BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Retail stores in tony downtown Birmingham continue their exodus for affordable square footage, furthering the goal of city leaders to change the once fashionable shopping district into the nation’s first municipal food court.
In October, shoppers said goodbye to kitschy accessories store Claire’s, and the now vacant storefront leaves but a few scattered retailers left on the once-thriving Maple Road promenade.
“Not to despair, they’ll be gone soon,” said one restaurant patron in response to the remaining shops.
The other inedible offering, Beadz ’N Bagz, struggled to keep up with the myriad restaurants, bistros and coffee bars that have come to define the area.
“Nobody’s going hungry in this town, that’s for sure,” said Bloomfield Village resident Dr. Hardy Fresser. “The only place you’ll now see a rib on anyone in this town is in their mouth.”
In its prime, downtown Birmingham was home to a number of retail and specialty stores, including The Gap, Express, Florsheim Shoes and Ralph Lauren, among others.
“I’m not sure if the city and building landlords realize residents and visitors like to do things other than eat,” said Birmingham resident Anita Doubee. “Of course, with all this food, who can fit into the teeny dresses that Linda Dresner sells anyway?”
Birmingham city planner R.M. Pitt acknowledged a cabal of restaurateurs colluding with city hall to empty all storefronts without a kitchen.
“Shoppers just clog up the streets, darting in and out, and don’t stay long enough for us to make any money off the meters,” she said. “However, you get a couple of friends going to Cosi for dinner, then catching a movie and stuffing their faces after with a pastry — we’ll soak ‘em for at least three hours.”
Pitt added that in addition to placing condiment stations throughout the city, leaders are planning to change Birmingham’s motto from “a walkable city” to “Keepin’ Your Belly Full.”