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 Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Rumor mill hurting business: Prickly Pear Southwest Cafe is alive, well and open for business

By Janet Miller


The Middle Kingdom and Prickly Pear buildings in Ann Arbor were both listed for sale.

Courtney Sacco |

Like Mark Twain, Prickly Pear Southwest Café owner Gary Pearce wants his customers to know that reports of his restaurant’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Business has fallen 3 percent to 4 percent over the past three months, since news reports that the building it occupies on South Main Street in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor was up for sale.

Prickly Pear employees field a dozen calls a day from customers asking if they are still open, Pearce said. And his wife’s business, Main Street Massage Therapy, located on the second floor above the Prickly Pear, has suffered, Pearce said. There’s been a significant drop in the number of gift certificates sold. People don’t want to buy gift certificates if they fear a business won’t be around, he said.

Prickly Pear is alive, open for business and has no plans of closing, Pearce said.

That doesn’t mean he is immune to change, Pearce said. While he signed a five-year lease in August, Pearce said he knows new owners could make changes.

Jim Chaconas of Colliers International, the listing broker for the Prickly Pear property, is marketing the two-story building as a redevelopment opportunity — which could potentially include adding height and depth to the building for condominiums.


Prickly Pear opened in 1991. file photo

Kenneth and Margaret Ludwig have owned the two-story Prickly Pear building since 1990, according to city documents.

Prickly Pear opened in the space the following year, beating all odds and proving to naysayers that a small southwestern restaurant could work.

Pearce, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and chef at the Campus Inn at the time, said he used all of his wedding money to open Prickly Pear. His lawyer at the time told him to not do it: The 50-seat restaurant was too small to be viable.

Pearce went ahead and created the popular Mexican/southwest eatery, more than doubling capacity in the summer with outside seating. Over the years, it’s gained a solid following: “When we were in Washington DC recently, we were wearing Prickly Pear T-shirts and a group of about 25 people came up to us to say that was their favorite restaurant,” Pearce said. “When I was in the hospital recently, a doctor came up to me to say we catered her wedding. That’s rewarding.”

And he has longtime employees, including two waitstaff who have been at Prickly Pear from the beginning.


Prickly Pear seats about 50 people and more than doubles capacity outside in the summertime. file photo

A decade ago, Peace said he was interested in buying the building, figuring he could afford a 20-year mortgage and $6,000 monthly payments. The Ludwigs didn’t want to sell at the time, Pearce said. Now the $1.35 million price is beyond reach, he said. “The monthly payment would be out of reach for a small business.”

While he doesn’t own the building, he does own the liquor license, all the equipment and the business. If Prickly Pear is nudged out of his space, he said he will find new space. “We make a good living and I like what I’m doing,” Pearce said. “If we have a location change, I don’t think it would be horrible. But I don’t want to move.”

Potential buyers of the building have been given tours and rumors are swirling, Peace said. But, at least for now, he hasn’t been informed of a sale or plans for any changes, he said.

The nearby Middle Kingdom Chinese restaurant also was listed for sale around the same time. reported last week that Ann Arbor Main Street Real Estate, LLC closed a deal Tuesday to purchase not only the building at 332 S. Main St. but the business it housed as well.

Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for



Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

Also, what's up with the moths?

Honest Abe

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.


Wolf's Bane

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

Fish Tacos

Danielle Arndt

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

So, I never got the impression that Prickly Pear was closing. But I am sad to hear their business has been suffering. This is one of my and my husband's favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor. Every time we've gone, we've had to wait. But they have some of the best enchiladas I've ever had. And my husband's grandmother is from Mexico, so I've had some pretty darn good enchiladas!


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

I love the Pear!


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

Have to say it... I'm siding with readers on this one. lol A great number of people I know (who can read quite well) have been under the impression that Prickly Pear was closing, due to an article posted on this website a while back. Comparing this situation to Blimpy is apples and oranges - for the Blimpy article was very concise in conveying what was happening. I love and appreciate their work, but... they dropped the ball on this one. The rumor mill wasn't churning because people were foolish and jumped to conclusions. It was taken as fact because of, apparently, subpar reporting. But hey... It happens. Everyone makes mistakes. I'm just glad that one of my favorite little spots in town is going to be okay. :-)


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

I think this was actually the article that propagated the myth that PP was closing...


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

It wasn't that article, I believe. I think it was this one (before it was apparently updated):


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

So the fact that a building is for sale should make people jump to the conclusion that a business has closed? There are buildings all around town for sale. Investors buy buildings especially with existing tenants and hope to make a profit by expanding or running ti more efficiently MANY restaurants in town are also for sale. Their only value is as a going concern. If reporting the story causes people to become brain dead it is not the fault of


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

"...That report also noted that the nearby Prickly Pear building also was listed for sale, with a list price of $1.35 million. Broker for that property, Jim Chaconas of Colliers International, says that property - which can be expanded - remains on the market."


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

It's been a long long time since I've bothered to frequent PP. We gave it a shot twice and wasn't impressed either time. I know I'll get voted down a LOT for this but frankly PP is overrated.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:08 a.m.

Same here Tag. I wasn't impressed or even satisfied with my food.

Ron Granger

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

I love the food and drinks there, and the service is always spectacular.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Wow..this is great news! We had the impression they would be closing of our favorite places to eat.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

My family and I enjoy really enjoy dining there and I meet friends for lunch every now and then. Love the butternut squash soup! I hope they don't have to move but I'm sure they will be successful if they have to.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

Although I think the label of "Southwestern" is a bit misapplied, the food is solid and their space is cozy and inviting. Hope they get to stay.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

Place some of the blame on After writing an item about Prickly Pear closing, they never provided a follow-up until now. The only way we knew was because my husband, who works downtown, stopped in the restaurant to ask. Hopefully, this piece will help.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 5:25 a.m.

The problem is that many readers don't read the article. I see this all the time with postings asking for information that is in the article. I remember the article and I also remember is clearly indicating that the restaurant would remain open and the signing of the new lease.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

I'm not saying you shouldn't report real estate news, but I'm glad to see you stepping up to the plate and recognizing that you unintentionally harmed a successful local business.

Kyle Mattson

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Hi Leezee- Here's an excerpt from Lizzy's story in September: "Lisa Pearce, a Prickly Pear employee and the owner's sister, said they signed a five-year lease agreement in August. When it expires in 2017, it will be up to the new building owners to decide how to move forward, she said." It appears you encountered a similar situation as many others did where the word about the sale of the building was passed around but just needed some clarification on the status of Prickly Pear. Personally, I'm just as happy as everyone else to see that we'll continue to see Middle Kingdom and P-Pear staying in their current locations. Seldon- We'll continue to publish stories about the sale of buildings throughout downtown as well as the business which operate in those buildings as it does play a major role in shaping the future of the city. I think this (as well as Blimpy Burger) may be an opportunity for the casual reader to remember that most businesses lease the space they operate in. We're glad to be able to provide this update to clarify the situation that the Prickly Pear owners have experienced.


Sat, Dec 15, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

I'd put all of the blame on It's the only outlet that reported the story.