Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue Front: Old Name, New Focus on Craft Beer

Written by  Patti Smith
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When locals heard that the party store Blue Front was closing, more than a few of us started the “nothing gold can stay” laments that soon turned into much reminiscing about the past and the things that used to be here, but are no more. The building on the corner of Packard and State can be traced back to 1908, when it was listed as being a news depot. It later became a cigar store, and in the 1920s became known as the Blue Front. The reason for the name is lost to the ages, but we do know that a man named Ray E. Collins bought the Blue Front Cigar Store in 1927 and made the place legendary.
Many locals and former locals (including Bob Seger) have tales to tell about Mr. Collins and the Blue Front. So the sadness at its closing is understandable...but not necessary because the Blue Front has been reopened under new ownership! And while this is certainly great news for all townies, it is extra good news for us beer loving townies because of its commitment to carrying craft beer.

I wandered in on Sunday afternoon to check out the newly remodeled store. As the pictures show, it has been beautifully redone, with hardwood stores and fresh paint. There is a large screen TV and chairs in a space that will be used for tastings or just to hang out.

Owner Adam Gottschalk and his brother John both greeted me at the door. Adam has over 600 beers and is looking to get more. Soon, customers will be able to make mixed six-packs with anything in the store. Adam has, like me, been caught in grocery stores where your “pick six” choices are limited to a couple of dozen beers that you’ve had before.

The store will be a big participant in the upcoming Ypsi-Arbor Beer Week, kicking things off on August 1st with a testing of beers from Epic Brewing Company. Other tasting events include VanderMill, Laguintas, Short’s and Bell’s.

The Blue Front has been reborn more than 80 years after its initial inception. Thanks to the new energy and focus on craft beverages, I have a feeling that 80 years from now, another Ann Arbor beer writer will be toasting to its continued success.

Thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library’s Old News for the interesting history of the building.

Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Patti “TeacherPatti” Smith lives in Ann Arbor with Boyfriend Ken, her dog Buddy and her stepcats Ali and Cyrus. She is a special education teacher by day, local history buff and brew drinker by night (see the hybrid history/beer blog at She also loves watching most Detroit sports on TV, boxing, brewing beer, storytelling, board games and recently wrote a middle grade/YA book that she hopes to convince a publisher to publish! Meantime, she is working on a book about the history of downtown Ann Arbor for Arcadia publishers. Her favorite beer styles include Russian Imperial Stout, pumpkin beers, Kolschs and most things with peppers in them.