Midtown Grocery Store Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe Closes Soon

Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, the Woodward Avenue grocery store whose arrival excited Midtown months before Whole Foods opened a few blocks away, will close in coming days due to “slow sales and high overhead,” according to the owners, brothers Peter and Michael Solaka.

An exact closing date in not set. The store plans to sell its inventory at 25% off and close when stock dwindles. Some refrigerator cases and shelves were already empty Saturday after signs were posted outside.

The store, which carries groceries, prepared food, beer and wine, survived for 16 months.

In the seven or so months before Whole Foods opened, Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe was the only full-service grocer in lower Midtown. Located on the northeast corner of Woodward Ave and Watson in the old Zaccaro's Market space, the Butcher Shoppe sits on prime real estate along the future M-1 route and just north of the proposed arena district.

Though Ye Ole Butcher Shoppe generated excitement even before it welcomed its first customer, the store was plagued with unexpected issues. It took more than two years to open due to a flood and the bankruptcy of the building’s owner. The store also suffered “a series of costly break-ins shortly after it opened,” according to the Solaka brothers.

“We knew this business would be difficult to establish from day one. We were advised by many experienced grocers who run similar stores in the suburbs, that we would not make it,” the Solaka brothers write in a statement.

"But, there was no store in the city with the same offerings and appearance. Things like a staffed butcher counter, full salad bar, bakery and extensive wine collection hadn’t been found in one downtown store for many years.”

Lakesha Simpson bags groceries in front of the shelves behind that were intended to hold liquor.

While the Solaka brothers say they have a supportive relationship with Whole Foods, they acknowledge being unable to compete with the famous national chain, which received subsidies from the city of Detroit to open at Mack and Woodward. 

“There is no doubt that when they opened, our sales dropped by 60% and have remained close to that ever since,” they write. “We were also a bit blindsided by the lower pricing structure Whole Foods was able to put in place at the Midtown store.”

That's not to say Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe was unrecognizable. It was named after a beloved Lafayette Park grocery store owned by Peter and Michael's father and uncle in the 1970s and '80s.

The Butcher Shoppe hoped selling liquor would set them apart from Whole Foods. But shelves behind the registers for gin, vodka and other spirits remain empty because the owners were unable to obtain a liquor license due to the lengthy approval process.

“We believe that if we could have opened earlier, we would have been better established and able to address the changing market conditions," they say.

The Solaka name is a familiar one in Midtown, and the store's closure won't mean the brothers are out of the Detroit retail game. Peter runs the Gourmet Deli in the Ren Cen, while Michael is a partner in Northern Lights Lounge, a popular New Center bar.

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