Since the restaurant opened its doors, Wilma's (formerly known as Fred's), has become a spot highly frequented by U of M students and Ann Arbor locals alike. Known for its trendy, healthy all-day menu and its equally aesthetically pleasing interior, the restaurant quickly became an Ann Arbor favorite. However, this past fall when the restaurant announced that they would be changing their name, many of their loyal fans felt just as confused as they were betrayed (dramatic, but true). But very few people actually know the real story behind the Fred's to Wilma's transition. 

How did Fred's originally get its start?

Maddie Ross

Fred Lelcaj, owner of Fred's/Wilma's, wanted to open a restaurant that would appeal to a large variety of people, considering that Ann Arbor has such a competitive food scene with more restaurants per capita than New York City. Fred realized that a large portion of the U of M population is composed of out-of-state students. With the largest percentage of students coming from California, New York, and New Jersey, he wanted to create a dining experience that felt like a "home away from home." So Fred decided to create a menu that reflected the trendy, cafe-style eateries that have become so popular along the East and West Coasts and added his own personal spin to create Fred's. He opened the restaurant on South University in 2016, and after about a year operating in that space, it was relocated to a bigger and more permanent space on East Washington, where Wilma's currently exists. 

Why did Fred's become Wilma's?

Maddie Ross

For several years, Fred's was facing a series of problems with their name and disliked that there was a lack of consistency with the restaurant's brand. Given this, they decided to change their name and solidify their brand. To go along with the community theme and feel of the restaurant, the Fred's team felt that it was only appropriate to ask their customers for input on the restaurant's new name. They created a competition for people to submit name ideas with the winner receiving a grand prize of free meals for one full month. They actually received almost ten suggestions to change the name to Wilma's because of the obvious Flintstones reference. The team agreed that it was a great name mostly because they associated it with a comfortable, homey vibe. 

What's different about Wilma's compared to the O.G. Fred's?

Juliette Sibley

While the difference from Fred's and Wilma's is rather minute, the team did make a conscious effort to solidify its brand salience and consistency. They tweaked the interior of the restaurant by eliminating the contrasting bright color scheme and replacing it with furniture, cutlery, and decor that project a more clean, simplistic vibe to compliment the overall mission of Wilma's. Wilma's new and more concrete identity has also made its way online in their social media presence and on their website. Moreover, they added a few additional menu items, such as the grains and greens salad (pictured above), a smoothie bowl called "nice" cream, a bulgolgi beef plate, and more. 

Whether you are holding onto the name Fred's or you're embracing Wilma's new identity with open arms, it's clear that the restaurant is a crowd pleaser that has only improved (and continues to improve) it's delicious food and equally important aesthetic game.