Knight's Steakhouse owners want to expand prepared foods business on Miller Avenue
The owners of Knight’s Steakhouse and Market are looking to expand their local operations.
The owners submitted a site plan to the city of Ann Arbor asking to rezone a portion of property on Spring Street off Miller Avenue — the property bordering Knight’s Market — in order to convert an existing residence into a commercial kitchen.
The kitchen would be used to make prepared foods that would be sold out of the decades-old market, which has been in the Knight family since 1952.
Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com
Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com
The family owns several parcels near the Miller and Spring Street intersection, including a vacant lot, two residential homes and the market property.
The plan, said Don Knight, would be to convert the house adjacent to the market at 306 Spring Street into a commercial kitchen after rezoning the property from R2A, two-family dwelling, to C-1, Local Business. The house is currently being rented.
“We want to utilize that property to prepare ready-to-eat foods that we can sell at Knight’s Market,” he said. “We’d probably make some things [on Spring Street] that we do at the restaurant, like soups, salads and bakery goods.”
Knight said that although some prepared foods and bakery items are currently made at the Ann Arbor restaurant, located at 2324 Dexter Ave., they are too busy to keep up with all the demand. There is an additional restaurant location in Jackson that opened in 2001.
“We’re busier than ever,” he said. “We just can’t produce enough at the restaurant to satisfy all the needs at the market.”
The plans also include landscaping improvements and an addition to the market that would replace a trailer that holds all of the hanging beef.
“The city would love for us to get rid of [the trailer] because it’s an eyesore, and we’d like to get rid of it, too,” he said.
He added: “We’d like to build a permanent structure that would do the same thing.”
In September, the family held a citizens participation meeting for the plans, and Knight said the project was well received among neighbors. The architect for the project is Dick Fry of Ann Arbor-based Fry Architecture.
Knight said they plan to keep the vacant parcel on the property zoned R2A in order to build “some sort of living space” in the future, such as a duplex or home. No changes are proposed for the other residential home on the property, which is located at 308 Spring St.
If the project receives approval, Knight said it will require extensive renovations to convert the house at 306 Spring St. into a commercial kitchen.
“It will be quite the project,” he said.
Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.
I understand that a lot of people like Knight's because it's a local family owned business. Ann Arbor has many great local family owned restaurants and stores. I prefer Sparrows over Knights simply because they have an actual butcher behind the counter and you can choose what cut of meat you want. I don't like purchasing prepackaged meat. Also, Monahan's Seafood Market is awesome!
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.
I have shopped both Sparrow and Knights for years. Yes Bob and Casey are good, but a lot of his employees could use some customer service training. Many of the young girls are indifferent with customers. The only people with consistant customer service are Bob and Casey. The cook to order food needs improvement and certainly the "counter" help in that spot need and image overhaul. I realize they have limited amount of space but the layout by the registers is funny. It gets very bottleneck when trying to check out. I also can't stand the loitering highschool kids, they should get their food and move out of the way. I frequently shop Kerrytown. (My biggest dislike there is Kosmos, maybe Bob should take that over).
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.
This project is not universally accepted by the residents, contrary to the article stating so. I was at the first meeting concerning this project. There was some positive support, some reasoned questioning presented, as well as some vehement opposition. In response to some of the opposition I posit this: I have lived in the neighborhood 20 years this summer. Knights have been here 40 years longer than I. For 60 years they have provided a quality service that supports the neighborhood. Blocking a project they want to develop on the basis that they might leave the neighborhood first & that makes one feel vulnerable seems either naive or disingenuous. The likelihood seems stronger that if they are stymied at every turn in trying to effectively utilize properties they have owned longer than almost everyone in a 6 block radius, that is more likely to cause them to bail from the area thus leaving an already commercially zoned space open, a perfect location for something like a 7-11 (which was posited at the initial meeting). Knight's have traditionally lived & worked in the neighborhood & hired from the neighborhood when possible. The value of having more good jobs with fair employers located a few blocks from ones home for oneself or ones kids is tremendous. The value of having Knight's Market able to expand their selection & keep up with modern food needs including supporting more & more local vendors is tremendous. If one is unhappy with even small commercial properties in a neighborhood one shouldn't live in Waterhill, just two blocks from Main. St, bisected by Felch Street which has commercial zoning already in place. This will not negatively impact "the residential feel of the neighborhood" as the "feel" of the neighborhood is actually urban, de-centralized, with opportunities to take art & yoga classes, buy flowers, groceries, coffee, see ones lactation consultant, or even work a forge within just a few blocks walk. We do ho
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.
Yes, well said. This is not a commercial intrusion into a neighborhood but a modest expansion at what is already a commercial corner on a busy through street, at the edge of downtown. In some ways this business exemplifies the "mixed use" movement to allow residential neighborhoods access to services without an automobile.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.
I don't see how Knights converting the house for commercial use would be a problem. They most likely would not have extended hours. It might only add about 20-30 cars in the evening turning in and out of the space to pick up dinner. The "Waterhill" neighborhood could do more to worry about that junk pile in front of that one house a couple doors down that has a tarp haning over part of the porches roof, that house has been an eyesore for well over 15 years. Or the corner building Kitty Korner from Knights (next to the auto shop) that has been boarded up for years (I think it is owned by the Church around the corner?) OR that other boarded up building on the other side of the tracks going up Miller.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.
I'm still trying to get past "Waterhill".
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.
It seems bad policy to tell one that they are within the character limit and then cut them off. Should read "We do however need Indian food, is anyone willing?"
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.
Yes. Knights has been an Ann Arbor staple for decades. They will do nothing but improve their property and enhance the neighborhood.. Great plan. Best of luck.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 11:46 a.m.
"It is interesting to note that all of you who are so much in favor of this rezoning of a residential building to a commercial kitchen do not actually live in the neighborhood, but shop there and have a favorite dish you imagine buying on your way home from work. Although the neighbors are very appreciative of Knights Market as a place to shop and like many of the same products, and although many of us appreciate the Knights' own longstanding ties to the neighborhood, many really are not enthusiastic about this idea." Welcome to Ann Arbor. Lol. It was only a matter of time before the stereotypical archetype strolled onto the stage...lol.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.
Goddess forbid someone in America have an opinion that differs from the herd. Why, I bet that in no other place in the world would people object to having zoning changed.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.
I have lived in that neighborhood my whole life. At one time I live right next door to them. They are great neighbors and wonderful people that have spent their whole lives working for the betterment of Ann arbor.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 2:37 a.m.
Knights is the ONLY Restaurant I have been to where there is ALWAYS a line ...every time they are open. What a testament to the quality of food and service!
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:16 a.m.
It is interesting to note that all of you who are so much in favor of this rezoning of a residential building to a commercial kitchen do not actually live in the neighborhood, but shop there and have a favorite dish you imagine buying on your way home from work. Although the neighbors are very appreciative of Knights Market as a place to shop and like many of the same products, and although many of us appreciate the Knights' own longstanding ties to the neighborhood, many really are not enthusiastic about this idea. Some were even strongly opposed and are likely to register that opposition in a public zoning hearing. If we fast forward to a future possibility that the Knight family decides to move their market and kitchen to another part of town, we can easily anticipate another less neighborhood-friendly commercial business moving in and then seeking to rezone the remaining Knight parcels adjacent to the house featured here. Then there is the increased traffic and parking demands, which will almost certainly necessitate changes to the lot adjacent to the second house (more parking). This proposal is, in fact, more controversial than your article suggests! It's difficult because most everyone in the neighborhood supports local businesses (Knights and Big City Bakery) but allowing commercial zoning to intrude further into the neighborhood does not bode well for retaining its residential character in the long run. This commercial kitchen would fit much better adjacent to Knights restaurant, which is already a largely commercial zone. So how about a discussion about what it means to retain the neighborhood part of "downtown living" instead of allowing the high rises and commercial expansion to reach further into our residential streets?
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.
I am a homeowner in this hood. I don't see any issue with this expansion. There are too many restrictions here already. E.g.,can't even have a utility sink in my detached garage because I might try to rent it out as housing. As if half the neighborhood isn't rentals. Build the kitchen and make it busy as can be.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.
Knights is pretty good at playing it low key. If you didn't know any better you'd never know the restaurant was open, and the store is so nondescript they probably lose business as a result. Plus, they have been there a long long time, and want to expand. The idea that they may move is looking for a problem that doesn't exist. Just sayin.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.
Knights market is decent but wow are their prices high. Just want to give a shout out to Sparrows in Kerrytown across from Zingermans. Good meats and a bit more affordable.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 3:52 a.m.
I don't know why people go to Kight's or Chop House when you can make the same thing better on your own grill if you willing to buy great steak from Sparrows.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10:43 p.m.
It will affect Big City Small World Bakery too, and I hope in a good way! It will bring more people there and hopefully they will patronize both establishments.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.
Indeed. Big city has been chugging along for over decade now and gets very little press. I hope this helps them.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.
I'd just like them to expand their hours. They close too early and are never open on sundays, hence, I rarely go there.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.
Dagwoods is a bar....Knight is a restaurant and an excellent meatmarket/party store. Hence, you know very little about either to make such a comparison. Your localWalmart sells meat too, treetowncartel. Get some next time you go get your gear.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.
Maybe you should try Dagwoods in East Lansing
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.
please-sell-the-blue-cheese-salad-dressing please-sell-the-blue-cheese-salad-dressing please-sell-the-blue-cheese-salad-dressing please-sell-the-blue-cheese-salad-dressing
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.
OMG, best bleu cheese dressing ever and with their buffalo shrimp, absolutely the best combo :) I want knights now!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10 p.m.
Knight's is a major amenity of our "Water Hill" area neighborhood. It is within walking distance for many of us and one is likely to run into a neighbor. They are very friendly (sometimes they'll carry out your bag to your car without being asked). The stock is a modest but well-chosen array of staples plus many locally produced foods and baked goods, like Angelo's raisin bread, Mighty Good coffee, Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory products, organic pasture-raised eggs from Sharon Township. The meats are of course wonderful (hand-butchered) and a joy is to see what special goodies are out on a particular day - sometimes you have to be early. I got some lovely rouladen the other day, don't see that often. On the other hand, since they do all their own butchering, you can get soup bones and i always check for the Amish chicken backs (soup stock material). I'm hoping that their expansion goes through without a glitch. This little grocery on the edge of downtown is a local jewel. I have updated my blog post about it with pictures. <a href="http://localannarbor.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/knights-hood/" rel='nofollow'>http://localannarbor.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/knights-hood/</a>
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 10 p.m.
Knights Restaurant is my absolute favorite restaurant. They are really good employers too, as far as I can tell as most of their employees have been with them for many many years (thus when you order something there won't be some messed up variance in how it turns out) but if you haven't gone there before that is ok, stay away, let all the regulars keep it going and get a table when we want one. Donny and his sister do a fabulous job running the place. I would love to see the restaurant expand if the parking arrangement could be worked out, maybe they could have valet parking (after all the Gandy Dancer has limited parking, and I can't stand that place). I also frequent the Market. If Zingermans is the "well known place to go", Knights would be the best hidden gem of Ann Arbor, or at least as a townie I along with others we could say we like it better than Zings even though they have very different stuff. I hope they let the Market expand operations and convert the house for commercial use. They are an excellent business :)
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.
As a "foodie manque" i've been jaded, via everything from anthony bourdain to tasting menus at various 'top chef' bigs, into forgetting how really great a rare piece of Knights roast beef and a baked potato can be... fortunately i rediscovered such basic pleasures and won't neglect them in the future.... good luck in their new venture.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.
How about expanding Knight's Restaurant instead, so that getting a table for dinner on a weekend won't require a 2 hour wait?
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.
Take a mini road trip to Haab's - same concept, but much, much better food. They cater to people who have retained their taste buds as they age!
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.
Make a reservation
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.
I think they have tried but have been denied b/c of it would have fewer parking spaces. I hope someday that can be worked out though!, I know most people would park at vets park or aldi if they had to and walk over.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.
Hope the prepackage some of those good cocktails. They pour a good drink.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.
Good luck with your project. You have an excellent restaurant.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.
I have heard so much about this place that I still never have visited this place at all. I guess I am never on that side of town and when I am? I am not hungry nor do I remember this place at all. Wow. Good luck wish you were on the Ypsilanti side of town. Guess Miller road is your best kept secret.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.
Hopefully there will be no objections to this project. It is nice to see one of the old time businesses be able to succeed along with the new stuff. I hope they won't have a hard time with this.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.
Only time will tell how the folks at the city will screw this up.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.
Knight's does have good meat but I have never been blown away the times I've tried it. You must have to be over a certain age to get the "full experience"
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.
I am 31 and my husband is 37 and we are frequent visitors of Knights. The food is excellent from the stuffed chicken breast to the hamburgers and everything in between. My husband especially loves the strong mixed drinks! Obviously they are doing something right because they are packed just about every night!
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.
For the great meat, you have to be old enough to be able to chew. And, if you want a an alcoholic beverage, over 21--otherwise, its a great place for the whole family.
Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.
Chances are, if you go out to eat in AA at anything local, that you have had Knight's meat, and probably enjoyed it.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.
Knights has excellent meat and Knights Steakhouse is one of the best restaurants in town! Yum!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.
I've heard of it, when I was a nanny for a couple years ago they talked about it, but I guess I never visited the restaurant nor the meat market. Guess it goes without saying. Need to live on that side town.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.
Awesome plan...love Knight's (and one of the only places in town to get prime-grade lamb). Excellent use of resources/land. I must admit, the current set-up does look a bit, er, "70's adult bookstore" *hides*
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.
they got $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.
I would love to have this as an option to Whole Foods! While I like Whole Foods I would rather support the local folk!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.
Whole Paycheck or Whole Markup
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.
How does this rezoning differ from the sausage maker one that was denied?
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.
simply amazed: I agree with your political description between A2 city and township but the A2 city council voted down the zoning variance in a 9-0 vote. <a href="http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-city-council-denies-zoning-request-for-sausage-company-that-wants-to-expand/">http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-city-council-denies-zoning-request-for-sausage-company-that-wants-to-expand/</a>
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.
The sausage maker is in Ann Arbor Township. Knight's is in Ann Arbor city limits. Different bodies making the decision. But I support the sausage maker and hope it works out for them.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.
The Hansen/Cheadle couple is new to the area, The Knight family is not.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.
I like this project! It's especially nice that they plan to convert the residence instead of tearing it down.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Our neighborhood could use a real food establishment!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.
Funny how all the people who cried foul when Muslims asked for a zoning variance to put in a school are silent on this issue. In fact, all the comments so far seen to support this variance. Coincidence? I support both.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.
Mike D How long has the school been there? How long has Knight's been there? End of discussion!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.
The opposition to the school was that "they should have checked the zoning first." Both the school and the retail store are in neighborhoods, although in reality the proposed school is on a much larger road, whereas Knight's market is on a side street. The same people are commenting in favor of the market, forgetting their very recent hard line on rezoning. Ignorance, indeed.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.
What in the world do the Muslims in Pittsfield Township have to do with a property in Ann Arbor? Plain and simple Mike D. you are showing your lack of knowledge and ignorance.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.
That was Pittsfield Township. This is Ann Arbor. A2 city council already showed their support to the Muslim community by denying a sausage-maker a zoning variance to expand because the primary ingredient in sausage, pork, is not consumed by Muslims. <a href="http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-city-council-denies-zoning-request-for-sausage-company-that-wants-to-expand/">http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-city-council-denies-zoning-request-for-sausage-company-that-wants-to-expand/</a>
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.
I would think that rezoning a house that lies adjacent to the existing market parking lot would leave less of a negative impact on the neighborhood. This is actually a good example of positive rezoning, and doing it for all the right reasons.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.
Seriously, you are going to compare a 360-student school to a take out kitchen?
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.
Love this idea, that area of town could use something like this!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.
A Knight's customer since Duroff's and the new A&P closed, I am pleased at the idea of gourmet take-out. But removing the Swift's Premium meat-aging trailer should be blocked by the city historical commission because is a monument to Mr. Knight's inventiveness.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.
That would have been Diroff's, I believe.
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.
Makes perfect sense to maximize the use of their kitchen and excellent staff. Lobster mashed potatoes?
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.
Looking forward to stopping at the expanded market on the way home from work to pick up dinner..... Great idea!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.
Ann Arbor is so lucky to have the Knight family and the two businesses--both the Restaurant and Market are second to none! The city of Ann Arbor 'must' get behind this project and support Donny, Bob and their Dad as they have supported and served A2 for decades past. What a great concept!! Thanks, fellas!
Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.
Sounds great, git r done A2