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Posted on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

Ypsi-Arbor Lanes closing means buyer must be found for landmark sign

By Paula Gardner

News that Ypsi-Arbor Lanes bowling alley will close May 1 raised a pressing question among readers - kegelers and non-kegelers alike: What will happen to its landmark neon sign on Washtenaw Avenue?

The answer: At this point, it looks like it’ll be for sale as part of the business’ liquidation.

ypsiarborbowl.jpg files

Rich Glomb, an owner of the bowling alley, says he’s fielded many calls from people asking about the sign’s future and expressing hope that it remains near the corner of Golfside.

“They don’t want it to go away,” he said. “They want to keep it somehow because it’s so beautiful.”

The building that houses Ypsi-Arbor Lanes is owned by Frankel Associates and it has been a bowling alley since 1964. The current operators took it over in 1971, Glomb said.

They’re planning for the closing by now, setting up an online liquidation auction that will run throughout May, Glomb said.

All of the interior fixtures and the sign belong to Ypsi-Arbor Lanes and not the building owner, he added. And he expects the sign to be a part of the liquidation.

He hopes that’s a step toward preserving it. For 47 years, the sign has welcomed bowlers inside and stood as a landmark along Washtenaw Avenue, just east of the border between Ypsilanti and Pittsfield townships.

“The sign is what makes Ypsi-Arbor Lanes so unique from the road,” he said.

Glomb said the distinctive sign has attracted attention for decades. It’s been featured in newspaper articles and a national bowling magazine, and visitors from out of town “feel like they’re entering a part of the Las Vegas ‘Strip,’” he said.

“It’s pretty impressive on a nice, dark evening when it’s clear outside and you’re heading east on Washteaw,” he said. “You come around the little bend and you can’t help but see that sign.”

While the fixtures inside Ypsi-Arbor will find new homes - and possibly new uses, as in the case of the wood that makes up the 40 lanes - it may not be that easy to find a new home for the sign.

There’s a bowling theme in the letters inside the pins. But it’s also geography-specific and seems to belong in the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor community, Glomb said.

Some readers have contacted the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati about acquiring it. Tod Swormstedt, founder of the museum, said in an email that the not-for-profit may be interested in acquiring it.

"It’d be shame for the sign to be scrapped," he wrote.

Finding a new home for the sign needs to take place by the May 31 auction close, Glomb said.

He’s expecting it to attract more attention over coming months, and he welcomes suggestions for its future. He said he joins fans of the sign in hoping that it survives.

“I think it would be a travesty to pull a bulldozer and knock it down, and throw it into the dump.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.


American Sign Museum

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:25 p.m.

We at the American Sign Museum always prefer to see such an iconic sign remain in the community. When that's not possible, we are of course interested in preserving it at the American Sign Museum. While we have the means within the sign industry to take down, transport, restore, and exhibit such signs, we unfortunately can't always compete with other buyers. If the powers that be choose to preserve the sign where they know it will be appreciated and not resold to the highest bidder, we are your go to guys. Also, being as big as it is, many eBay collectors will shy away from it. I truly hope it is not scrapped, or dismantled, or stripped and sold for parts. One commenter indicated the vote to scrap is faulty. I'd like to think so. We will be watching for future developments and anything we can do to help.

Wystan Stevens

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I'll bet that few readers of these comments know what treetowncartel is talking about: the train that used to run up from Hillsdale, Manchester, and Saline, then across Packard and Golfside to the EMU area must have stopped running about 45 years ago, and all of the tracks have been torn up. (For a year or so after US-23 was put in, the tracks crossed all four lanes of the freeway at grade!) I wonder: is the bowling alley sign actually that old?


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 6:16 a.m.

Wow. I missed the earlier article on the closing. I was in there for a benefit bowling event three weeks ago and the place was full and jumping. Looked like a thriving business. We had to wait for our reserved lanes to close. Surprised its closing.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 4:55 a.m.

I wonder what it was like for the engineeers driving the trains in from the southwest to see that sign, knowing they were close to their stop in Ypsilanti proper. They must have been able to see it right about the time they crossed over Packard, getting readt to go over Golfside.

Wystan Stevens

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

Every serious photographer in Ann Arbor (and some frivolous ones as well) has taken photos of this neon landmark. Many of those gems are posted on the Flickr photo-sharing website. I counted 62 just now, plus a few shots of the bowling alley's interior. However, there appears to be a deficiency of images of the building's facade.

Tom Teague

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

Fascinating: More than 1,000 people have voted in the poll thus far and that the "scrap it" contingent rose from around 14% this afternoon to 54% just a few minutes ago.

Russell Rein

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

This is the best sign in the greater A2/Ypsi metro area. When noted roadside author, Brian Butko, and noted roadside photographer Chuck Biddle were in town, I hosted them to a roadside tour of the area. They were both very impressed with the sign - the five neon colors and the sequentially firing yellow light bulbs. Chuck's photograph of the Ypsi-Arbor sign was featured in the Society for Commercial Archeology quarterly magazine. I can't believe that most people want to scrap it, or that others think it is an eyesore.It is a classic and must be preserved. I am going to alert the SCA to its dilemma: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

oh for Petes sake recycle it! Its probably coated with a million layers of lead from all the exhaust fumes from the pre no lead gas days! You may have to send it to SUPER FUND dump site!


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

I think it would be great to scrap the pins with the word 'BOWL' and relocate the top portion to a location that is sort of the dividing line between Ypsi and Ann Arbor maybe as a type of landmark signifying the words on the sign.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

Way don't they try to keep it open as an alley or attraction it will employ local jobs and give something to the community what else could be used for the building a furniture store? That won't work until we get JOBS JOBS JOBS.

Atticus F.

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

I'm really going to miss that sign!


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

How interesting... The sign is not legal according to today's sign ordinance... ((this one is Ypsi Twp but I believe Ann Arbor and Pittsfield have similar ordinances)) The sign is still in existence only there because it was grandfathered. This is the kind of sign that the ordinance was meant to prohibit. Now that all the other signs are tiny and bland, we realize we miss the big Las Vegas style fancy ones.... Hmmm.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

I wonder how tall it is? The size might make it problematic for a museum or a collector. As many times as I have driven by it, I've never walked up to it and looked up, let alone put a tape measure on it.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

with the article just yesterday regarding the corridor improvement authority along washtenaw, this seems like a no brainer to have the authority purchase the sign and relocate at the US 23 interchanges as a gateway marker to the corridor.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

I was thinking the same thing!


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

They should call Mike and Frank from American Pickers, they would love that sign!


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5 p.m.

Henry Ford might take it. I know they took the McD's signage years ago. Who knows, maybe it might spruce up the museum? It is a pretty sign and one that any collector would want.

simply amazed

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

I'm shocked at the high % of people that actually think that legally the new owner would be obligated to keep the sign up. I'm pretty sure even an historical society couldn't demand that. That would be like you buying a house with some huge unmovable, unattractive, monstrosity of a statue in the front yard and the terms of you purchasing that home was contingent on you preserving that statue to pay homage to the previous owners deceased Grandparent. What is the likelihood of you buying that home? What is the likelihood of the seller selling that home with those kind of stipulations? Same would hold true of that prime commercial corner. With Dairy Mart condemned and the bowling alley up for sale, it could attract a decent commercial developer. A developer without any sentimental ties to a sign and with their own vision for how they want to market that development. Could even be another bowling center for all we know. Regardless, it is possible a local nostalgic buyer with deep pockets may want to do that, but how long will that property stay on the market waiting for that needle in a haystack buyer? Could be years. Now the property becomes a nuisance. If you really love that sign and what it represents, either find someone that will relocate it for &quot;nostalgic&quot; purposes and put it on their property or allow it to live on in a museum so people other than long time Ypsi-Arborites can appreciate it. I worked at the lanes many many years ago and have fond memories of it so I don't say this to diminish its significance, but rather to say, if you appreciate it to a high degree, allow it to be preserved by someone that CAN preserve it.....or we can just move it to the Thompson Block in an attempt to divert our attention from the current Thompson Block eyesore. lol.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

I doubt those who voted to &quot;Keep it there, no matter what happens to the property.&quot; are thinking that would be a legally binding obligation. Only that it would be their first choice if they were &quot;King/Queen of the World&quot;


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

It's too bad to see yet another business closing in the area on the heels of Blockbuster on Plymouth and Borders in Arborland. Doesn't point to a good future for businesses. The sign is an icon and should be preserved, perhaps in a historical museum where it can be protected from deterioration from the elements and vandals. Why keep it in front of an empty building or in front of a building that may be used in the future for a different purpose?


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

Give a shout to the folks at 'American Pickers' on the History Channel ( Pickers Mike and Frank go crazy over classic old signs and I'm sure they would LOVE to snag this one. Sometimes they keep 'picked' items for their own use, but most often they sell them to collectors who can truly appreciate them.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

I'm sure I'm going to sound foolish, but what is a &quot;kegeler&quot;? I could only imagine that it refers to &quot;one who does Kegel exercise,&quot; but that seems far-fetched, and raises a *whole* lot of questions about common bowling practices. Have I been playing this sport wrong all these years?


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 3:17 a.m.

Wait, so *no one* knows what the heck this is supposed to mean?

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for Kegel today


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

Yup, I did that too. Found out it was &quot;one who kegels&quot;, so that cleared it all up.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

I had to google it myself


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

That sign is an eyesore. Unsightly signs like that along the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor corridor persuaded Ann Arbor and Pittsfield to adopt strict sign ordinances.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

If I could vote to send this comment down into negative numbers, I would.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Warning - nostalgia attack. My kids used to clamor to go to Mr. S and to Dog and Suds - and to the Ypsi-Ann, where it cost (I think) $4 for two adults to watch the movies and three kids to fall asleep in the back of the station wagon.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

NO! this is sooo sad, i bowl there all the time. why is it closing? thats crap.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Hmm. Maybe it could be moved to some local athletic field where it could preside over some January weekend, strictly local &quot;grudge match&quot; exhibition sporting event. The event could feature teams from local high schools or perhaps even a couple of local universities would &quot;sign on&quot;. (No pun intended.) The event could be known as the &quot;Ypsi-Arbor Bowl.&quot; Bragging rights to the winner; proceeds to charity.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

I hope that as part of the liquidation of the Bowling alley, the sign is placed on eBay as an auction item. I can think no better place than eBay to guarantee the sign a future life. This area doesn't have the financial means to help the sign live on. So, instead of it languishing in scrapyard in Inkster, put it on eBay. Buyer responsible for pick-up!


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

How about asking the now joint Ypsi-Arbor Chamber of Commerce to acquire it and use the billboard part to announce their events - or as a welcome sign, either in its current location or elsewhere? This use would not only preserve the sign, it would put the neon Ypsi-Arbor to meaningful use for the community.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

lets put it front of city hall instead of the fountain. It would be cheaper....unless City Council approved 2.3 million dollars worth of solar panels to light it up. And lets not forget 625 thousand dollars to convert it to LED bulbs. I like nostalgia as much as the next guy. Moving to Ypsilanti as a kid in 1962 I bowled and shot pool their over the years. I attended/hosted a few bumper bowling birthday parties when my kids were little as well. But I have to admit I don't care what happens to the sign. Its no more iconic to me than the Gingham Inn sign or the Ypsi/Ann Drive Inn sign that have disappeared in to history. What ever happened to that Mr. S sign where my high school sweetheart and I would scarf &quot;junk food&quot;. How about that Dog and Suds sign on Packard?


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

Craig, Off topic but your post made me feel obligated to tell you....Bills Hot Dog Stand is open!!! :-)

Turd Ferguson

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Might be more impressive if Ypsi-Arbor replaced the burnt out bulbs. Being around Ypsilanti all my life, I don't think I've ever seen it ALL lite up. I'm just sayin'

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

I would concur, excellent point. I can't ever remember them all lite up either. But they must have been at some point in the early 60's when it was new.

black canoe

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

I'm hoping information about how to participate in the online auction will follow.