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 Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

The final Blimpy Burger: 'All good things come to an end'

By Ben Freed

The last Blimpy Burger.

Served to 16-month-old Jackson Turer at 10:17 p.m. on Wednesday, August 14, 2013.

To be precise, the last Blimpy Burger served at the corner of Division Street and Madison Street to a regular paying customer.

Likely very similar to the first Blimpy Burger, served in the same location in 1953.

The carefully rehearsed series of steps that begins with waiting in line and ends with not wanting to rise for a number of hours has certainly not changed much over the past 60 years.'s Blimpy Burger coverage

The journey to the last burger begins at 7:13 p.m. as Jackson and his parents are followed into a line that stretches down the street and around the block by a Blimpy employee tasked with turning away any further customers.

“Last night we were out here until 2 a.m. so we closed the line a little earlier today,” says Ray, who has been working at the burger joint for 6 and a half years and is not sure where his next job will be.

“People have tried to bribe me to get into the line but I’m not susceptible to any of that. They do take it a bit more kindly when I sing it to them that they won’t be able to stay.”

Jackson’s father Dave Turer, a resident at the University of Michigan Hospital, carries his son past the planter in front of the store at 8:57 p.m. The flower bed that doubles as the home for current owner Rich Magner’s winter creations is in full bloom. Despite an unseasonable cool spell, the only bear onlooker to the last burger will be the large stuffed animal manning his post in the corner.

Clink clink; tap tap; sizzzzz.

Into the door at 9:35 p.m. and the sounds and smells of Blimpy collide with the senses.

Clink clink; tap tap; sizzzzz.

As Paul Hoppin rhythmically pounds the final patties into the grill, the air is heavy with the “Vitamin G” that he has been serving to the people of Ann Arbor for the past 25 years. He will continue cooking after Blimpy closes, albeit in the less pressure-packed confines of Afternoon Delight Cafe.

While the burger is undoubtedly the piece de resistance of a Blimpy meal, Jackson and his party have a number of choices before they reach the main event. After a short debate, the wall cooler, always fully stocked with Orange Crush and a variety of root beers and cream sodas was opened for the final time at 9:53 p.m. for three Sprecher root beers.

Small stacks of napkins soon to face losing battles are unceremoniously deposited on trays as a tired-sounding Greg Dryer poses the first question of the night.

“Anything from the fryer?”

Dryer is a relative newcomer at Blimpy, having only joined the staff last August. After tonight he’ll continue with his day job as a landscaper in Ann Arbor.

A “Papa” mixed vegetables and a “Mama”-sized portion of onion rings are dipped into the hot oil. They emerged — crispy and brown — at 10:07 p.m., just as the neon “OPEN” burger sign is unplugged.

“What’s your burger today?”

There are more than 2.1 million answers to Hoppin’s question, but the final one was simple, a single on a regular bun.

The last patty joins the controlled chaos that Hoppin orchestrates at 10:11 p.m. With onions and banana peppers simmering in the corner, bacon sizzling under hot presses and eggs frying on the far right, the patties are directed across the grill.

Hoppin started at Blimpy Burger in 1988 and seems almost shell-shocked that he is working his final shift.

“The one thing about working here is you never knew who was going to walk through the door next. Whether it was a senator, astronaut, a rock and roll star, anything could happen,” he says. “And the locals… I’ve watched a lot of families grow up over the years. That’s one thing I’m really, really, going to miss.”

Once he has properly flattened and pressed Jackson's patty, Hoppin places a single slice of American cheese on it.

Then he adds the finishing touch to Jackson’s burger, a solitary dab of ketchup, and Joel Cronenwett tallies up the final order on the register that has dispensed so many two-dollar-bills and fifty-cent pieces over the years. He’s been working at Blimpy part-time for more than a decade and plans to continue his primary job as Greg’s foreman in the landscaping business.

As the last burger is served, music fills the air. Herm Steinman has been playing the bagpipes at the annual Blimpy Christmas party for more than 10 years and Magner invited him to perform a swan song as the final customers enjoyed their meals.

Though Magner hopes to open in a few months at a new location, Wednesday was the last regular business day for the restaurant at its original location. The University of Michigan has purchased the property to make way for a 600-bed graduate residence.

“The truth is all good things come to an end,” Steinman says. “You want it to go on and on and on, but that’s just the way it is.”

Jackson Turer is a toddler of few words and simple sounds, but he has a wide smile on his face as he polishes off his first and final Blimpy Burger at 551 S. Division St.

On this evening, his smile speaks for us all.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Steve Bean

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

i knew Herm would be there at some point in the farewell goings on. I never took him up on the invitations to join him and the kids to eat there. My loss, I guess. "SlĂ inte!" Herm and Blimpy's!


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

All good things come to an end. Crappy, poorly managed ones too apparently. With the business they did, if the owner can't afford to rent new space without sacrilegiously named money grabs like a $1 burger for $100 then it sounds like evolution to me. Maybe a few people will go eat at some of the great restaurants around town and see what they were missing.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 6:07 a.m.

It is possible that the people who have patronized Blimpy may have also patronized some of the other great restaurants in town. That is what helps to make the town so great you know, variety of things to do and places to eat.

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

The University recently invested many millions in a cardio-vascular center, which surely employs hundreds of people. I hope the closing of Blimpy doesn't eventually force them out of business.

Ann English

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

People come from other states and countries to be treated at the U-M Health System. They could get cardiovascular care here and then check out without ever visiting any greasy spoon restaurant here.

Boo Radley

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

The U-M has been here much longer than Blimpy Burger. They most likely paid a more-than-fair price for the property. A story some time ago about Angelo's stated that the best move the original owner ever did was to save his money and buy the building and parking lot. Too bad more business owners do not have the foresight or means to do the same. And ... moving a business, even an iconic one, is not always a bad thing. For example, I never ate at Metzger's when it was downtown, but now dine there quite frequently since it has moved closer to me in Scio Twp.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Enough already with this story. The place was marginal at best. The people were rude, the lines were long . My kids liked it but they also like mcdonalds a lot too. I am not happy with u of m taking taxpayers off the rolls. That is the real sad part of the story here. If blimpys is good then jim can fins a new and better location.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Unlikely you will be reading more in a few days unless Blimpy's has a new location locked in.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

I'm guessing that Jim won't be changing locations.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

At the front of the store at 8:57 and in the door at 9:35pm... served at 10:17pm. Going to any other restaurant for an order of a burger and fries taking over an hour just to serve would be absurd. I'd rather wait for 5 guys burger and fries, but it wouldn't even take that long under similar circumstances.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 7:10 p.m.

Agreed! Five guys is better too. It's crap food that, in typical Ann Arbor style, became temporarily hip over the last few weeks and nobody will remember existed in a year. No big loss, except to the "journalists" who don't seem to be able to find any actual news to write about.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

If you'd rather wait for 5 guys why didn't you?


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

Comment from a 1975 grad... Sorry about Blimpy Burger, but the lease was up. A tenant has no god given right to stay forever. The bigger problem from an infrequent visitor is the transformation of the town into a mini-Manhattan. Ann Arbor is now so vertical! It's not the U so much as the commercial developer that is the problem.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

From a 1979 birth, life long resident...would you prefer we keep chopping down the forests and fields as we sprawl out in every direction? Better to be a mini-manhattan than a mini-LA...that's for damn sure.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Did Jim Kosteva drop by to let them know it was all for "the greater good"?

Jack Gladney

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

The end of an era. So now we need to have "fundraisers" because the well is spent and apparently there is no bank or would-be partner coming forward to help resurrect the retail/restaurant concept of "The customer isn't always right because he doesn't even know what he wants. Now go show him who's the boss." Gone with the 1980s and mid-90s and powerhouse retailers such as Highland and Fretter Appliance whose cultures expected salespeople to push customers to the point of walking out the door; and if a few customers didn't do just that, the salesperson wasn't doing his job. Those quaint days of walking into an Art Van with the guys lined up on the launch pad waiting to pounce, converting the next "up" into a "lamb chop with mint jelly." Then people got wise to the game. You could buy appliances and furniture without getting beat to death. Krazy Jim's actors seemed a pale imitation of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi bit. But cheer up folks. Dimo's is still out there and makes a good sandwich and will kindly drop a couple of F-bombs your way if you get a little thrill from a touch of verbal abuse from the fry cook behind the safety of a glass counter. I'm sure Blimpy will be back in some form, a paler imitation of itself, but they should take a cue from reality TV. In the culture of abuse vis-a-vis the restaurant business, Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine rule the day. You abuse your help, not the customers. I'm sure the voyeurs in Blimpy who squeed at the uninitiated being abused for forgetting to take a tray will get the same trill when a cook drops the jar of pickles and gets a verbal tongue lashing.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

Indeed, the loss of Blimpy Burger is sad and unnecessary. The real tragedy is that U of M is willing and able to step on the little guy to get whatever they want. Yes "hail the victors" as Ann Arbor's tax base continues to shrink and my taxes go up.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

If I ever thought I kind of liked this greasy spoon. I certainly don't now with the over saturation of publicity this dive is getting. Fundraiser? More like corporate welfare at every level.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

I suspect the headline is correct, that was the last Blimpy forever. I don't want to believe it, but I suspect it was. I hope the moment was recorded for the history of the town.

Steve Hendel

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

In A2, we seem to make icons for no apparent good reason; a crowded hamburger joint with a rude staff (Blimpy), an incoherent street "musician" (Jake), etc. Go figure.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

Yes, I miss Jake, too> He really was a super nice guy. Couldn't play a chord on that guitar to save his life, but he sure love strumming that thing! Lol He was a character. And he is missed by many. As for Blimpy--I only ate there once. Meh. Nothing special. I did like the bear snow sculpture though. And rudeness? It's everywhere. For instance, the staff at Trader Joe's lately-quite rude! They used to be so nice!


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 6:01 a.m.

Proleptically Living (nice name, btw) - his name is Brian Woolridge.

Proleptically Living

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

I miss Shaky Jake. I wonder where The-Guy-Who-Dances-to-Michael-Jackson-Songs-in-the-Alley has been. I miss him, too. At least we've got The Violin Monster.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

To be fair Steve, every city has it's own unique icons for whatever reason that may be. For businesses they are typically places that have been around for a number a years giving generations to visit multiple times and create memories or stand out with some unique product or experience. Consider American and Lafyette Coney Island in Detroit, Zehnder's and Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, and of the fudge shops in Mackinac, etc. While they may not always be the 'best' you'll ever find, they are a place where people latch onto a moment they'll never forget.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Steve, not only have I NEVER been treated rudely at Blimpy's but Shakey Jake was a genuinely kind man who gave back a lot to Ann Arbor. If you were at his memorial, you no doubt would have seen an amazing cross-section of people, i.e. professionals of one kind or another, regular citizens like myself, clergy, etc. Jake touched a LOT of people. If I could vote you down a thousand times, I would. sign me, Madeleine Baier, one of the many people who knew and loved him.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Funny....I've never been treated rude at Blimpy's in my entire life. Methinks you've misinterpreted human behavior a bit...

Wake Up A2

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

If the U of M understood tradition, they would have made Blimpy's part of the corner of the new residents hall and made everyone happy. Blimpy's could have also been given a set of wheels to make burgers in till the new site was ready....but the U doesn't understand tradition......kinda like Rich Rod......


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

Wait. Two more stories to come about the $100 nights, followed by the story that it's really closed, followed by weekly updates on his efforts to find a new location...

Ben Freed

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

I'll try to make sure to cover all of those angles. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading this little snippet of Ann Arbor history.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Friday's story will be: "Ann Arbors First 24 Hours Without Blimpy Burger". Then on Monday, "Ann Arbors First Weekend Without Blimpy Burger". Likely a late August story "First Football Weekend Without Blimpy Burger" Enough please - there has to be some other news to report. Good luck to the employees with securing new jobs. IF ... Krazy Jims signs a lease @ a new property, then run another story.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

A2Realilty, does that advise apply only to stories? or does it apply to comments about stories too?


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Don't like them, don't read them. And better yet, don't comment on them. But thanks for venting your negativity.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

I'll vote you up. It was worth the laugh this early in the morning


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

...followed by a multitude of stories about the inevitable grand opening, followed by 500 more photos of hamburgers and people standing in line, followed by people sharing their grand opening stories. Which will now be followed by everyone voting me down.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

Hey now, people were reading these stories. Sometimes we actually have to make people happy, right?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

don't forget the updates to tell us there are no new updates. An Ann classic.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 10:26 a.m.

They paved paradise. And put up a parking lot. So sad to see it go. Many great memories going back to my freshman orientation in 1977. Hopefully, BB will find a new home soon.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 10:18 a.m.

Let's see what the UM has done with this building in one year. - put it on your calender and check back on August 14, 2014.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

Not much of a mystery. When someone hands the University $110 million and says "Build my building", it typically happens in short-order:

Paula Gardner

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

It's on the calendar. And I agree, it'll be interesting to watch.