Longtime Farmington Hills resident and "mostly retired" physician Ed Blumberg sat in his car in front of Big Apple Bagels in downtown Farmington, gazing sadly at the shop's front door.
On Thursday morning, he arrived for his usual breakfast, only to find the ovens down and no bagels for sale. Owners Rev. Paul and Kevin Bersche decided to permanently close the store. The news came as a shock not only to customers, but to downtown officials, who plan to meet soon with mall owner Kimco Realty Corp.
Paul Bersche took over the shop in 2009 with his son Kevin, a Farmington Hills firefighter, and grandson Benjamin, who has since left the business. Paul Bersche cited the economy and rising costs in talking about the store's closure.
Big Apple Bagels' closure is the third sudden business departure from the Downtown Farmington Center over the past year. In December, for the Christmas holiday and never re-opened. Quiznos sub shop also closed in late 2010. Large spaces formerly occupied by Office Depot and Tuesday Morning have been closed for several years.
The new vacancy leaves Kimco with three large holes in the Center's south building. According to the company's website, Kimco holds interest in more than 950 shopping centers, with 138 million square feet of leaseable space across 44 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and South America. The company owns 14 properties in Michigan.
"It seems there are difficulties going on in the Center," (DDA) director Annette Knowles acknowledged Thursday. "Some representatives of the DDA are trying set up a meeting with Kimco to discuss the situation."
Knowles said that overall, downtown Farmington has about a 10 percent vacancy rate, but the majority of that space is in the Center. She said that, until recently, most of the larger companies and retail chains were not considering Michigan locations.
"It's also very well researched and documented that the strip mall environment has lost its glamour," she said. "It's time to start reinventing these places."
Knowles pointed out there are bright spots in downtown Farmington. , a cosmetics and fashion store in the Center is undergoing a significant expansion, and Tubby's sub shop has plans to move into the Center space formerly occupied by Quiznos. Elsewhere in downtown Farmington, Mentobe Cafe, a new coffee shop between and , opened its doors this week.
That's little comfort for people like Blumberg, who now have to find a new regular spot for their daily bagels.
"It's sad. They're delightful people in there," he said. "A place like this, we come, we congregate, people earn a living,"