The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Place your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen

A bit of background: Ann Arbor is a relatively small city, with, in particular, a small footprint of retail space that is suitable for start up, entrepreneurial foodie businesses. This makes it something of a lab for short-lived trends, especially if the underlying business plan calls for walk-in trade.

Over the years, booms have occurred in shoppes selling:

  • High end ice cream
  • Yogurt in a wide range of physical states (frozen, not frozen, gaseous, etc.)
  • By the slice pizza
  • OTC sushi
  • Doggie supplies
  • High end chocolate and other candies
  • Tea

And the list goes on. You can probably think of more that I've missed.
Today, the focus seems to be, for reasons I don't really understand, on cupcakes. The clinical progress of the disease usually follows this pattern: one shop, heralded by articles in the Observer, opens in cheap space somewhere and sells its wares through random channels such as a booth at the Farmer's Market or counter displays in established stores. They gather up some capital and move into a retail space of their own. Somewhere along in there, two or three other enthusiasts jump on the band wagon, and by the end of the opening cycle, have their own storefront efforts going, in their own right. By this time, the public has discovered that, in fact, oversized, over-frosted, cupcakes (or whatever the product is) are kind of a one-time treat, and sales, for everybody in the sector, drop off. Other things are tried to extend the product line (expect savory cupcakes any day now, or perhaps sushi flavors.) After a year or so, only one shoppe remains, surviving (if it does) by operating as a much more mainstream provider of whatever its original category was -- a bakery, for example, instead of just a cupcake joint.

The question, though, is what next? By diligent reading of New York Magazine and mining my own imagination, I came up with the following possible concepts which we could see taking up retail space on Liberty or North Fourth by this time next year:

  • Fancy Fritatas
  • High end sliders (Try the ground lamb and rattlesnake - to die for!)
  • Vampire snax
  • Lobster rolls (trendy in NY right now due to a glut of lobster on the market)
  • Mary's Fabulous locally-raised, organic, free-range Amish fried chicken and fish
  • Side by side, separate but equal kosher/non-kosher hot dog places, where you can sit where your conscience dictates and wave to your friends on the other side
  • Meatballs R' Us -- On a Stick!
  • Glaswegian Vegan: cruelty-free soy based haggis
  • Y'all like locally-raised, organic, free-range kimchi? Korean locovore buffets, franchised as ICBINJRC, or I can't believe it's not just rotten cabbage.
  • No Damn Kimchi, Either, a companion restaurant, next to Fourth Ave's eponymous No Thai.

So take your pick and line up your funding now. The cupcake thing should be over by January, freeing up a couple of storefronts.