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.