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Posted on Fri, Oct 30, 2009 : 2:08 p.m.

Drake's Sandwich Shop still stirs the memories of its fans

By Staff

Welcome to "Then and Now," a recurring look at some of the changes in Ann Arbor over the years.


A photo of Drake's Sandwich Shop on North University Avenue, believed to be taken in the 1930s.

Photo from the papers of Sam Sturgis, in the Image Bank at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library (photo bl005318).


There can't be too many long-closed sandwich shops that boast both a Facebook page and a local wiki entry, but Drake's Sandwich shop does.

It's evidence of the special place Drake's occupies in Ann Arbor lore.

The store is believed to have opened in the 1920s, but for most of its run - from 1935 to its 1993 closure - it was owned by the late Truman Tibbals. In addition to sandwiches, it was known for limeade, penny candy and its diverse, loyal clientele - from college students to cops and everyone in between.

More than 200 people are members of the "Drake's Sandwich Shop" group on Facebook. Some leave remembrances - "LOVE THAT LIMEADE," wrote Drake's fan Barbara Gall Winner - and others have posted photos.

Keep in mind this is a sandwich shop that closed in 1993.


The former Drake's Sandwich Shop site is still serving food, though now it's as part of the Bruegger's chain.

Angela Cesere |

Drake's had a prime location at 709 N. University Ave., facing the Diag. Today, the site is occupied by an outlet of the Bruegger's bagel chain. It has some fans of its own, even if they're not as passionate as the Drake's devotees.

For an institution that didn't make it very far into the Internet era, Drake's has a remarkably robust presence online. One nice site is a special Drake's tribute page, which includes some reminiscences from former customers:

  • "Ah yes, Drakes. I remember it well. I started going there long before I was a Commie High student. Quiet afternoons spent blowing too much money on comics at the Eye of Agamoto (not Dave's Comics, folks, I am talking way back when...) then sitting in a booth at Drakes reading them while enjoying a fresh limeade. Those were the days..."
  • "I went to U. of M from 67 through 71 and also used to visit my brother when he went there from 65 through 67. Drake's was always there. In the mid 60's, there used to be an upstairs room called the "Martian Room" (a holdover from the 50's), and you could order "M"-burgers from a little window downstairs. I'm probably a bit slow, but it took me all of my four years to figure out how to order a sandwich at Drake's."
  • "I frequented Drake's in high school and college, but my most cherished memories of Drake's are from earlier, when my friends and I were going to a double feature (or the James Bond Festival) at The Michigan Theater and needed candy for the show, because The Michigan didn't have any concessions at the time, not even popcorn. We usually got tart-n-tinies."

The site also features a few interviews with Mr. Tibbals from January 1994, after the shop folded. Tibbals worked for the original Mr. Drake in the 1920s, first as a dishwasher, later as a waiter, and eventually bought out the old sandwich shop. The wages at Drake's when Tibbals started working? A whopping $.35 an hour. Of course, for Tibbals, that was a raise; his previous job before Drake's only paid $.25 an hour. "That was good money then," said Tibbals, who died in 1994.

Tibbals also spoke of Drake's as a hangout place; so popular was the shop that sometimes kids from town would just come to hang around, without actually buying anything. They just wanted to be a part of the atmosphere. Of course, too many visitors who come to look but not buy isn't sustainable for a business occupying prime campus real estate, just across the street from Angell Hall, the main academic building at the University of Michigan.

Share your own thoughts on Drake's by posting a comment below. And here are a few other sites to check out and get the memories flowing:

• Flickr user Debora Drower has a slideshow taken near the end of Drake's run.
• The online history of the Ann Arbor Police Department, which had a special connection to Drake's, has a page about the relationship. The AAPD page also features a scanned copy of a list of "Noted Guests" who ate at Drake's during their time in Ann Arbor. Tibbals gave those records - not to mention over 50 years of newspaper clippings on articles related to Drake's - to the Ann Arbor Police Department upon his death, the page says.
• The Food Museum Online has an item about Drake's.

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