Cooperations at YORK promote small businesses in the midst of a pandemic

ANN ARBOR, me. – YORK has become synonymous with community and collaboration in Ann Arbor.

The company is located on Packard Street and has served Tree Town for decades. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became a place where small businesses can collaborate and socialize safely.

The owners of YORK take advantage of the open air space next to the building, which is affectionately known as the Yard, and have made it a place for customers to enjoy drinks and food.

During the summer, this meant setting up socially distant tables and chairs for food truck visits and pop-up events. Now visitors can enjoy their drinks next to one of eight fire pits.

“That has a silver lining [the pandemic]”Said owner Tommy York.” Probably not enough of them to make it worth it, but goodness happens around us.

York has been the company’s managing partner for over 20 years. He took over ownership in 2019 with new partners Sarah Okin and Ethan and Noah Kaplan. It used to be called Morgan + York, but since the 1940s the building has had different markets.


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Through the yard, YORK has found a way not only to support itself, but also to support other companies in southeast Michigan.

“One way to help ourselves and other people was to let local food trucks pass by,” York said.

But community members will find more than just food trucks at York Yard. In the evenings, YORK offers pop-up events that range from themed evenings to DJ events and more.

Grocery stores in southeast Michigan like Basil Babe, Simply Spanish, and Juicy Oistre visit the yard while DJ Myint or DJ Batz entertain and spin music.

The events were a win-win-win situation. Their presence helps YORK, the smaller businesses sell their groceries, and community members desperate to break out of their deadlocked routines can safely socialize outdoors.


York added that food trucks want to return to Tree Town after their events and customers are asking about them.

While the summer was easier for doing business with Ann Arbor when the customers flocked to the yard, the winter weather slowed things down. Nevertheless, several events are still planned in YORK.

Community members can expect visits to the Detroit-based Fig Detroit vegan bakery, Ann Arbor’s Side Biscuit, and a special St. Patrick’s Day event.

Future events are written on a chalkboard that will be displayed in YORK and on its website. Inquisitive customers can also join a mailing list.

The Ann Arbor store features live music with many of its pop-up events. (Sarah Okin / YORK)

In YORK, community members will find a full-service wine and beer store, a quick service counter for sandwich and coffee needs, a fully stocked bar, and a Ricewood grill.

York said that due to the Michigan state mandate, the inside of the store was closed to customers for some time. Although he and the other owners got the green light to reopen, they decided against it for a while out of caution.


Now customers can come to YORK to order food and drink, or to collect products, but dinner is still not an option.

Employees haven’t been vaccinated yet, so the company wants to be safe, York said. It hurts the business not to have indoor seating, but the owners put the health of their employees first.

York said the Packard Street store initially received a PPP grant at the start of the pandemic, which meant the workforce was not laid off. Now the company has actually been able to hire more employees despite the lower volume.

Customers have also helped keep YORK afloat.

“Our regular customers were fantastic. They keep us at break even, which is way better than most people, ”said York. “We’re not going to sink in the unfortunate boat, so that’s great.”

York also attributed the business’s success to its ability to offer a wide variety of choices, from quick service food and drink to retailing in wine, artisanal cheeses, and more. He said the increase in wine and retail sales helped offset a decline in food and beverage sales during the pandemic.


Collaboration is important to doing business with Ann Arbor, but so is convenience. York said he wants all customers, whether they’re buying a $ 1,000 case of wine or just a biscuit, to feel valued and comfortable.

“We’re really trying to make it feel like a neighborhood hangout,” said York.

During the renovation of the store, he even took inspiration from Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits in New Orleans, which has a similar backyard vibe.

Visit YORK on Packard Street 1928.

YORK changed its outdoor space during the pandemic. (Sarah Okin / YORK)

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