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Posted on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Tim Hortons no longer opening at 'lab' coffeehouse space in downtown Ann Arbor

By Nathan Bomey

Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons' deal to move into the downtown Ann Arbor space currently occupied by the lab coffee shop has unraveled, sources told

Tim Hortons is no longer set to open a franchise at the 1,200-square-foot retail space at 505 E. Liberty St., Suite 300, in the McKinley Towne Centre, said Thomas Gritter, vice president and managing director of commercial real estate for Ann Arbor-based McKinley Inc.

"Yes, at this time Lab is staying in the space," Gritter said in an email. "As for Hortons, right now it is tbd."


Lab coffee shop will continue to operate in its current space on East Liberty Street.

Ryan Stanton |

A Tim Hortons spokeswoman had previously confirmed that the chain would open a shop in the lab space, telling The Ann magazine that the shop would be open by May or June.

Tobias Wacker, a co-owner of lab, said in an email that the shop is "very happy at our current location!"

"Beyond serving the highest quality products, we always envisioned Lab as a positive space in the community. It's about real human connections, not just selling products. The fact that many of our customers have become personal friends is a great testimony to our approach," Wacker wrote. "But this approach doesn't stop there. Our food is all made locally by small-scale bakers & chefs and our coffee comes from the most respected roasters, which source their beans directly from the farmers to increase the positive economic impact in the farming regions."

He added: "The last two years have been great and we are beyond excited to expand our offerings on all ends and continue to be a positive force in Ann Arbor."

It's unclear why the Tim Hortons deal unraveled or whether the company plans to continue to pursue a downtown shop. Brynn Burton, a spokeswoman for Tim Hortons, declined to comment.

Tim Hortons had gone as far as requesting a building permit to start renovations on the space. That permit, requesting permission to make "interior alterations to existing tenant space," was approved Feb. 12 by the city, records show.

Lab, which opened in March 2010, appeals especially to young professionals and college students, offering coffee, espresso drinks, yogurt and baked goods.

Tim Hortons, which has been seeking a downtown Ann Arbor presence for several months, plans to open coffee shops at the location of the former Enzo's bar on the corner of South State and Ellsworth and at the former Golden Chef restaurant on North Maple. The company has been seeking a franchisee to own and operate the shops.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


James Pyke

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

People are just not trying very hard if they don't understand why paying just a little more per purchase to support a locally owned business is better than supporting big chains stores especially when food is involved. Folks might reasonably wonder if there's much value there for anyone to pay more for durable goods that are available at a 25% or greater discount off the prices that local business owners might charge, and this is where high-quality customer service enters the equation - as in places like Stadium Hardware and Vault of Midnight. Where food is concerned, though, how can anyone not notice the difference in the quality and freshness of the offerings of local businesses vs national and international chains? This is one reason why I am going to be sure to encourage my young son to work in food service at some early point in his employment history. There isn't much love behind the counter of big chain franchises, and I want some love in my food.

John Hritz

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

I hear this argument frequently. How much over chain prices is fair? What if the service isn't that great? What if they charge more and pay their employees poorly? Does it count if their home-made taste comes from Sysco? Does it count if they support local arts events? Does it count if their political contributions are at odds with their customer base? The social contract, which seems to have been forgotten, is reciprocal. Chains tend to weather downturns better than local businesses so I've been making a point of frequenting my favorites. But I do notice the pricing differences and try to rationalize them with keeping Ann Arbor's uniqueness.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

well Caleb, you and the other elitists got your way......four bucks for a cup of coffee, but you still get your much beloved conversation too......Caleb, let us know where the other part of town will be where we can get a cup of good chain coffee......


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Darn. Now where are our Canadian friends supposed to get married?

Jimmy McNulty

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Oh yah, get your mediocre coffee elsewhere. Hosers.

Jaime Magiera

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 6:02 a.m.

Great news. I actually hope the speculation about the MBS building is wrong. We've already gotten a 7-11 and 5 Five Guys in the past year, while losing more local, valuable community assets (Ritz Photo, Shaman Drum). Ann Arbor doesn't need any more plastic businesses that cater to on-the-go, low-quality consumption. Lets get some more culture and creativity downtown again.

Jaime Magiera

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 7:46 a.m.

Ritz Camera, though not locally based, was certainly responsive to the community and provided camera equipment (Canon Rebel XT is low quality?) and development - which was not available any place else downtown. Yes, photography services in a downtown area provide culture and creativity.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

Ritz Camera is a national chain based out of Maryland. They sold low-quality camera gear at top of the line prices. Culture and creativity? Far from it.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:12 a.m.

i wish there was a different part of town where people who worship chains could go and leave the local businesses and the people who choose them alone


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Ignorance is bliss...for some

Jimmy McNulty

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

You really want to push potential customers away?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

In many cases the franchisee's are local business folks and supply local jobs.

Jaime Magiera

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

There is, it's called the suburbs :)


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:09 a.m.

FYI, Granholm just tweeted that Dom's is the Bomb!

Jojo B

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Seems like there are a dozen other abandoned locations around Liberty where TH could open if they wanted.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

Thank goodness. It would have been ridiculous to see a perfectly fine local business kicked out for a chain.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

"Kicked out"...choosing not to renew a lease is not being kicked out.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.


Andrew Jason Clock

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

According to other local news sources, there never was a deal. There was only some initial inquiries by Tim Horton's into the site, and that was only because lab had not decided if they would renew or not at the time. Those sources also suggest the deal fell apart when published its rather flimsy previous story, partially because they didn't want to be seen as the corporate baddy pushing out the hip local kids. The lesson, much like cutting and pasting police blotters and calling them a story, printing rumor and hearsay does not make for journalism. That takes effort.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

@Andrew Jason Clock What you say may very well be true. But for you to cite "other local news sources" then not tell us who or what they are or provide any links is no different than what you accuse of doing.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

Why would they pay for a building permit or is that a rumor also?

Andrew Jason Clock

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

That should have read "any negotiations" fell apart, because, as I said, there never was a deal, according to reputable news sources.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

Perhaps they have set their sights on the soon to be vacant Michigan Book and Supply location. Much larger than lab and better location.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

That's definitely a more logical and prime location spot!


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

Ooh! I like that speculation!


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.



Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

If youv'e ever had to deal with city hall / tamminy hall mob you'll know why it came apart...