ANN ARBOR, Mich. – 2021 has been a difficult year for the Ann Arbor community and so far 2022 has not been much better.
Schools have been forced to go virtual due to staff shortages, beloved businesses have closed, and popular events have been canceled.
Despite what happened to us last year, good things have happened in our community because of the great people who have made Tree Town their home.
Here are 10 of our favorite interviews from 2021:
1. Ann Arbor Cafe Owner Strives to Revive Small Businesses Lost to Pandemic
From April: When the Espresso Royale coffee chain closed its stores in Ann Arbor, it was doubtful the Tree Town coffee scene would recover.
But David Lin, the former owner of South U’s Bubble Island and CEO of Espresso Royale, decided that was enough. Lin launched the COVID Rescue Fund to help revive small businesses lost to the pandemic. Read more here.
2. A former homeless woman distributes phone charger kits to people in need in Ann Arbor
Starting from February : This one made our hearts beat faster!
After briefly experiencing homelessness herself, Ariah Schugat realized that a cell phone was a lifeline for many homeless people. She and her partner Michelle started making and distributing Kyndness packs to those in need.
“There really is no reason not to help people,” Schugat said. “It’s the easiest thing in the world. I think being kind to each other is a gift. Read about Kyndness Covenants.
3. Ann Arbor Balloon Artist Spreads Joy During Pandemic
From July : Carolynn Hayman is known for her famous Conrad the Unicorn balloon costume, but during the COVID-19 pandemic her balloon designs could be seen in backyards all around Ann Arbor.
“There were days when I was inundated with emails,” Hayman said. “I tried to make it my mission not to say ‘no’,” she said. Read this if you want a smile.
4. Inside the Spectator Rescue from Saturday’s massive house fire in Ann Arbor
From September onwards : Some heroes don’t wear capes.
“It was also really remarkable to see my dad in action like that. It was a real proud moment for me as a girl because he was really like a hero, ”said Rachel Harvey of her father, Michael Harvey, a former firefighter with the Farmington Hills Fire Department.
The Harvey’s, along with three other passers-by, rescued an elderly man from a devastating house fire in September. Read Meredith’s conversation with Rachel Harvey here.
The Five Good Samaritans went on to receive medals from the Ann Arbor Fire Department in October.
5. Small Biz Saturday: YORK collaborations boost small businesses in times of pandemic
Starting from February : YORK has served the Ann Arbor community for decades, but during the pandemic it has become synonymous with collaboration, cool pop-ups, and great food.
I sat down (virtually) with Tommy York himself to discuss how the Packard Street business has pivoted, how it has become a hub for collaborative pop-ups, and how YORK Yard has become THE spot for outdoor meeting places. Read more here.
6. Washtenaw County District Attorney Eli Savit talks about vision and policy change in the first few weeks of his tenure
From January : From removing the cash bond to rescinding Washtenaw County’s no-tolerance policy, Eli Savit immediately began to make his mark in the county court system.
“I believe in the justice system based on what you did and not who you are,” Savit said. “I came forward because I believed the prosecutor’s office – and the justice system more broadly – perpetuated injustice.
Meredith spoke with Savit about her vision for the future. See what he had to say.
7. Ann Arbor teacher named quarter finalist for Music Educator Award by Grammy Museum
From July : “I was a little shocked, I guess. It wasn’t something I expected. I was checking my email right before a yoga class and just saw it, ”said Yael Rothfeld of her 2022 Music Education Award nomination.
The Thurston Elementary School music teacher was one of several hundred teachers in the United States shortlisted for the Grammy Museum and Recording Academy awards.
In July, Rothfeld was named quarter-finalist and then advanced to the semi-finals. Read my interview with her or check out Meredith’s update on the story.
8. Longtime owners of Four Directions on Main Street in Ann Arbor to retire
From January : This one was bittersweet.
After 27 years, the owners of Four Directions, Alan and Karen Freedman, have announced their intention to retire and hand over the store.
“We’ve had a long run and enjoyed every minute of it, but it’s just time to go now,” said Karen. “At that age now, our grandchildren are in Florida with our daughter. We have a place there and we want to spend more time with them.
Although the Freedmans are not here, Four Directions will continue in the hands of a young couple. Here’s what Karen told Meredith.
9. Afghan Journalist, Former University of Michigan Fellow, Returns to Ann Arbor After Escaping Kabul
Starting at October : “If someone tells you that this is what’s going to happen and that you will be there, you won’t believe it,” Jawad Sukhanyar said, recalling his heart-wrenching evacuation from Afghanistan.
Like hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Sukhanyar was trying to drive his family away from the country when the Taliban seized power last fall. He recounted what he and thousands of others experienced. Read more here.
10. Ann Arbor Area Songwriter Creates and Releases New Music During Pandemic
Starting from February : The pandemic has been very hard on musicians. As concert halls and recording studios close their doors, new music has been put on the back burner for many artists.
That said, Washtenaw County songwriter Chris DuPont took the time to explore a darker side to his music. His 2021 album “Floodplains” was inspired by a trip to Parker Mill County Park in Ann Arbor while on a walk. Here’s what he had to say about the album.
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