While it’s hard to believe that 2021 marks 10 years since Cherry Republic hung out its shingle on the corner of Liberty and Main in Ann Arbor, it’s also hard to remember a time when the cherry retailer wasn’t on that lively corner, smack dab in the middle of a bustling college town. But how was Ann Arbor selected for Cherry Republic’s fourth retail store, anyway? Prior to 2011, the company was all-in on being up-north, with its headquarters in Glen Arbor, a flagship store on Front Street in Traverse City, and an ‘outpost’ in the beautiful resort town of Charlevoix. So why the seemingly off-brand jump to a more urban setting?
“While outside of our usual model of great Michigan tourist towns, Ann Arbor had some attributes that made it really attractive to us,” says Jason Homa, VP of Sales and Service. “Having a world class university in town offers a full turnover of potential customers every four years. Recognizing that people get really passionate about the town and brands of their alma mater also gave us the belief that we would make life long fans if our store was done well.”
And while it may not boast the beaches of northern Michigan, Ann Arbor is something of a tourist destination itself, Homa adds, pointing out that Main Street is a popular dining destination for many people in SE Michigan, as are the town’s year-round festivals and cultural attractions. “From the initial opening our store has been a big success for us. It has been a consistent year-round business, and Ann Arbor residents and companies have supported us from day one. It is in fact our busiest store in the 4th quarter even though it has our smallest footprint.”
Store manager Rita Jourdan echoes Homa’s comments regarding community support. “Ann Arbor has tons of locally owned businesses and restaurants, which makes it a tight knit, collaborative community,” she says. “It’s a bigger city with a small town feel.” Add to that art fairs, UM game days, a great staff, and longtime loyal customers, and it’s no wonder Jourdan says managing this store is fun.
Assistant manager Laura Dendel describes Cherry Republic of Ann Arbor as having a more hip, urban vibe than Cherry Republic’s other locations. “Our regular clientele is a mix of locals and students, but the city draws in day visitors from around the region while the University brings in international travellers,” she says. “In the 8 years since I have been here, the store has gone from a hole in the wall that people were surprised to stumble upon, to a downtown staple and must-stop shop.”
Here’s to kicking off the next decade celebrating UM football, the great city of Ann Arbor, and (of course) cherries!