Owners: Metal detectors crushed business in once bustling Courthouse Coffee Shop


By Jo Mathis

Legal News

When Richard (''Dave'') and Jeanny Yi opened the County Coffee Shop 27 years ago, business was brisk.

The Washtenaw County Courthouse in downtown Ann Arbor was a bustling place, and employees, visitors, and those who worked in nearby banks, shops and other businesses would walk in and grab a stool at the counter or a cosy booth or table.

''These used to be all full,'' said Jeanny Yi, nodding to the row of empty stools. ''Then came 9-11.''

Security at the courthouse was beefed-up after the terrorist attacks. Taking a seat at the tiny restaurant suddenly required an extra step too many people aren't willing to take: Metal detection. And for most people, that means placing their cell phones in a 50-cent locker.

''Nobody likes to be without their phone,'' said Jeanny.

The Fourth Avenue entrance to the courthouse was also locked after 9-11, and all visitors must now enter through the security measures at the main door.

Also, fewer cases go to trial than they did a decade OK, so traffic in the courthouse is down.

''The metal detectors changed everything,'' said Dave Yi, 63. '' The county has treated me good; I'm not complaining. But the good old days are gone. I tried my best to serve not only employees, but the public. I haven't raised prices even a dime in five years. This is nobody's fault, but times are not right.''

The menu of breakfast and lunch items is extensive, and includes both American and Asian food. (The Yis are Korean.) And customers rave about the coffee.

Attorney Chad Egelhardt of Moran, Raimi, Goethel & Karnani in Ann Arbor loves Dave's cheese steak sandwich. But he said the Yis offer much more than food.

''They provide a brief respite and refuge for weary lawyers embroiled in trial,'' he said. ''Their hospitality and cheer raise our spirits and encourage our clients when we need it most.''

Most of the judges in the building patronize the restaurant - which is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday - several times a week, said the couple.

Jeanny Yi said she treasures the relationships that have developed over the years. She just wishes she'd see more customers more often.

''I hoped people would get used to the metal detectors,'' said her husband. ''If you go to the airport, you have to go through metal detectors. But someone going for lunch? They don't want to.''

The Yis, who live in Ann Arbor, have a son, 29, in law school in Chicago and a daughter, 33, who teaches special ed in Virginia. They hope the coffee shop will take them into retirement.

''We hope business comes back,'' said Dave Yi. ''We'll just have to see.''

Published: Thu, Jan 26, 2012