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May 08, 2008

Remember Drake’s?

The Spring 2008 issue of Michigan Alumnus magazine highlighted some of the fond memories alumni have of Drake’s Sandwich Shop, which was located across from the Diag on North University from 1929 until it closed in 1993. We have included many of the original submissions here.

Heather Briston, MSI’99
I always think of Drake’s as the greatest U-M recruiter around. When I was little I used to take ballet classes in a studio that was above the stores right next to Drake’s, and the big treat after class was to go and get a fresh Limeade. If it was around lunch, I always ordered a tuna fish sandwich as well. I loved writing out my order on the pads with the little pencils and feeling so grown up. Finally, I always got to choose two pieces of candy from the cases. The sponge-like candy covered with chocolate was a favorite. Ballet and candy—what a mix! I always wanted to live in Ann Arbor and go to the U-M so that I could be right near Drake’s all of the time.

Wallace G. Wheeler, ’39
My wife (Muriel Haskins Wheeler, ’39) and I attended the U-M from 1935-1939, and I probably spent enough money at Drake’s to have bought the place or at least to have made a good down payment.

Wm. Derek Grasty, '82, MA'84
I remember almost like yesterday going to Drake’s with my then-girlfriend, Annette Edwards Grasty, MA’84. We would go there on special occasions when I had some change. I would treat my girl to a limeade. I remember it cost 60 cents. I thought that was a lot of money then because you could get a 16 ounce soft drink for 50 cents. We would go to Drake's after class or a rehearsal at the School of Music. It was at Drake's that the idea I might marry this person first came to mind. We married in '85 and are still together with two sons.

Nikki Zakrzewski, '91
Drake’s was the place for gathering with friends before or after a morning class to grab a bagel and hot chocolate. You were always welcomed with a big smile and never felt rushed to make way for someone else.

Iris Mintz, ’71, MA’77
I loved Drake’s and was so sad to have it close. I have so many fond memories of times spent there, either meeting friends for lunch or studying between classes. I can almost smell the pecan rolls now! Yum!

Photo submitted by Iris Mintz, ’71, MA’77

Dr. Tamara Koss, ’76, DDS’88
I remember Drake’s each and every time now when I walk down N. University between State Street and the Dental School. It was the Limeade that started me as a regular at Drake's. The big jars of every kind of candy were colorful and fascinating, although I didn't often purchase candy. I remember the older woman owner who always sat on the same stool at the far window side of the counter. Sitting in the dark booths, surrounded by high green walls, I would look to the round, black sign that said "Martian Room." It was an old dance area on the second floor, and although not in use during my time in Ann Arbor, it would bring on a certain nostalgia for bygone days at the U. I wondered what it looked and felt like during the 40s and 50s when the Martian Room was popular.

When I'm in Ann Arbor, especially in the summertime, I do so wish I could sit down with a Limeade. I'm sad my husband never got to taste one.

Andrea Snyder, MD’81
When I arrived in Ann Arbor in 1977, I loved the entire town and campus. Drake's was special because even though it was in a busy spot, right on the border of town and campus, when you went inside it was a step back in time. A short break from school pressures before going back to daily obligations.

Pat O'Kray, ’69
I worked at Drake’s during my sophomore year at Michigan. That was back in the mid-60s. It was pretty much a throwback to another time even then. The decor was best described as army green, and the high backed booths offered lots of privacy. We grilled up pecan rolls from the Quality Bakery on Main Street and bagels with cream cheese. Bagels were not as ubiquitous on campus as they are now. They were pretty exotic to a WASP from the Midwest! Across from the main grill were glass jars full of various candies, but the piece de resistance was the homemade cake that Mrs. Tibbals, wife of the owner, made in the basement. She made them from scratch and they were tall and indescribably delicious.

Although I wasn't living in Ann Arbor at the time of Drake's closing, I was in mini-mourning to hear that another one of my hangouts as a student was gone. Very few of my favorite student haunts are left in Ann Arbor, and Drake's was one that hung on far longer than I would have imagined.

Alan Reifman, ’85, PhD’89
Drake’s was the prototypical quaint, old-fashioned, college town hangout. From the wooden booths to the hand-painted signs, even in the 1980s Drake’s probably didn’t look much different from how it did generations ago. Customers would come in, go up to the counter to write out their own order and then go sit down to wait for their order to be called out.

Dennis Chamberlain, ’86
When my parents were students in the early 1940s, they used to go to Drake’s on “Coke Dates.” In the early 1980s, I started my own tradition of stopping by Drake’s after my last exam of the semester to take candy home to my parents and sisters. One was particularly fond of Gummi Bears, which were sold at Drake’s but weren’t yet widely available in the US. My own fondest memory of Drake’s was the freshly squeezed Limeade.

Donna Ron, ’68
I remember walking to Drake’s in very snowy cold winter weather and feeling instantly warmed inside. I have more than one picture of sitting in a tall dark wood booth in Drake’s with someone I really care about and eating healthy food, having good drinks and a wonderful talk. It’s an interesting quality for a restaurant to have: that the experience of being there is one which is an indelible visual image etched in one’s brain forever.

Drake’s was a soothing oasis for me during a time that was filled with turbulence, social anxiety and the personal pain of growth and development. My memories of sitting in Drake’s with a great healthy sandwich, coffee and a friend connects me with the sensations of a calm, healing peacefulness and the comforting feeling of being at home. I am happy that there are others who remember this lovely place, as there have been times when I thought it might have been just a dream.

Ron Marabate, ’70, MA’71
Drake’s was important to me because it was a relaxing and enjoyable oasis that I usually frequented right after my German class in the Frieze building. German was not one of my easier subjects, but a half-hour break at Drake’s for a cinnamon roll or a pecan roll seemed to ease the burden of my language requirement. Drake’s was also memorable whenever I was joined there by a young lady, especially the one who later became my wife. I don’t remember much of my Deutsch, but Drake’s is still vivid in my mind.

Julie Else Kantz, ’76
When I think of Drake’s, I remember sitting in a booth eating a tuna on wheat bread sandwich and drinking fresh lemonade. I also think of writing our order on those pads and looking at all the penny candy in the glass containers on the shelves. I’m sorry that my son, who is a current student, did not get this U-M experience.

Betsy Boesche Rhines, ’64
My freshman year at Michigan, one of my friends asked me to go to a formal fraternity party with one of her classmates from high school. I said I'd like to meet him first, so she arranged for him to pick me up at Stockwell Hall one afternoon. We walked to Drake's and enjoyed coffee and their famous cinnamon rolls as we got to know each other. He was nice and he made me laugh, so I agreed to be his date for the party.

After dating on and off for the next six years, we were married on November 26, 1966. After 41 years together, we are still laughing and happily in love. We still talk about our years at Michigan and how lucky we are that “fate”—and those delicious cinnamon rolls—brought us together.

Sandra Renner, ’71
I got my first job at U-M at Drake’s. The elderly couple who ran it were very matter of fact and down to business, but I learned some things that I still use. Everything was homemade, from the cakes to the fresh squeezed limeade and lemonade. Their grilled sandwiches were good because they used butter, and they always put real mayonnaise on the bread before grilling. My favorite was grilled tuna and cheese and the grilled pecan rolls with ice cream. She always made the cake fresh each morning and I remember the little basement room where she did the cooking.

I think I worked there in 1969 and I just loved the funky booths, the tea served in tea pots, etc. As a kid who hadn’t been exposed to much, it was just fun to be there.

Patricia Trierweiler Rieger, ’71, MD’75
Drake’s was a special place for me from the day I set foot on campus. First and perhaps foremost, I loved it for the tradition. It was easy to sit in a booth, run your hand over the worn formica and imagine the generations of students that had similarly passed the time nursing a cup of tea and reading.

Then there was Drake’s cosmopolitanism. All the exotic teas and beverages—more varieties than I’d ever heard of—and the foods that were heretofore only known from books or the media, like bagels! Coming from a small town environment, it was all very exciting. While I never succeeded in my goal to try every last variety of tea on their menu, I made a good “college” try at it and will retain memories of the hours spent their in my eight years as a student. I only wish that today’s students could share the experience.

David L. Birch, ’67
I haven’t found a better pecan roll in the 41 years since I graduated.

Cindy Bowker
I lived in Ann Arbor from 1971-1994 and married an Ann Arbor native. My husband went to school with Truman Tibbals’ grandson. They were best buds. When Truman passed on, none of his children wanted to keep Drake’s going, which broke our hearts. I offered to quit my job and run it the way it had always been run. It was just the kind of place—in the right kind of town— that should always be there. Limeade! Where else could you go and get that?

Gale Murray, ’66, MA’70
Mmmmmm. I can taste the cucumber sandwiches at Drake’s. We’d run from our 11 o’clocks to reserve a booth with friends at lunchtime. I can still picture the black and white floor tiles, the green walls and black booths of the early sixties. And hot tea or chocolate to warm us up in the winter and cold drinks on hot fall days. There was always lots of room for five or six of us to cram into a booth. We really enjoyed Drake’s!

Kim Woods McCormick, ’80
It’s been over 30 years. Was this the place that had the soda fountain just east of State? If it is, here is a story for you. When I came to Michigan for nursing school, I picked up my little brother on the weekends. He was in grade school and missed me terribly, so we would spend the day together in the “big city.” The highlight for us was getting milkshakes and a small bag of candy at Drake’s. He still remembers “the candy shop milkshakes.”

I am now in Colorado. My little brother is now past 40 and has children of his own. He manages the family farm in Deerfield, Michigan.

Deborah L. Dubois, MA’77
I remember going to Drake’s regularly when I was at U-M. My girlfriend and I would meet there after class and it was there that I learned all about tea. It seemed like they had hundreds of different kinds of tea. The names were all written on the wall and each time we went to Drake’s, we would try a different kind. The servers would tell us about green tea, oolong and black teas, and we tried something new every time. I am still a tea drinker today.

Drake’s was a comfortable place to meet and spend an hour with friends. It didn’t blow the budget and trying new kinds of tea made it an experience worth savoring.

Linda Saveland, ’68
I loved Drake’s because it had a huge collection of teas and teapots. It was a great place to go on cold or rainy days and snuggle in for good conversation and warmth. I still have a teapot that I bought from Drake’s and gave to my father as a gift on a Father’s Weekend at my sorority house!

David E. Krigbaum, ’83, DDS’87
Drake’s was an Ann Arbor icon and I was very sad when it left. I remember the tin ceiling and the fans. The shakes were great and the location couldn’t be beat!

Jayne Solomon, ’79
Of all the changes over the years, the closing of Drake’s was truly traumatic to me. Something happened when you walked into the shop that just made you feel happy and relaxed. I met many friends there on a weekly basis and took the guy I married there whenever he came to town to visit. It was always a comforting, delicious-smelling break in my day that I still miss. Living in the east now, I find walking into Serendipity in NYC slightly similar to Drake’s, but it’s not nearly as magical as that little shop in the late 1970s.

Vivian D. Roeder, ’72, MSW’77
Drake’s wasn’t plastic or wi-fi, you know? I miss Drake’s. I miss the Braunschweiger sandwiches—no other place made them. They had cucumber sandwiches, too. I miss the wooden booths and neat candy. Ann Arbor just doesn’t seem the same without Drake’s. So much changes! I’m sad when I pass by and don’t see Drake’s anymore.

Mary Amluxen-Googasian, ’87
My husband and I would meet for the incredibly fattening and gooey cinnamon rolls at Drake’s in between classes during the 1984-85 school year. Stepping into Drake’s was like stepping back in time. The booths were ancient, the lighting was dim and who could forget the lime sherbet green that donned the interior walls? To me it felt like I was sitting on the set of “I Love Lucy”—it seemed to be about the same era.

The regulars knew not to go there on football Saturdays because it was always packed. During the slower hours, it was a great place to study, meet for group projects or read.

Diane Heidelmeyer Meyer, ’58
In the fall of my senior year, I had a blind coffee date with my future husband in Drake’s. Actually, we each had a lemonade. It was mid-afternoon and we chose to go there because it would be quieter than the League and we could talk and get to know each other a little. Eventually that blind date brought me to California. Who knows if I would have ventured here if not for that afternoon at Drake’s?

Patricia A. Insley, ’73, MS’74
My friend Linda and I would regularly meet at Drake’s for hot chocolate and English muffins. It started as a comfort thing but turned into a routine that we always made time for. We spent many a winter afternoon enjoying the ambiance (especially sitting upstairs) and talking for hours, solving the problems of the world and our own as well.

Chuck Blackmer, ’66, MLA’69
I still remember dates with my future wife at Drake’s. I always loved the candy and the booths.

Sue Payeur Koehler, ’06
My grandfather always took me to Drake’s. All the candy in the jars was like Heaven! We even got a look into the secret basement candy storage area once. As I got older I dropped in occasionally to take my grandfather out to lunch, where I appreciated the lunch counter and the vintage soda fountain, but the candy selection was still the big draw.

Brandon Kornblue, ’99
Our family grew up in South Florida, but my favorite weekend of the entire year was when my dad would bring me to one football game in Ann Arbor. One of the annual traditions of our trip was stopping at Drake’s to pick up chocolate pretzels and a few of the mini footballs which were always displayed in the front window.

Ben Abramson, ’60, MA’62
I often went to Drake’s and was given a job there in 1959. My fraternity brother and my girlfriend came in that evening and I gave them extra ice cream. My job ended that evening. I was taught how to give a certain amount of ice cream in the sodas, and I guess I gave too much.

A. Gebbles
Ah, Drake’s. There was no place like it—candies, teas, sandwiches, fresh-squeezed limeades, pecan rolls and Drake’s employees in blue lab coats hollering out the names of people whose orders were ready. It was an eclectic little family-owned shop that never changed its ways or its ambience. Once the space upstairs closed, not many people had the chance to see that piece of frozen time, with the same old furniture, drapes and dust. When I was a Drakette, we occasionally went up there to get something and a serious, silent, honorable respect was immediately cast over all the workers just at the room’s mention. I even remember another worker and myself actually tip-toeing up the stairs!

When Drake's had its sixtieth anniversary in 1989, all the employees received a shirt saying “Drake's Sandwich Shop 1929 – 1989” that we were to wear at work for a week. It was a gift to us from the Tibbals in celebration of the shop's legacy. Little did the family know, however, Drake's itself would be such a gift to Ann Arbor with memories that would endure beyond the shops existence on North University Street.

Karen Larson Peterson, ’76
My mother came to visit me only once during my undergrad years at U-M. Excited to show her my favorite places and wanting to indulge in a sweet tooth we shared, I took her to Drake’s for a short snack stop. I remember that I particularly wanted her to try three of my very favorite treats—hot chocolate, a sticky bun and a hot fudge sundae—so naturally I ordered all three for each of us. Mom didn’t say a word; she just sat in a booth with me and dug into the “sweet extreme” meal.

About halfway through the sundae and partway through the sticky bun, we put down our spoons, looked at each other a bit sickly and laughed. Everything was delicious but there was simply no way we could finish. Mom died two years after I graduated and this remains one of my particularly fond “adult” memories.

Jo Ames
My husband always used to tell me about picking up “a long john” every morning at Drake’s, his favorite place. As he walked to campus, thinking about me (he says), he had to start his day off there with that long john.

Nina Palazzolo Barkell, ’77
My roommates and I loved Drake's. We were students in the 70s and would go there to buy a candy called "melty mints," which were pastel-colored chocolates with a minty flavor. They were not available anywhere else and we would get them there as a special treat. We lived in Couzens Hall and were students in nursing and physical therapy. I was in AA last weekend with my old roommate and we were recalling those memories of Drake's. Naturally, we were very disappointed when we learned that Drake's had closed!

Caren M. Stalburg, ’88, MD’92, MDRES’96, MA’06
Drake's holds a special place in my heart as that is where I decided to major in biology back in the mid-1980s.

Do you remember what I called "the Martian Room" upstairs? Or the crazy boomerang-like formica booths and Jetson-type light fixtures? That's where, over their fantastic tuna sandwich, I went through all of the information my counselor provided regarding the different majors available for an aspiring pre-med.

I have a postcard picture of Drake's on my refrigerator to this day, and I still smile when I think about the rows and rows of candy jars piled to the ceiling and the lunch counter up front.

Deborah DeRuyver-Tobocman, ’89
In the spring of my freshman year, I had just started dating a new man. On one of our first dates I introduced him to the "green and purple" room at the Law Library and he introduced me to Drake's. As a third generation Michigan man, this place had seeped into his family's collective lore. Over the next three years I enjoyed many a dark, peaceful afternoon sipping freshly squeezed limeade before pondering my selection of a bag of by-the-pound cordials which we would later share—popping them slowly into our mouths and waiting for the splash of flavor to reveal itself as the chocolate coating melted.

Amidst the demands of a Michigan education, working more than twenty hours per week, and various clubs and extracurricular activities, I found repose in the rituals inspired by these Drake's confections. Each year when that man—now my life partner of 22 years—comes with me to Ann Arbor to enjoy a football weekend, before heading out to enjoy the newest restaurant in town, we send up a small sigh for that which now resides only in memory.

Dolores Nachman Curiel, ’64
Drake’s was an important part of my study/exam routine. I used to go there for a quiet cup of Constant Comment tea when I was fed up with books and after finals it was straight to Drake’s for a warm, gooey pecan roll. The best!

I also bought some of their candy that looked like stones and brought them home to fool my sister. She thought they were real, so when I popped one in my mouth and began to chew, she freaked out.

Roberta London, ’70, MS’71
Late one afternoon, in January 1969, my future husband, Rick London, proposed to me on the corner of Washtenaw and South University. He was a senior and I was a junior. To celebrate this occasion, and my acceptance, we strolled hand in hand across campus to Drake’s, stopping for a kiss under the Engine Arch. I will forever associate the small wooden benches, a toasted bagel and cup of tea at Drake’s with the wonderful emotions of that day.

James B. Fahner, ’79, MD’83
Drake’s is one of the things I miss terribly when we come back to Ann Arbor, and I still find myself gazing expectantly to that row of businesses along the Diag in hopes it might still be there. From the fresh Limeaid to those amazing pecan rolls, and from those uniquely creaky, cozy wooden booths to the rows and rows of the most fascinating candies, it truly was one of a kind. During my undergrad years, it was a nonnegotiable superstition to go to Drake’s before or after big exams, either to get a sugar buzz before or commiserate after! To this day, I always look at specialty candy stores to see if the smooth white lime dextrose tablets I once bought at Drake’s might be available—alas, I have never found them.

Harold G. (Buzz) Wilson, ’65, MBA’76
In my senior year I worked at the UGLI about 30 hours per week. Every night, around 12:15 a.m., I headed straight to Drake’s for a cup of tea (oolong, suchong, Earl Grey or (usually) Darjeeling) and a slice of their world class Chocolate cake. To my dying day, I will remember the aromas and ambiance of that establishment. I miss that more than just about anything from my Ann Arbor days. I got to know the staff quite well, often sharing with them a favorite joke that I played on overworked undergraduate students who were sound asleep when I closed the place. “You been here all night?” I would ask as I shook them awake. The fastest runners at Michigan were not the track team sprinters. How I miss those days and Drake’s!

Susan Ness Loomans, ’67, MBA’81
My favorite memory of Drake’s has to be the candy, of course! One could hardly walk back and forth from the “Hill” without being tempted. I can’t say that I went in that often to have a milkshake, malt or soda, but the window was always fun to look at.

Maurice L. Zilber, ’60
Drake’s had great lime milkshakes and pecan rolls! My fraternity was out on Washtenaw—too far to go out for lunch and get back for afternoon classes. So every day my junior and senior years, two or three of my fraternity brothers and I and our respective girlfriends would meet upstairs at Drake's for lunch. The food was good and the room was cozy—particularly on a winter's day. In particular, I remember struggling into Drake’s still hung over from my 21st birthday party the night before, downing a milkshake and going off to take an astronomy exam. I got an “A” thanks to the milkshake.

I was so sorry when I learned that Drake's had closed. While the beverages served were very different, Drake's was one of the institutions that made going to Michigan so enjoyable.

Arlene Miller Barris, ’62
Everyone remembers the cinnamon buns at Drake's, but how many of us still recall the "slider-type" hamburgers which were dispensed from their own counter at the back of the restaurant? There was also the large room upstairs (I seem to recall pink walls) which I only saw once. There were always big jars of candies sitting up by the cashier, and years later I'd go to Drake's to buy hard candies that looked like pebbles and stones to fool my elementary school classes! Even though those hard green booths were so uncomfortable, I sure spent a lot of time there with my hot chocolate and cinnamon bun between classes!

Lynda Howard Hegg, ’68
Drake’s had the best cinnamon rolls and greatest selection of teas in the coolest old green wooden booths. It was THE place with atmosphere to spare and the perfect spot to meet friends between classes!

Nancy Rosenfeld Barber, ’85
I used to love to study at Drake’s, drinking tea and hiding in a booth. But I'll never forget the day I learned the secret behind one of my favorite dishes. A girl behind the counter told me the tuna salad was so good because they mixed it with their hands! I ate it anyway and it was great.

Ritch K. Eich, ’77
Drake’s was one of the favorite destinations for our entire family. We went there often with our two sons, Geoff and Teddy, with visiting family including my wife's parents, friends and colleagues. Our favorite items were Limeaids, "sticky buns", pecan rolls, more Limeaids, cream cheese and olive sandwiches and everything else. We used to drool over the beautiful cakes displayed in the glass dome. In addition, we often purchased loose teas and candy from the big jars. It was and will always be an integral part of our 14 years of wonderful memories of Ann Arbor.

Dave Harrell, ’60, MA’66
My memories of Drake’s go back to my senior year at Ann Arbor High School. Because the school cafeteria wasn’t open when I had lunch, I was on my own looking around the State Street area. I found Drake’s Sandwich Shop very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed their tuna sandwiches each day from September until January of that school year.

Jim Garfield
Drake’s was the place you took your date after the movies or some other event. For me it was a weekly trip for five years.

Rudy Habermann, ’47, MS’48
Drake’s was an essential part of date night with a stop after the movies for a high class chocolate sundae!

Greg Heuer, ’69
Linda, ’69, and I have many fond memories of Drake's. We often selected our next tea from the wall-of-tea in small cans, mostly Wagner's as I remember. We even named our first cat Lapsang Souchong in honor of a tea from Drake's.

As musicians, we often went over after a concert at Hill. We always ordered a special tea and a cinnamon roll, buttered and grilled, to split. The odd black-and-green dots motif was certainly unique. We hardly ever went upstairs.

The demise of Drake's was the beginning of the downfall of the State Street area.

Beth A. Brown Satchell, ’69
I loved Drake's and even worked there part-time my freshman year at Michigan. It was the perfect place to have tea and a grilled pecan roll (my favorite) while studying. The owners were kind to hire students for $1.10 per hour, as I recall. The food was all homemade items such as meatloaf sandwiches and fresh squeezed limeade and lemonade. I even worked the burger bar in the back occasionally—it was a little tiny room at the rear of the store with a grill for the burgers. Old-fashioned candies were stored in big glass canisters on the shelves. Customers would write their own orders on slips, then bring them to the front to be filled. The store had booths on the first floor and tables on the second floor. There was thankfully a dumb waiter on the second floor for carrying dirty dishes downstairs to be washed.

I was sad when I visited the campus in the 1990s and found out that Drake's had been turned into a bagel shop—I wonder what happened to the booths and woodwork?

Julian Cook, ’66
I loved Drake’s. The Michigan experience wouldn't have been the same without it. I probably went there at least once a week, either with a date or to meet a group of friends. The toasted pecan rolls were absolutely the best ever—the BEST! And the M-burgers were fabulous. So were the dozens of different kinds of teas. Perfect for sitting in the booths and talking for a half-hour between classes or for hours, it was a quintessential college hangout.

Ellen Phillipps Wales, ’65, MA’66
I was a student in the Art & Design School, and when working late a student would usually ask, “Who wants a Drake burger?” You had no choice of toppings, only “everything,” which included ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles. They were wrapped in foil and were still warm when we got them all the way across campus!

Lois C. Schwartz, ’57
In those days, ice cream sodas were very popular. I was a coffee ice cream soda lover and Drake’s was literally the only restaurant in town that had coffee ice cream. I remember flamboyantly filling out my first absentee ballot with a vote for Adlai E. Stevenson at a table in Drake’s (while drinking a coffee ice cream soda, of course).

Luann Davis, ’73
I remember taking people there to get “stone” candy. That was the only place where I ever saw those candies that looked so much like rocks.

Steven White, ’81
I remember walking by Drake’s in the fall during the late 1970s and seeing their window display of a chicken moving its head up and down to eat candy corn, the candy that comes out around Halloween. I remember relating this story to my mother back in New Jersey and we howled because we both remembered that supposedly chickens eat until they fall over and then keep moving their mouths to eat some more until they die. I can still see that window in my mind and laugh every time I think of it.

I also remember that Drake’s served Limeade. I had never heard of it before then.

Cher Bledsoe-Kiesel, ’75
Attending U. of M. in the early 70's, Drake's was that funny old place where I could meet friends for a Limeaid, write my own tuna salad sandwich order, and soak up all the ambiance of tea crate art from around the world. Once I sat at the counter and I inquired about the origin of the crates. “India and China, mostly,” my sandwich preparer replied, and did I know that there was a list, if you wanted a crate of your own? Weeks later, the call came. I retrieved my wooden treasure, a generous 2 x 3 foot box, and rode home to Bursley with it on the bus. A coat of varnish to preserve the intricate shipping markings, and a student lamp table was born, serving loyally through lofted dorm rooms, Ann Arbor apartments, and well into my marriage years later.

When my mother-in-law saw it and heard it was from Drake's, she reminisced that she and her husband-to-be frequented Drake’s as students in the 40s. "Meet me on Mars," her beau would say, referring to the room upstairs, the "Martian" room.

Doris Rubenstein, ’71
Drake’s… ah, such tasty memories! Going into Drake’s was a mind-expanding experience in itself: you passed through the doors and entered into a time warp that took you back to the 1920s. Being at Drake’s was communing with students who went before you, whose raccoon coats were as emblematic of their day as tied-dyed t-shirts were in 1969.

Just as Drake’s décor was unchanging, so was its menu. While rightly famous for the toasted cinnamon roll, my favorite, without question, was the Cream Cheese and Olive Sandwich on Toasted Rye. Drake’s CC&O was better than Mom’s.

William F. Heyd, ’71, MARCH’71
Drake's was my favorite lunch spot on campus. Grilled cheese sandwiches are pretty ordinary fare, but the ones at Drake's were highly regarded and absolutely delicious back in the good ol' days.

Dan Kaller, MSW’84
Drake’s offered a broad selection of juice (fresh squeezed), teas and coffees. They had some pastry that wasn't the best, and an assortment of candies. Drake’s was an old-fashioned sweet shop. When an order was placed, the customer would tell one of the people working the counter what they wanted and would give the staff person a first name. When your order was ready, they would call your name and you had to go back up to retrieve it.

Unlike some other businesses, Drake’s was a landmark on central campus. Everyone knew where it was. You never had to give directions. In some ways, it was like taking a step back in time. The walls were adorned with old photographs, and the shelves had old knickknacks. It was a very small place. I don't care what time of day it was, you always felt cramped inside the building, because the place was always crowded.

Jane Hinerman Stenning, ’84
Many years ago, my father was a young professor of pathology in the U-M Medical School, then located in what later became the Natural Resources building. Since we were a one-car family then, my mother would take me to pick him up every day. If we were early, she would take me to Drake's for some treats and tell me about her days as a nursing student at U-M and the dances she would attend in the upstairs room there. Many years later, when I was a student at U-M, my friends and I would frequent Drake's, especially for the grilled pecan rolls and freshly-made limeade. After my own daughter was born in 1978, I used to take her to Drake's, too—an excursion she always loved, especially when she tried to imagine her grandmother dancing upstairs. I would guess that ours is not the only family to have three generations who visited Drake's often.

[Later correspondence] My mother has corrected me—the dancing used to take place "downstairs"—I never knew there was a downstairs in Drake's.

Jean Kelsey, MA’71 (undergraduate from 1954 to 1956)
My husband and I attended Michigan during the 1950s. Drake’s was "our" place for dates after movies. We always ordered tin roof sundaes. I know there was a room upstairs but we never went up there; instead we always chose the last booth on the left where there wasn't a seat facing forward so that we were always in our private place. We usually had to hurry a bit in order that I could be back to East Quad before curfew. We also had a favorite spot for goodnight kissing where no one could see us, like the others who didn't mind sharing their displays of affection in the lobby.

Several years later, we returned to Michigan as a married couple and my husband worked on campus. He usually ate lunch at Drake’s and ordered the same thing every day—a grilled cheese sandwich and peanut butter cake or pie if available. "Mrs. Drake" (I can't remember her real name) knew him and would call his office to let him know on the days when he could get one or the other. He was very fond of her.

I would give anything to sit in one of those green booths again.

Mel Dickerson, MS’92, PhD’99
“Orange Radiant Morsels”

I had heard about it from Michigan alums and I always admired the front of the building but I only personally knew Drake's in its last days. From that time I have three personal snapshots and little else.

Snap 1
Getting to work at Nat. Sci. before 7 a.m., I usually got my morning cappuccino and scone at Caribou Coffee, the only cafe around that opened at 6 a.m. At that early hour as I rounded the corner of State and North U, I often saw a man I took to be the owner of Drake's out in front wearing a starchy white working apron. That's the image I still clearly recall, sun in my face, old man wearing white apron. I was lucky if I got to see him snap his apron full of bread crumbs onto the sidewalk in front of the store whereupon the local flock of party sparrows immediately descend to attack the morning's feast.

As Mel Dickerson, MS'92, PhD'99, describes below, he still has this jar of Drake’s candy.

Snap 2
Curiosity finally got the best of me and into Drake's one afternoon. It was obvious with a little survey that the place had once been a much larger commercial activity. In the 1990s the back of the store was essentially closed up and empty but the front contained tables on which there was jar after jar of individually wrapped candies of all kinds and boxes and tins of many different teas. There always seemed to be students there searching for their favorites. There was a small service counter up front where one could order a limited selection of items, including sandwiches. Of which, there were two I used to order, the absolutely classic BLT with mayo and peanut butter and jelly, grape. Both were on square white bread. You could get them toasted and they were exactly like the kind my mother used to pack in my small, brown paper bag for lunch when I was in elementary school.

Snap 3
As far as I know, Drake's was the only place in Ann Arbor, at least around campus, that served fresh squeezed limeade. It was my afternoon favorite and I always ordered a double. They put both halves of the lime rind in the cup along with the juice, which intensified the wonderful green color and added just the right bitterness to the taste. It was a unique drink and, on a warm summer's day, fantastically refreshing!

One day I noticed unusual activity inside the shop. Perhaps there had been a closing sign or something. I went inside to inquire where I met a woman who was the daughter of the gentleman I often saw outside in the morning. She had come from California to be with her father who was dying and to sell the business. She took me on a brief tour and talked about growing up in that store. She was marking things to be sold and as she saw things she often told me a little story. I bought a small megaphone which she said her aging mother had used to call out food orders to the kitchen. I bought a few other mementos, most of which I have given away. However, I still vacuum my basement with the Drake's Electrolux. In addition to boxes of teas, I bought several of the gallon jars full of candy, which, after emptying (yum), I use in my kitchen for storing rice, mushrooms, and such. Of these one remains almost full, almost as I bought it, of candy. I attach a photo of it.

Although I like Bruegger’s, I miss Drake's.

Irene Margaret Kent Smith, ’69, MA’71
“Drake’s, or How I Got By in AA”

Drake’s. Do you remember Drake’s? Do you remember Mr. T, whose real name was Truman Tibbals? Or Mrs. T, who sat on that first stool closest to the window? Or Bob, their hard-working son? Or that enormous cash register?

I remember Mr. T. In fact, he got me through my six years and two degrees at Michigan. I arrived in Ann Arbor in August of 1965 at the ripe old age of 16. I had skipped third grade, was young for my class anyway, and had graduated from Wayne High School in Wayne, New Jersey, in June of that year. I couldn’t wait to leave Wayne. It was the Sixties, and all I wanted to do was save the world, particularly from people like my parents. I dreamed of Columbia, Berkeley, Wisconsin, or Michigan, and my dreams came true on Labor Day weekend of my senior year in high school, when the fat envelope arrived from UM.

Unfortunately, money was a problem. I had obtained student loans to attend college, but I needed spending money. I wanted all the tie-dye I could get. Somehow, I wandered into Drake’s Sandwich Shop on North University. Do you remember the jars of candy on the shelves on your left as you walked in? Do you remember limeade? Pecan rolls? Dagwood sandwiches? Those little green teapots? The trays? Those hamburgers in the Martian room upstairs? The fried onions?

For reasons I’ll never understand, Mr. T. hired me. I’d had very little experience working, and I was not even 17. All I knew about tea was Lipton’s. No matter. Mr. T taught me pretty much everything about the shop. I wrapped those big chunks of chocolate downstairs in the basement. I measured out chocolate-covered raisins and jelly beans and licorice whips. I made tea and limeade for tired graduate students who never seemed to leave.

Actually, Mr. T never seemed to leave. Mrs. T worked the place during the day, and Mr. T was there all night. I got to know the Ann Arbor police, who were always welcome at the counter, and who drank free cups of coffee all night. They set up their radios at Drake’s and waited for a call. In fact, one night the call was from an apartment building where a raucous party was being held. Police were called to stop the noise. My phone rang. “Turn off all the god-damned lights and shut off the music! The cops are on the way.” It was Mr. T letting me know.

What else did Mr. T do for me? He let me pay myself out of the till every night. He let me work whenever I needed to in addition to my regular hours, even if there wasn’t a soul in the place. When I needed to fly home because my father was dying of cancer, he drove me to Metro and pushed some crumpled bills into my hands.

He was gruff, and he rarely looked anyone in the eye. He spoke directly to the floor. He swore like a sailor. Yet year after year, he’d allow me to work for him. I spent my junior year abroad through the School of Education’s Sheffield University exchange. When I got back in the fall of my senior year, he said, “Where ya been? I need you to work.”

Though those years, I learned that Mr. T had taken many students under his protective glare. Do you remember all those tired PhD candidates, law students, and pre-med students who sat in the back booths studying, undisturbed, for hours? Mr. T took care of them, too, in his own quiet way.

I think some students were afraid of Mr. T. I can’t remember ever seeing him smile, unless it was in response to one of the policemen’s dirty jokes. And do you remember the mayonnaise? Every sandwich had to have mayonnaise… even PB and J! I tried to change that, but mayonnaise was the law.

Drake’s is gone now, replaced by Bruegger’s Bagels. Yes, the bagels are good, and it’s a clean well-lighted place. But in that time from 1965 to 1971, when I was a UM student, I loved those dark green booths and the back staircase to the Martian room upstairs. Drake’s was never well enough lit to see the years of grease or dust which had accumulated. Lucky for me. When I cleaned up before closing, I make quick work of it. Mr. T never seemed to mind.

Do you remember that cough? Mr. T took lousy care of himself. Do you remember his limp? Sometimes he could hardly get up or down the stairs. Did you ever see his office in the basement? What a disaster.

But he was the gentlest soul I knew in Ann Arbor. He drove me home in the rain or snow. He never complained about anything to me. He got me through, and I miss him, and I miss Drake’s.

Posted by smorioka at May 8, 2008 08:01 AM


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