“Thank you for all the love you all have brought to this place. The court has ordered The Love Stand to be removed by 12/4/2022. Let the memories of joy live in our hearts forever and help us remember that we are loved.”
These were the final words posted outside of The Love Stand, an outdoor food pantry in Ypsilanti. The Love Stand closed following an order by 14A District Court judge, Kirk Tabbey after the owners failed to comply and fix a blight violation.
The Love Stand was created in 2020 by D’Real Graham and Tyler Weston to provide mutual aid during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Located at 315 River St. Ypsilanti, The Love Stand was a community pantry that welcomed members to take or leave goods as needed. The Love Stand featured items like groceries, clothing, and household items.
According to Joe Meyers, director of administrative services for Ypsilanti, the Love Stand closed after failing to obtain the necessary permits, subsequently facing a blight violation, which is a violation of a local ordinance.
The Love Stand benefited Ypsilanti residents with limited income. It was a community service with tremendous upside. However, it was regarded as a nuisance by neighboring residents.
Meyers cited several issues The Love Stand faced before its closing, specifically zoning violations and property maintenance nuisance. The Love Stand received several complaints from its neighbors.
According to Ypsilanti’s Administrative Services, The Love Stand’s first complaint occurred in 2020, when neighbors reported rodents in the pantry.
“After those initial complaints, we started writing letters to The Love Stand before we had given a citation. We started getting a lot of serious complaints about food being spoiled and rotting on the site,” Meyers said.
According to Meyers, the neighborhood complaints became so frequent that the Ypsilanti Health Department became involved, reaching out to the Ypsilanti Administrative Services.
“The health department said they received complaints about spoiled milk and rotting potatoes, where mice and rats were eating them on the ground,” Meyers said. “On a 90-degree summer day, you’d see jugs of milk sitting out and so the health department wants to be sure that if you’re going to distribute food, you can’t distribute rotten spoiled food.”
Following the complaints, the Ypsilanti Administrative Services began issuing warnings to The Love Stand, asking the owners to receive a permit to avoid the impending blight violations.
Meyers states he attempted to work with The Love Stand owners multiple times throughout the past two years to provide the necessary permits.
“The owner of The Love Stand kept indicating they would pull the permits, but they never did. Finally, after multiple warnings, and nothing happening, we issued the citation,” Meyers said. “We tried to work with Mr. Weston’s attorneys to explain what you need to do to make this right. And the attorneys listened. But every time there was a deadline, they self-imposed and forgot to pull the permits.”
After Weston missed the final deadline to pull permits this past October, judge Tabbey forced The Love Stand to shut down.
“For me, it’s quite sad that it got to that point,” Meyers said. “But when the judge orders something, you can’t disregard what a judge says. it’s not like anyone was arrested, but there are consequences for not following what a judge says.”
According to the cease and desist letter sent by Meyers, The Love Stand had to meet these requirements before shutting down.
“A) The food pantry at 315 River Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan immediately cease all receipt and distribution of food to the public.
- B) The structure at 315 River Street is removed.
- C) All food, debris and items on the ground are removed.
- D) The yard, grounds, and home are maintained to prevent rodent attraction or habitat.
- E) Copies of this Order shall be posted on the constructed pantry at 315 River Street, Ypsilanti Michigan and it shall remain posted and not be removed or obstructed in any way that would prevent public notice of this Order.
- F) Upon failure to comply promptly with this Order, the Washtenaw County Corporation Counsel shall seek an order from the Circuit or District court to compel compliance.”
Records show that Weston, listed as the sole owner and operator of The Love Stand, was convicted of ignoring the order on October 19, 2022. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to 90 days in prison, a fine of up to $500, and costs of enforcement.
According to Meyers, Weston did not receive any time in prison. However, he did not disclose the full extent of the charges Weston received.
Graham has been quiet throughout this process. He did not respond to the request to comment.
Despite The Love Stand being closed, Meyers states that others can always open a community pantry. They only need to sign the proper permits beforehand, which are available on the website for the City of Ypsilanti.
“Make sure you get a permit,” Meyers said. “We’re easily accessible in the city. We have staff here to help anyone, and we have never been opposed to The Love Stand, its existence, or its mission. We love the mission. However, even churches and nonprofits have to pull permits.”
While The Love Stand is officially closed, Meyers expressed remorse for the departure of the community pantry.
“The city never wanted to get here. But, you have to treat every business owner and resident the same. Every business and property owner has to get permits, and we tried everything to work with the business owner. Unfortunately, we got here,” Meyers said.