Oxford landmark sold, plans are to replace with strip mall

The former Burning Oak Smokehouse at 595 N. Lapeer Rd. has been sold and plans are to turn the property into a strip mall.
The former Burning Oak Smokehouse at 595 N. Lapeer Rd. has been sold and plans are to turn the property into a strip mall.

An Oxford landmark that spent close to four decades feeding folks and slaking their thirst has been sold and plans are to tear it down to make way for a strip mall containing a popular Coney Island restaurant.

The defunct Burning Oak Smokehouse, located at 595 N. Lapeer Rd., just north of the village, was purchased by PELJ Properties, LLC, the resident agent for which is Leo Stassinopoulos. There are two men, a father and son, with that name. The father is the founder of Leo’s Coney Island, while the son serves as chief operating officer for the restaurant chain.

According to Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, the new owner plans to demolish the existing two-story building and construct a 10,000-square-foot strip mall on the 2.72-acre site, adjacent to the Tractor Supply Co. store.

“They want to use 4,000 square feet to open a Leo’s Coney Island and find two tenants to lease the rest of the space,” Dunn said.

Nothing has been formally submitted to the township. It’s all just been discussion at this point.

In 1972, Stassinopoulos, Sr. opened the first Leo’s Coney Island (then called Southfield Souvlaki Coney Island) in Southfield. Today, there are 58 locations including Lake Orion, Independence Township and Lapeer, according to the Leo’s Coney Island website.

Dunn noted the new owner inquired as to whether the zoning allows for a drive-through. It’s permitted by right because the property’s zoned General Commercial (C-2).

Stassinopoulos, Jr. did not return phone calls seeking comment about the project.

The building at 595 N. Lapeer Rd. has a lengthy local history. Long before it was The Burning Oak Smokehouse, the restaurant was the Long Branch Saloon. Owned by Oxford resident Larry Payne and Jim Tuttle, of Lake Orion, the western-themed restaurant opened in July 1980.

In July 1981, the Long Branch Saloon hosted a huge fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. More than 1,500 people attended including Amanda Blake, an actress best-known for her 19-season role as Long Branch Saloon owner Miss Kitty Russell on the western television series “Gunsmoke,” which aired on CBS from 1955-75.

The Long Branch was eventually sold to Mr. B’s Restaurant Group and reopened in 1997 as Mr. B’s Oxford Roadhouse.

In April 2000, the restaurant became Kalloway’s Restaurant and Pub under owner Gary Lepak. It was a popular eatery and watering hole until closing in December 2008.

The building sat vacant until it was sold in November 2009 to Sterling Heights resident Andy Stamevski. He remodeled it and opened a restaurant called Chardonnay.

In 2013, the restaurant was transformed from Chardonnay into The Burning Oak Smokehouse, a barbecue joint that closed last year.


8 Responses to "Oxford landmark sold, plans are to replace with strip mall"

  1. Daryl Turcott   August 16, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Great story C.J. thanks

  2. Jaye Hubarth   August 17, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Just what we need…ANOTHER stop mall

  3. Samantha duncan   August 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    How many empty restaurants and buildings do we need in oxford. Why not use the empty buildings at the strip mall on drahner, or the old chilis? There’s empty spots for “Leo’s” not so good “Coney Island” EVERYWHERE! No need to build another one, especially when there’s already 2 coney restaurants in oxford. HELLO people!

  4. P. Brooks   August 17, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Oxford could never be accused of having quality dining so no surprise here!!

  5. Oxford resident   August 18, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Reveres was way before Long branch… In my opinion it was the best one out off all of them!! Why does it keep closing down? I think that they should keep the building and turn that into Leo’s… like someone else said ^^^ we don’t need another strip mall… use the empty ones we already have!!

  6. Vai Carious   August 20, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    It’s about time someone tears down that tinder box of a building. The Oxford Fire Dept. should have used that for practice a long time ago.

  7. Jill   August 20, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Drive around, there are too many empty strip malls. Do we need more tanning shops? ( nope- most are going out of business) sub,roll up, chicken stores? ( nope there is a glut of them) party stores, ummm no. So my suggestion would be no to strip malls.

  8. Liz masterson   August 20, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    No more Coney island like restaurants. There are already 2 in oxford!
    Panera bread or chipotle would be a hit. There is nothing like that around the area!


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