The historic Thompson Block building welcomed the restaurant Thompson & Co. in Depot Town, Ypsilanti on Aug. 12.
Thompson & Co., at 400 North River Street, features Southern-inspired cuisine and seeks to give patrons a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere where people can regularly hang out, as well as a place to go for a special night out.
The building, named after the Thompson family, has quite an important place in history. It was erected in 1861 and was initially a hotel and storefront before it became a barrack for the Civil War enlistees, which included the first Michigan Colored Infantry.
“The location was chosen by the developers as an opportunity to improve the neighborhood,” Disa Brown, the General Manager of Thompson & Co., said in an email.
Years prior, a devastating fire had battered the Thompson Block building and it sat vacant in disrepair for years. The arrival of Ann Arbor-based development company, 3Mission, took over the previously vacant building and renovated it to host apartments, restaurants, and retail stores—a subtle nod towards the initial purpose of the historic building.
The community response to the restaurant was overwhelmingly positive.
“The community has been extremely welcoming,” Brown said. “The neighboring businesses have extended their well wishes, and we have already seen many people come in multiple times.”
The same sentiment can’t be shared with thousands of other restaurants nationwide. In 2020, the restaurant and hospitality industry took a detrimental hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 110,000 restaurants were closed for business temporarily or permanently in 2020 according to the National Restaurant Association. Furthermore, the end of 2020 saw a significant fall of sales at nearly $240 billion below the Association’s pre-pandemic forecast for the year.
“We were lucky enough to have opened at a time that the vaccine is readily available and restrictions lifted,” Brown said. “We still take extra steps to ensure the safety of our staff and guests, which can be costly.”
Patrons can keep an eye out for the opening of the development group’s new business, Mash Whiskey Bar, in the next couple of weeks. The whiskey bar will be located in the lower level of the Thompson Block building and will feature live music where customers can enjoy classic cocktails and, as expected, good whiskey.
Brown is also an Eastern Michigan University alumnae, having graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).
Brown advises business students, particularly those interested in restaurant management and the hospitality industry, to learn whatever they can in order to succeed.
“Absorb and learn as much as you can, whether you think the subject matter is relevant to you or your major or not,“ Brown said. “Critical thinking and being able to solve problems and figure things out under pressure is key in restaurant management."