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Posted on Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Fox Tent closing leaves downtown Ann Arbor property for sale as potential development site

By Laura Blodgett


The sign advertising the Fox Tent property is visible from South Main Street.

Laura Blodgett |

Fox Tent & Awning Company, the long running tent rental and custom canvas provider located at 617 S. Ashley in Ann Arbor, closed at the end of December.

Now both the business and the property are for sale, said Larry Zahn, co-owner of Anchorage Realty, who is representing the property.

“This has been a family run business and Ann Arbor landmark for years,” said Zahn. “The current owners David and Becky Fox have retired and decided to put it all up for sale since they didn’t have anybody in the family to take over the business.”

Spanning nearly the entire block, the one acre parcel is bound by South Ashley, West Mosley and South Main St., across from South Main Market on one side and Washtenaw Dairy on the other.

The property includes the entire parking lot on the south end of the block as well as the three buildings currently occupied by Fox Tent, Delux Drapery & Shade Co., and Affordable Vet Services. Those two tenants are occupying their respective spaces under one-year leases starting this month.

The listing has the potential to drive larger-scale development on South Main Street.

Zahn said this property could be the very first parcel to appear under the new D-2 zoning district between downtown and the Old West Side neighborhood, with the potential to be turned into mixed-use development.

“It’s a real interesting opportunity for somebody to come in and do a design development for that corner which would anchor the entrance to the city from that point of view,” says Zahn.

The property has already drawn interest, with Zahn receiving two potential offers. There is no official list price for the property.

“Because of the zoning, we feel that each party who would be interested to make a submittal will do so based on what they believe they can develop the property into,” explains Zahn.

In the brochure that was just mailed to potential developers, Zahn highlights the fact that the property is close to Michigan Stadium and within walking distance to downtown.

“It isn’t all that far away from U of M’s central campus area either, although whether it becomes transitional new residential housing for students I’m not so sure,” says Zahn.

The property also just blocks from one development bid that failed: The Moravian, which was denied by City Council in 2010.

“I’m quite excited to see how developers are going to look at this in terms of this new zoning. It offers an interesting opportunity for potential new development in a part of town where property has not been available for sale for years.”


Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

Wait, this is NOT because of Rich Rodriguez?


Sun, Jan 9, 2011 : 5:26 a.m.

What? No comments about the possible lose of Delux Drapery & Shade. The Blunk family have been business staples in downtown since 1942. Top rate "family style" customer service. I hope they find another home. It would be a shame to lose these fine people to a "Big Box" piranha.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

Blerg said: "It's sad to hear that this great family business is closing. I still have canvas items I got from them in the late 80s, and I hate to think that this reliable local store is no more." Technology has made many stores obsolete and run them out of business. My ex wife's grandpa worked for this company for many years, they were a stand-up company. Problem is, you can go on the internet and order any type of canvas tarp,tent,canvas garage, etc for much much less and the quality is just as good and the delivery is even faster. Mega-size specialty retailers that laser in on niche business sectors are able to outsell and outprice smaller retailers located in high tax/hi rent locations. Is it fair, is life fair? Not really but the bottom line is the consumer dictates what business's suceed or fail. With the economy where it is and paying taxes at 40% plus of gross income, I personally look for the biggest bang for my buck!


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

It's sad to hear that this great family business is closing. I still have canvas items I got from them in the late 80s, and I hate to think that this reliable local store is no more.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

Fox Tent is/was a one-of-a-kind business. 25 years ago I had them make a canvas tarp for me with real metal grommets. It's far from a blue plastic made in China "tarp". My son has put his name on it for when I'm gone, his son will be able to do the same.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

I will miss Fox Tent. We used them regularly. I hope someone buys the business part, even if they move it. The Fox folks knew how to deal with canvas better than anyone else in the area. I will miss the Fox folks. All the best to you!


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

good idea timjbd, produce station area is so congested.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

A puzzling aspect: generally, a business is best sold whilst still active. It's generally not feasible to restart a closed enterprise, regardless of location. Too bad. Another business closed without much warning. Ironically, perhaps just prior to a resurgence in tent cities...


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

A supermarket is a great idea for that spot. Could move the Produce Station to this spot and someone could then run the tent and awning business from the current Produce Station location next to the railroad tracks/golf course. There will still be a need for a tent and awning biz in A2.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 11:17 a.m.

Edward R Murrow's ghost was being sarcastic about A2 being a terrible place to live and I was preemptively getting ready for the one trick pony haters whenever talk of rational sustainable development in Ann Arbor inevitably leads to the lies and myths spewing from the keyboards of the develop-at-any-cost crowd.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 11:08 a.m.

"Ann Arbor is a horrible place to do business and live" Yes it must be horrible to live in a city with the lowest unemployment rate in the state and second lowest in all the midwest. (lower than any city in Illinois or Ohio. What an awful place to have a thriving downtown, several world class educational institutions, great night life, restaurants, ands shops. If Ann Arbor was such a lousy place to do business, why have 711, Five Guys Burgers, CVS, and many other companies paid top dollar to move into the market? Fox Tent may have been a decent business. I have no idea, I had no need for their services ever in my life. They seemed to think it was a decent place to have a business. They decided to retire. I guess if a business closes it mans the city in which it is located must be to blame.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

Dave and Becky- Thanks for all your years of service, friendship and and other local businesses have made Ann Arbor what it is today...a wonderful diverse, original and fabulous city to raise a family, have a career and live a long, fruitful life...good luck and relax!!!


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

Where is my wife going to shop when she needs some new "house dresses", Wal Mart I guess. Enjoyed shopping local but alas, no more.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 10:30 a.m.

Let's harass and blame the city. the HDC, the hippies and the NIMBy OWS'ers for something that has not yet happened. Let the games begin! Beats thinking, or self reflection. Remember BUG, it is ALWAYS some body else's fault, unless one is a wimpy liberal, then it is ONLY your fault because you made mistakes early in life and must be punished for all time! Ann Arbor is a horrible place to do business and live, that is why so many of the Blamers still live and work here! Sorry to see another landmark business go down. Good Luck to all the former employees and the owners.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:56 a.m.

Fox Tent and Awning offered such unique services they will be missed. Are there any other similar businesses in the area to pick up this specialty?


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:44 a.m.

How about a regular, non-boutique supermarket to serve people who live in and near downtown? I'll bet lots of seniors who no longer drive would appreciate that, too.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:44 a.m.

I wish there would be a way to keep it open. Irregardless, I will miss seeing Dave Fox. Dave, your company has provided solid services for decades & given me a place to bring tattered flags for years. I hope to see you around and continues to be your friend. With enormous respect,


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:36 a.m.

Indoor/outdoor Farmers Market.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:35 a.m.

Let's harass and blame the city. the HDC, the hippies and the NIMBy OWS'ers for something that has not yet happened. Let the games begin!

Stephen Landes

Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 9:11 a.m.

Brad, Yes, and then once the development occurs our ever helpful city assessors will decide that Washtenaw Dairy's property is "undervalued", raise their taxes, and drive a nice neighborhood institution out of business.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 8:20 a.m.

"anchor the entrance to the city from that point of view" The point of view of the development-happy crowd. I'm thinking that the southerly entrance to the city has already been "anchored" (whatever that really means) by that huge football stadium a little south of there. I'm sure a multi-story building of overpriced condos (or whatever) will fit right in there with Washtenaw Dairy.


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 8:17 a.m.

question...isn't this property in a large flood plain? The same flood plain that prevents the Fingerle Lumber Co property from being developed?


Sat, Jan 8, 2011 : 7:40 a.m.

Tear it down, make it a park, put up a million dollar fountain using taxper money in the fund reserved only for stupidity.