Avalon International Breads vacated its spot in the Mike Ilitch School of Business the week of Oct. 26 — leaving the business school vacant of any retail tenants.
Avalon and Wayne State announced the cafe opening on June 11. Avalon opened a temporary pop-up shop to gauge students’ interest, said Steven Townsend, director of marketing and communications of the business school.
“Avalon was being housed in a temporary pop-up space where they explored their options for setting up a permanent location in the building,” he said. “After a couple of months of testing it out, they determined it wasn’t going to be cost effective for them to build out of the permanent place.”
Nicole Jackson, associate director of WSU Real Estate and Asset Management, told The South End in June that of approximately 1,00 feet of retail space available in the business school, Avalon would permanently occupy 400 square-feet of retail space and the remaining 600 square feet would be available for various pop-up shops.
Townsend said WSU and Avalon mutually agreed to terminate the lease.
Jackie Victor, CEO and co-founder of Avalon, said there is no bad relationship with the school and being there was a great for the business and they enjoyed being with students and faculty.
Potential partners for the two vacant spots will be announced as soon as there is an agreement is finalized, Jackson said.
“One (space) is a pop-up space which will cycle various businesses through the space and the other is a permanent location for a business,” she said. “We are primarily looking for Detroit-based shops for the pop-up space.”
Townsend said he cannot discuss any of the potential partners.
“It is a priority for the dean that whoever is in there provides goods that students will want and need at prices they can afford,” he said.
Prosper Garcia, a junior finance student, said the issue with the layout of the school’s retail space is the lack of an internal entrance.
“To get inside you have to leave the building and re-enter from the outside,” Garcia said. “I think this limited the number of customers they had because it was out of the way and wasn’t easily accessible.”
He said he would only see a couple of students walking around with Avalon coffee cups at the beginning of the semester.
“From my perspective, I didn’t see a huge presence inside the school.”
Pamela Miramontes, a senior management student, said she wants a spot that gives a “cozy” ambience like other local coffee shops.
“The Avalon was more of a to-go place and I want somewhere students can study at,” she said.
Garcia and Miramontes said they didn’t like having to leave the building and come back in through a different entrance to get into the Avalon.
“There isn’t a bridge that connects the two,” said Miramontes. “I felt secluded since it didn’t really feel connected to the school.”
Garcia said this is a good lesson for the university and hopes for stronger connections with local businesses.
“I’m disappointed it didn’t work out with Avalon, but I hope the business school and WSU in general learned something, so we can continue to work with local businesses to create a stronger sense of community.”
Susana Hernandez is The South End’s WSU Board of Governors and campus housing beat reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.