? You get older (if your lucky) and it is much better to get there without clogged arteries and a lot of chemicals in your body. I bet I can get 100 vote downs for saying this and gee, I could care less.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

18 .. going on 100 !!! your deficient self-control will out you.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

Sorry man, the cholesterol is *in my genes*. Don't blame the burger.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

i could care less about your caring less.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Moderation in all things. Especially moderation. -- Lazarus Long


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

How much less?

Tim Hornton

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

If you work out and take care of your body then eating greasy food now and then isn't so bad. I would suggest going to a local gym. Good luck.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I'm almost 50 and in great shape. It's called moderation. You can have the occasional burger, just don't do it every week.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

The space which was formerly @burger and most recently Grand Traverse Pie.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Oops I should have read the article before commenting :) So that one is out... How about in Herb David's space? That would probably cost too much to renovate though. Not sure, but hopefully someplace close!

Paul Wiener

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

Why doesn't the U-M itself invest in - even donate or subsidize - a property - it'd show locals and students, maybe for the first time in decades, that it actually cares about where it lives.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

oooh, paul, that woluld necesitate a compassionately-conservative board of governors. vultures simply carrion.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

@Paul - What color is the sky in your world? ;^)


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Maybe the lower level of Herb Davids and have the luthier upstairs.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

Great location but I'm not sure the luthiers want to smell burgers and grease all day!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Perfect location and building for a funky restaurant like this!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

He can use my garage in exchange for Tripple's with swiss on a onion roll

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

On the Blimpy rudeness myth- Some people can't handle that Blimpy has a process and rules for ordering, and they try and get around it. This generates friction and slows everything down. When the staff are unwilling to bend the decades old rules for them, some claim the staff is rude. Rule 1: If you want to have a Battle of Wills with the Blimpy staff, you will lose. When that spatula is in their hand, they are king. However, it is great entertainment watching "entitled" (or addled) people try and dictate, or even just comprehend, the rules. The simple process and rules help keep the line moving when it extends out the door. The worst are the people who try and save a table as soon as they enter, way before they have food. It is incredibly rude. That often leaves people who have food in hand no place to sit. Sorry - your coats aren't paying or eating. Oh, your friends are coming later? Maybe they should have hit it and quit it. I'm here now and want to eat my burger. So that's a rule. If you are getting food, get a tray and get in line. Don't try and sit at your saved table, and yell your order to your buddy, in a three way conversation with the chef. It just slows everything down. The tray is mandatory. It is a placeholder for each order. You don't order all at once. There are phases. You will first be asked if you want anything from the frier. Telling them that you want ketchup is pointless when the patties aren't even on the grill yet. It's all very simple, really. They've actually made it easier in recent years by posting a guide for Blimpy Virgins.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

@a2miguy: Heh! Nice catch. I actually knew that, but didn't want to make my post any longer. There is definitely a system. Though I have never phoned in a Blimpy order, or known anyone who has. Have to try it sometime. @Brad, if you absolutely must make your ketchup preferences known at the start of the order, the phone is probably the way to do it.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

@Nicholas Urfe - a quick clarification/correction: A tray is not mandatory if your order is to go. In fact, NOT having a tray indicates it as such.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

"Telling them that you want ketchup is pointless when the patties aren't even on the grill yet." Yet it works fine pretty much anywhere else I've ever eaten. In those places the staff has, by what can only be characterized as a miracle, been able to come up with a "process" that allows them to take the entire order - now get this - all at once before any of the preparation has begun! Genius!! I have no idea how they do it.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 5:35 p.m.

I've seen a lot of static tossed back and forth between staff and customers, and almost none of what the staff dished out is what I'd consider "rude." I can't say the same for the customers. If you have a problem with the way Krazy Jim's works, don't go there. They won't miss you. They're doing just fine. They've thrived where they are, and when they find a new location, they'll thrive there, too.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 5 p.m.

It's not a myth Nicholas. They are rude. And there's a huge difference between people who have never been there before and are just trying to order a burger and those who are being inconsiderate of the staff. If treating people like cattle and being rude to them is such a great business model, they'd have no problem joining all the other restaurants that can afford rent closer to campus. He's content with a smaller crowd that has come to treat his rudeness like a beloved old shtick. That's great. That may even be iconic. But if it were a good way to do business, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Matt Lang

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

I always thought they were "mock" rude, like they are at Ed Debebvics and Dicks last Resort in Chicago, its just part of the atmosphere.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Right on! It's amazing that Blimpy's rules should even be discussed. The idea that customers set the rules and tell staff how to do their work is ridiculous and typical of the Ann Arbor Snob crowd. I have a pretty good idea where these people "get that idea": it's chain grocery stores which think it's a good tactic to lead peoples expectations over the top. Having watched the "policies" of chain grocery stores play out while waiting behind 3 people at the express lane while a lone customer takes center stage to berate the cashier for "not helping me count my change" or not accepting on faith that there're really 50 dimes in the "$5 roll" or telling the cashier to wait while they dash off to get a forgotten item , I'd vote for "ordering and paying for" rules in a heart beat. Krazy Jim's does what every retail outfit should be doing: showing the customer the best way to get what they came for. Which translates to: be prepared to be an efficient customer, it's in your own interest.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

So simple it only took you nine paragraphs to explain it. Great burgers! Something we can agree on.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

I worry about this slightly. I mean, I'm sure he will find another location eventually. I wonder how good it will be though. It doesn't bode well that the news is always that he hasn't found a place. I really dislike the fact that the University bought the property. They ought to have a little more respect for traditional places like this, which could technically be seen as facets of quirky student life. But, of course, that's not realistic.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

vultures are PURELY realistic - who has the vultures makes the rules.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Mark's carts :)

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

A new location for Blimpy Burger would be Quintastic news!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

Hopefully as they're moving they'll leave behind the "burger nazi" schtick. Who thinks that improves the experience at all? It wasn't always like that there.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

It's not Blimpy Burger without that schtick.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

If you can't order a burger at Blimpy then find a new place to eat. It is not hard to order correctly and to not get yelled at. The people that work there are nice, follow their VERY simple process and they are great people.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

... and I don't think the process has changed at all since I started going there in the mid 80's. The biggest, maybe only, change is that they now sell soda.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.


Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Actually, Brad, a lot of the regular cooks have worked there for way over a decade.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

I guess you had to be there.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Never had a problem. Ever. Watching my blimpy virgin friends get labeled blimpy virgins - that was great.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Best burger in town. End of story.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

... adn end of best burger, too.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

The old Seoul Korner building at Thompson and William seems perfect. It's close to the old Blimpy location, and it's a somewhat funky stand-alone building rather than a generic storefront. It even has some parking, and last I saw it was vacant.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

Property records show it sold for $460,000 to John Lagos.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Oh, that sold? Interesting. I was wondering what was going on with that. Weird to have a little abandoned building across from a new luxury high-rise.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

I'm guessing that's a primo price kinda piece of land. They probably have visions of a 30 story student dorm.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

That building actually sold a couple weeks ago, I saw on the city's assessment site. I'm not sure what the plans are now, but thanks for reminding me to check!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

The crazy rents charged by speculating landlords will be the hurdle to overcome.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Ypsilanti has cheap rent, hungry students and easy parking. Come on down. We would love to have you.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

It'll be tough with today's rents around the downtown area. Unless they go with "plan Z" and have $14 burgers.

Kevin & Lucas

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

We're glad to hear that Blimpy is actively searching for a new spot. We can't lose Blimpy Burger - it's a staple. We're still a little stunned that UofM would want to risk losing Blimpy completely. Yes, money is money, buildings are buildings, but Blimpy is an iconic piece to the UofM campus. Best of luck, Blimpy.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

like, the um actually gives a burger about community cohesion. not stunned at al by vulture loan agencies with 'education' as a side business.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

Truly hop he finds another place -- best wishes and hope to see you re-opening soon.

Simon Green

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

Any vacant storefronts on South U? Not that businesses excel there, but maybe it would provide the kind of boost to that area that it seemed to be lacking since my college days... The old Bagel Factor spot would have been ideal I think, but is that a Domino's now?


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

What about State St. where Borders was?

Matt Lang

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

I think they should have a Blimpy Burger food truck that drives around AA as well as opening a new storefront somewhere.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

From a 2012 Michigan Daily article: [Berkowitz said a change in Ann Arbor's Solicitors and Peddlers ordinance forbade the Insomnia Cookies truck from parking in its usual location — on State Street near East Williams Street — for more than a specified amount of time. The policy made it impractical for the business to continue in Ann Arbor, and it was an inconvenience for customers, Berkowitz said. According to the city ordinance, a vehicle is prohibited from selling foods "on a street or other public property ... for longer than 5 minutes within a 2-hour period unless issued a street use permit for that location." Kristen Larcom, an assistant attorney with the city of Ann Arbor, said she didn't know the specifics of Insomnia Cookies' withdrawal from Ann Arbor. However, she confirmed that for safety reasons, the city's traffic code generally does not allow food sales from vehicles. "The city is looking to protect the people (and) control the streets," Larcom said.] Link: I agree with you guys. I think the ordinance is silly. Obviously a ton of food trucks could cause traffic issues; but with proper regulation, a few trucks could be a great asset to A2.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

For a progressive town, not having food trucks is so stupid and short sighted! My brother raves about the food trucks of Washington DC and Florida.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Yet another stupid Ann Arbor ordinance. Sure glad the City Council is in there paying attention to the important things.

Matt Lang

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

i didn't know AA had an ordinance against food trucks. maybe a Blimpy truck could operate just east and west of city limits. Those food trucks are so popular in Detroit and Chicago, and the food i've gotten from them is always fantastic, our loss that they can't come here.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Ann Arbor has ordinances against food trucks. That's why Insomnia Cookies had to get rid of their truck and obtain a storefront.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

How about on Fourth Ave where Eastern Accents just closed?


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Oh no!! Thanks Kyle. When I was an undergrad that was my favorite place to get dim sum items.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Hi Liz- Here's the story regarding Eastern Accents:


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Wait, Eastern Accents CLOSED?! I loved that place. When did it close?


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

Preferably someplace with lots of free parking!

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1 p.m.

The parking in the current area is pretty good. And walking off the burger is a good idea.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

Readers: Any ideas? Where would you like to see the new Blimpy Burger?


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:34 a.m.

First floor of Herb David's place.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

the stadium kc is being taken over by the soups store like the one in arborland.

Dave Koziol

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

Eastern Accents old space...


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 7:03 p.m.

Lizzy, Lets Get Real made an excellent suggestion that I'm passing on to you; how about the former studio 4/dream nite club on 4th? fan-friggin'-tastic idea!! LGR, my greasy hat's off to you!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

Over by the cookie place by EMU. OK, if cookies go in? They are going to need burgers to go with it. A beer depot may be on the horizon. Burgers, beer and cookies....O MY!


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

Hopefully anywhere on Liberty to bring some traffic back to the area... this street is dead now :(

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

It's hard to care. I lived about a block away for two years and have been inside once. The owner (I was told by my friend he was the owner) was incredibly rude to people and the burgers were just burgers. It's kind of telling that he can't afford a lease closer to campus. Blimpy's has always been about hype rather than substance.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

@Lizzy - it would be interesting to know what they currently pay for rent and what that would get you in some of these other spots under discussion.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

Beer Vault at 4th and Williams

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Former Maru at Thompson and William.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Put the Blimpy Burger In My Belly!

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

@J: I just saw some permits that imply Noodles will be taking the KFC.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

I'd recommend in that strip area along the Blue Front on Packard and State or some place near the current location where they'll still catch the eye of students and sports fans. It's a really tough situation that's for sure, but I wish Blimpy's continued success.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

They should move into where the KFC on W. Stadium was. (It may not be a a great location for Blimpy, but it'd be a great location for me. ;)


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

A bit more space, credit cards accepted, other than that, keep it very similar. Food wise maybe hot dogs, sweet potato fries, and breakfast sandwiches. Oh, one last thing, get beer/liquor and then you can totally stomp on Quickie Burger. Quickie Burger is crap but the students love it thanks to booze or something ridiculous like that (I'm sure the location doesn't hurt them!)


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 11 a.m.

My guess is that the cost of burgers will go up with a new lease.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

and your point is....?


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 6:19 p.m.

Come to Ypsilanti,. Burger prices will not go up. Especially over by EMU. There are new leases opening up to places like this. OK, Blimpie and cookies? I think I see a late nite venue.


Thu, Apr 4, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Worth it! Debbie downer