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Posted on Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

What could be locked inside this mysterious, unopened safe hauled out of downtown Ann Arbor business?

By Lizzy Alfs


Owner of the Tower Mini Market Nabeel Gneyem said this safe has remained unmoved in the building for years.

Lizzy Alfs |

(This story has been updated.)

Where's Geraldo Rivera when you need him?

Rivera, who famously hosted a TV special in the 1980s to open Al Capone's long-lost vault, would surely be intrigued by a unopened safe recently found at a downtown Ann Arbor market.

The massive safe — believed to be at least 25 years old — is over six feet tall, three feet wide and three feet deep, but the owner who inherited the mysterious box doesn't know how to open it.

Tower Mini Market owner Nabeel Gneym is puzzled about what could be inside the safe after he helped remove it today from his convenience store on the first floor of the Tower Plaza Condominium.

After finding two gold bracelets underneath the safe, Gneym is convinced there must be something of value inside. But the contents of the safe are a mystery to Gneym, who said it had not been moved in the building for years.

It took five men, a pallet jack and more than two hours to move the safe from the inside of the convenience store to the sidewalk outside, Gneym said. The Fichet-Bauche brand safe weighs an estimated 8,500 pounds.

Gneym said the tattered safe was positioned against a wall in his store when he moved into the space at 340 Maynard Street in May.

When Gneym signed the lease to move his mini market into the building, he said he was told he could keep the safe.

“The landlord, when he leased it to me, he said, ‘You can have the safe and whatever is in it as long as you’re willing to move it,’” Gneym said.

But in an effort to create more space in his market, Gneym recruited several men to help him move the safe outside.

During the move, Gneym said he found two gold bracelets underneath the bottom of the safe and he took them to a shop to be appraised.

“I went to a gold shop and then I sold them. If there is something around it, there must be something in it," he said.

After attempts with a hammer, a torch and several other tools, Gneym couldn't open the mysterious safe.

The market's current space used to be occupied by Matthew Hoffmann Jewelry Design. The store relocated to Nickel's Arcade and was renamed to Ten Fine Jewelry & Design three years ago, said owner Kris Keller.

Gneym previously estimated that the safe hadn't been moved since 1969, but Keller said Matthew Hoffmann bought two safes sometime in the 1980's. Along the way, the combination was lost for the safe that was left in the building, Keller said.

"When we went to move, the safe was too large to take so we left it because we didn't have the combination or the key," Keller said. "If there's something in it, I don't know, but it was going to cost us $1,000 for a safe-cracker to get into that."

Bill Loy, owner of the Campus Student Bike Shop next door to the Tower Mini Market, said his jackhammer will break through the barrier with no problem.

Loy said they’ll likely attempt to solve the mystery using his jackhammer tomorrow.

Despite Loy's confidence, Keller said there is no chance a jackhammer will break through the 8,500-pound safe.

"They're never going to get into that thing with a jackhammer. The thing is a tank," Keller said. "It's called a four-body safe because you can literally fit four bodies into it."

When asked whether they could crack the safe, Vogel's Lock & Safe said in a Twitter message, "Shouldn't be a problem however they used a hammer, torch and other tools, which will make it more difficult."

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


Kyle Mulka

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

The safe was taken away on a flatbed.

tom swift jr.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

I don't really know what's inside now, but after we get it open, can we put Ricky Snyder in it and lock it back up?

lindsay erin

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

I predict zombies.


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

Whitey Bulger was just arrested.... surely one of his guys has the skills to open this safe. Maybe the Feds would ask him for one more piece of information...for old times sake.

Mike D.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Did anyone ask Matthew C. Hoffman? What ever became of that wild and crazy guy?

Adam Jaskiewicz

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

I know how to open it! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 9:26 a.m.

History has showed us that old safes usually have large perdomai's in them. This is due to the lack of any other safe means of storage.

Peter Jameson

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 6:50 a.m.

wow! 25 years? thats almost as old as I am!

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 11:26 a.m.

It just aged batter...

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 3:09 a.m.

Nobody's asking why a bike shop owner has a handy jackhammer?


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

I vote to open it at the Townie Party!


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

Where is the safe now? Is it still outside on the sidewalk?


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

Don't worry. It's in a safe place...


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Please, don't open this safe until you can organize a suitable extravaganza around it! Bonfire, booze, grilling, go-go dancers and mimes? At least a couple of sparklers? Don't waste the spectacle. Can you &quot;save&quot; it for the townie party or something? The 4th of July parade could use some serious help...


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

Attention!! A jack hammer will not have any effect on a steel safe! Anyone that has ever used a 90 lb jack hammer would know that.


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

Not to mention what it might do to the contents


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

jcj I believe safes are usually concrete with a steel jacket

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

It can't be Jimmy Hoffa! He's safely ensconced in my basement. I'll be digging him out soon, as soon as I get the time and energy to actually, you know, clean. Seriously, though, I'd love to be there when that thing is opened. Even if it's empty, it's still exciting. The mystery of it all, and whatnot.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 9:55 p.m.

Tressel's conscience


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 9:50 p.m.

In the picture, is that the front of the safe? It doesn't look so good. I wonder if that is the result of the hammer, torch and several other tools. I can't even see a mechanism, a lock or dial to open it. I would think you could find out online what the inside structure is, shelves and compartments and may drill a hole to poke a slim camera through to get a look around. That might reveal if it is worth trying to get it open. Does anyone know if the safe itself has (had) any value?

C. S. Gass

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

jimmy Hoffa, Elvis Presley, Bigfoot, and Chris Angel (It would be the greatest magic trick ever if he popped out alive, with the corpses of those three in tow)


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Time to call in Geraldo Rivera. He did a swell job with that Al Capone safe.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Cocaine.....and a little bit of weed.....

Craig Warburton

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

call Vogels or National Safe or HI Tech lock and safe. ANy would probably drill and open it via hte tumblers in mere moments for not much more than a lock smith trip charge. A jackhammer would actuate any relock device and make getting at the tumblers impossible. It probably has a TLTR X6 rating of 30 minutes based on its size. The jackhammer would make a great you tube, but I doubt would open the safe. the proponent of that theory has never seen what is hold ing the door shut, the hinges are convienence, not security.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

Craig what if they go through the back ?


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Rich Rod's playbook

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 3:06 a.m.

You have to admit, a safe is a pretty good defense against thieves... ... and RichRod doesn't believe in defense, so probably not.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

I bet there is another safe in there. Then, another safe inside that one. Then there yet another safe, continued until there is just a teeny tiny safe with a key. And when you open it, there's just a little.......... (you finish)


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 4:02 a.m.

creamy nougat center

the other guy

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

I think it's a SAFE BET nothing is in the the safe!!!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

... a ton of blow.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

Iraqi wmd's. &quot;We found 'em!&quot;

Christy King

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

Far faster folks than I beat me to the clear answers: Jimmy Hoffa and Vogels FTW


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

Personally, I hope Mr. Rib is in there. I miss Mr. Rib.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

Nice &quot;The massive safe — believed to be at least 25 years old&quot; Heck I bet it could even be 26 years old! We had a big safe in the basement of our house like this when we moved in, supposedly from the 30's-40's. We had a safecracker come in and there was just a pencil in there. Woo Hoo! But he put a new lock in it and we still use it for our important documents.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

Take the monies from the gold bracelets and get a locksmith to crack the safe. Also, don't go public by telling everybody you're going to be rich by opening the contents of a massive safe that is likely full of jewelry or monies. OH TOO LATE!!!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

Please keep us updated, Alfs!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

Cracking the code on the dial isn't always a locksmith's preferred method anyway, especially if there's no plans to reuse the safe. I imagine the folks a Vogels (awesome locksmiths, with fantastic service I might add) are probably familiar with the construction of this style of safe, and probably know the easiest way to get in. If it turns up empty, at over 4 tons you should be able to recover any locksmith costs by selling it off for scrap metal. Transporting it to the scrap yard may be another story...


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

This is got to be where the Nixon tapes are stored.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Quick, somebody call Geraldo Rivera.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

When I was reading this I thought of a locksmith then I noticed the dial was gone.Then I thought of a jackhammer.That'll do it.But I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that it's empty


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

cinnabar That's not true.I have a fairly large floor safe that Ypsi locksmith opened with no combo.Then they re-combo'd it


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

Dails are only helpful if you have the combo.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

If I were that guy, I'd get his landlord's promise in writing, signed by a notary public. If that safe turns out to be full of something expensive, you just know the landlord is going to deny there was any deal or fight it in court to get some of the loot. He'll probably win, too, unless Gnyem has the paper proving the landlord gave up all rights to it. It might be nothing but dust and old papers, but it could also have a fortune in it. I can't wait to find out. It also occurred to me, what if there's a skeleton in it? :-O Maybe an old murder case gets solved tomorrow...


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

That would probably be Jimmy Hoffa !


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

If you don't like smoking avoid this place at all costs, they've set up a hookah bar in front with tables outside.

tom swift jr.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Hey, nice unrelated comment.... sheesh..


Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 3:02 a.m.

OOOOhhhh!!! Really! Think I'll stop by and have a smoke and a cup o' joe. Thanks for the info!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

I'm guessing Dead Air.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

Matthew Hoffmann Jewelry Design was located in that storefront at Tower Plaza for many years and I bet the Jewelry that was recovered under the safe belonged to him. He is now located in in Nickels Arcade, see link: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I doubt anything remains in the safe and it would be a shame to destroy it and have to sell it for scrap.

Haran Rashes

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Isn't Tower Mini Mart's location the former location of Matthew Hoffmann Jewelry Design?

tom swift jr.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Did you read the article?

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

jimmy hoffa?

Will Warner

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Didn't Jimmy Hoffa turn up in the autopsy of Jeffery Dahmer?

John of Saline

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Too early: he was still around in 1969.

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

Please someone have a video camera running when the jackhammer starts. Post hilarious results to youtube.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

Call Vogel's. I bet they can open it for you.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

That's what I was going to say. You need to crack a safe, call the locksmiths right up the road. I'm sure they'd have no problem getting in to it.