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Posted on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Underground Printing opens new U-M apparel store on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor

By Paula Gardner


The new Underground Printing shop on South Main opened last week but is still waiting for its permanent sign.

Lon Horwedel |

Underground Printing store co-owner Ryan Gregg spent a late August evening at Conor O’Neil’s Irish Pub, and couldn’t help but notice the vacant storefront across the street.

Two weeks later - after four days of on-site preparation - the Ann Arbor-based collegiate apparel retailer expanded its multi-state operation to 16 locations when it opened a store in that building.

By opening a store in the hub of downtown, the store - filled with trendy and unique University of Michigan-themed clothing - becomes Underground Printing’s third in Ann Arbor and first located more than a block from campus.

“We just felt like Main Street was another area … to expand our customer base,” Gregg said.

The 2,750-square-foot building at 329 S. Main is the former home of Four Directions, which moved to a new location one block north on the same street.

The property, listed by Bela Sipos of the Charles Reinhart Co., had been offered at $23 per square foot.

The deal, Sipos said, further shows that downtown Ann Arbor retail - despite many changes in recent years - has stabilized. Few additional vacancies remain on the key three downtown blocks of South Main.

The location fits the Underground Printing model for all of its stores: Opening in the best location possible on the key blocks in a campus town.

The company already did that with its South University store, which expanded in late 2009.

And it kept the pattern going in April when it acquired Moe Sports Shop, an Ann Arbor institution at the edge of the University of Michigan Diag.

With the move to downtown, Underground Printing will add to the retail mix in an area known for its bars and restaurants. It will be open until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, preserving a retail presence for much of the active “nightlife” crowd.

“It also exposes us to a different demographic,” Gregg said, since it’s several blocks from campus.

Gregg and Rishi Narayan founded their business while they were U-M students living in West Quad. Today, their printing business in Scio Township generates much of the merchandise sold in the stores, which have expanded rapidly to their favorite college towns.

By April the pair were generating $8.5 million per year in sales in a competitive market. Yet its also growing, at least on the U-M front: The university realized $4.4 million in royalty income in 2009, up 4 percent from the previous year. About 70 percent of that comes from apparel. According to the university, almost 500 companies are licensed to produce the apparel.

Another Ann Arbor collegiate apparel company benefiting from proximity to U-M is the M-Den, which recently regained its licensing agreement with U-M.

M-Den also operates a store on South Main, in addition to stores on South State and Briarwood. Company representatives did not return a call seeking comment.

However, Gregg said the two stores appeal to different customers, and - like the stores’ coexistence near South State - they’ll simply provide complementary options to shoppers on Main Street, too.

Underground Printing is focusing on many of its best-selling items: Kids clothing, trendy pieces, the basic $5 shirt and th retro look - faded prints on softer fabrics, all with the U-M logo.

Some finishing touches remain to be added to the store, like an awning, which will be installed later this week.

But after rushing to open before the first home football game last Saturday, signs point to success for the store.

“We did four times the sales than we thought (we would),” Gregg said.

He also hopes there’s an impact on the rest of the Main Street business district.

“Hopefully we’ll have a big impact down there,” he said. “I think it’s a really good fit.”



Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

They sell the same items as the store correct?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

@rusty, you hope a local business fails simply because they sell something you don't want to buy? If you didn't like Zingerman's sandwiches would you want them to fail because there are so many restaurants in town? I guess we've discovered Ann Arbor's resident curmudgeon. I'll be sure to stay off you're lawn.

Ryan Munson

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:37 p.m.

I would agree a different market, but there's also Elmo's on Main St.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

How much for that M Go Blue photographer in the window?

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

Do they have an online store?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

Please tell me those are not maize and blue striped overalls in the window. Please.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

Great, just what A2 needs, another UM tchotchke store. Hopefully they fail for offering a redundant and stupid product. (I'm a UM grad, but I don't understand the compulsion to plaster oneself with it all the time, especially in a place where every other person is affiliated with UM).