Update, May 24, 3:26 p.m.: Due to delays, Ricewood’s walk-up window will not open over Memorial Day weekend.
Ann Arbor’s South Packard neighborhood specialty grocer Morgan & York is in the process converting to a “hybrid beer hall” where visitors can also enjoy beer-friendly snacks, sandwiches, wine, and cocktails. The business is also welcoming beloved food trailer Ricewood indoors with a year-round, walk-up counter imminently.
The changes began last summer when Matthew Morgan ended his partnership in the business and are on track for completion by mid-June. Morgan has since been replaced by new investors. As part of the transition, Morgan & York’s name will soon be shortened to “York,” which conveniently comes from the last names of Tommy York and the new partners.
It’s the latest step in the evolution of the popular specialty market. The first business to operate at the location was Big Ten Market, which opened in 1940 as a neighborhood grocer. In 1953, it became Big Ten Party Store with an expanded list of offerings including spirits, live lobsters, imported liqueurs, and specialty wines. When Morgan & York opened at the address in 2001, it continued the tradition by selling primarily European wines as well as groceries, cheese, and charcuterie.
“The writing was on the wall,” Tommy York says of the recent change. The shop couldn’t compete as local supermarkets started selling better selections of beer and wine and customers were able to buy many of the food items over the internet. “We saw a 20 percent drop in grocery sales beginning in 2008. At the same time, sales at the coffee bar increased 20 percent. It was a no-brainer.”
As part of the market revamp, York and his partners have converted the front half of the store into a dining area with seating for 95 with service from the existing cafe and delicatessen. Wine sales has moved to the spacious back room and will continue to focus on wines from European regions. There are plans to convert the adjoining outdoor area a beer garden as well.
York’s lunch service will still feature its Spanish bocata sandwiches and dinner will be expanded to include grilled sausages, Spanish tapas, and other small plates. “With the deli offerings, the variety of things we can have is gigantic,” York says. “We sell 50 to 100 cheeses and 25 to 50 meats.” The bar will have 8 beer taps and will serve wines by the glass and cocktails.
The switch to a York isn’t the only change at the space. Ricewood, the wildly popular four-year-old barbecue trailer, has moved its operations from the store’s back parking lot to a walk-up counter. Diners can order from a small window by the bar area and can eat their Chamorro smoked meats inside the shop. In addition to diners being protected from the elements, the move indoors allows Ricewood to remain open throughout the year.
Chef Frank Fejeran and his brother, pitmaster Gabe Golub, tell Eater that they are also expanding Ricewood’s menu to include more sandwiches and a daily sausage. Planning is underway for a dinner service that will feature more mainstream American-style barbecue with macaroni and cheese, corn muffins, and other traditional sides.
Ricewood had expected to begin indoor operations over Memorial Day weekend, but it’s since delayed those opening plans. The changes to York are expected to be completed by Sunday, June 21. The cafe will still open at 7:30 a.m. and the bar will be open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.