Ted’s Campus Store and Theo’s, as well as the people who own them, have been staples on Cross Street just off Eastern Michigan University’s campus for decades. But sibling co-owners Cerene and George Tangalakis have put up both locations for sale.
“We realized that dad has been here over 60 years,” Cerene said. “Back when there was just farmland between here and Ann Arbor.”
When Cerene and George’s father Ted, now 94, opened Ted’s Campus Store, Eastern only had a fraction of the students that are here now, and Ted’s itself was very different.
“Until the 1980s, there was a soda fountain,” she said. “Back then you didn’t take a girl for a drink, you took a girl for a coke or a sundae. Things changed over the years.”
Cerene remembers working at the store when she was a student at Eastern, back in the days of dorm curfews and girls-only buildings. Her and a group of other girls worked the store in a “blue haze” of smoke. After getting her bachelor’s and her master’s at Eastern, Cerene went on to teach and occasionally helping around the store until her father called her and her brother back to town about 30 years ago.
“When I started as a freshmen, this was a rooming house,” she said. “It was leveled and a business called Marvin’s moved in. They went under and a company in New York bought it who named it Hungry Charlie’s, and they sold the business to a guy who changed the name to Eastern Staples, which didn’t make it either.”
Ted saw the business and property for sale and realized an opportunity for what would become Theo’s.
“Dad contacted us and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to come back to the area?’ ” she said. “We bought the business and the property, and we’ve been there over 30 years.”
Over the years, there have been almost as many changes to Theo’s as there’s been to Ted’s.
“Theo’s started out as a restaurant that served alcohol,” Cerene said. “But we closed the kitchen for seven years and concentrated on the party atmosphere.”
While the siblings have had a good run, it hasn’t always been easy, but Cerene imagines it’s easier than working with a spouse.
“I can call him out and he can say something nasty,” she said. “But we can come back in five minutes and just say ‘now where were we?’”
While the pair decided to put the store up for sale, that doesn’t mean it’s closing down.
“I’m looking toward retirement,” she said. “But I still have a connection to this school, and I’m going to keep it that way. I want to see Theo’s and Ted’s keep going.”
While Cerene and George have logged a lot of hours at both places, it’s nothing compared to their father and original owner Ted.
“We just got my dad to retire,” Cerene, 62, said. “He was the oldest practicing pharmacist in the state. He hoped he would pass away before we sold his baby.”
But the family isn’t the only ones with a connection to the store, regular visitors feel one too.
“I’ve been coming in since 2003,” junior and computer science student Dan Reed said. “It’s close and we have a bit of a rapport. It’s nice to come in somewhere and you’re not talking to a stranger every day.”
It’s not just the visitors who see the difference the owners make, but their employees too.
“I’ve been coming to Ted’s since my freshmen year,” senior aviation management student and store clerk Chris Bell said. “I hope nothing will change, I hope it stays a little mom and pop store like it is.”
Mom and Pop is the best way to describe Ted’s, where people come back not just for the prices but for the friendly faces too.
“Cerene’s like my second mom,” Bell said. “They’re like family.”
When the shop does sell, it will be a bittersweet ending for the employees, customers and, of course, the Tangalakis family.
“I love being here, it keeps you young,” Cerene said. “So many people have talked about what my father did. Hold those memories close to your heart.”
People have time to make new memories as well. For now, Theo’s and Ted’s are open for business and under the same management they’ve been under for years.
“We’re concerned people are thinking we’re no longer open,” Cerene said. “We’re open for business all the time. Nothing’s going to change.”