"I could go on and on with the others who once lazed and laughed and savored what was good to eat and drink along with all the all the friendliness and fun that was the Strand.”
-The Saginaw News, April 27, 1970.
The 1940 Legenda, the Arthur Hill High School Yearbook that was yesterday’s featured artifact, includes a robust advertising section – actually, according to the publication, there are 132 ads. One of these, an advertisement for the New Strand Barbeque, inspired this week’s recipe.
For several generations of students – and adults -- the southeast corner of State and Bay Roads was a destination, the home of New Strand Barbeque. According to the News:
“The elder [John] Coenis established his business at State and Bay in 1924 with a popcorn Wagon.** He put up the building in 1927 and it was the area’s first drive-in, the first in Michigan north of Detroit.
The Strand Barbeque quickly became a popular sport [sic] with Saginaw’s high school set. John F. Coenis took over the business about 10 years ago when his parents retired. A second son, Woodrow J. Coenis, had been in the business. He lost his life in World War II action at Leyte in the Philippines. (The Saginaw News, April 21, 1970.)
Born in Greece in 1887, John Coenis arrived in Saginaw at the age of 13 and married Hattie Waterstradt in 1912. The first advertisement we located appeared on July 4, 1926. Simply known as John’s Place, the piece noted the business was celebrating its first anniversary and “Ice Cream Suckers will be given away FREE -Sunday.” Even in this initial stage, it was apparent that Coenis was focusing on customers in cars. And on May 1, 1927, an advertisement in The Saginaw News announced the New Strand Barbeque would open on May 6:
“With complete line of Hot and Cold Sandwiches, Barbeques, Toasties, Hamburgs, Chicken, Ham Cheese and Egg, Red Hots.
Six flavors of ice cream, Fancy Sodas and Sundaes, John’s Toasty Roasty Pop Corn and Crisp.
REST ROOM SERVICE FOR AUTOISTS
Drive up to side door for refreshments. Plenty of tables and soda booths inside. Radio Music.
All Night Service – Get Gasoline from Our ‘Owl’ Pump at Regular Prices
Don’t fail to stop Saturday and see one of the finest and most sanitary places of its kind in Michigan.” (The Saginaw News. May 1, 1927.)
Robust advertising documents the hard work and long hours the Coenis family put into developing their business. Ads record the flexibility and creativity required to create one of the pioneer establishments dedicated to serving customers in automobiles. One 1929 ad proclaims: “Just drive in our yard and we will serve you in your car with our new style car service trays – 24 HOUR SERVICE.”
In 1930, the newly completed River Road linking Saginaw and Bay City enticed John Coenis to construct and develop a second New Strand Barbeque. Located at Broadway and 38th – the Bay City terminus of River Road, the venue featured a menu similar to the one in Saginaw which, of course, included John’s Toasty Roasty popcorn. It also featured a dance floor and space for an orchestra. However, advertising in The Bay City Times made it clear: “when you are out swimming, camping or driving and think you are not properly dressed to stop someplace to eat or for refreshments, why not drive to the New Strand Barbeque to their Curb Service Dept. and a courteous attendant will take your order and serve it to you in your car.” John Coenis left the Bay City Strand in 1935 and in 1936 it was rechristened the Ron-Da-Voo and later in the same year renamed the Merry-Go-Round.
After departing from his Bay City venture, Coenis worked at refining the Saginaw New Strand Barbeque -even advertising live music at his State and Bay venue. Building permits and advertising, indicate that over time the use of various structures on the site changed. By the late 1930s, what had been restaurant space in the two-story building on the eastern part of the site, became apartments and commercial space. However, what never changed, was Coenis’ commitment to serving customers in cars. And by the time the 1940 Legenda staff paid a visit, Coenis had perfected a model drive-in restaurant. One that would thrive until 1970. A place where memories were made. One customer of the early 1960s recalls “Corvettes, Guys and the Coffee.” (She notes the coffee made one look more mature.)
We have left out the best parts of this story – stolen car trays, roller skating waitresses and memories of watching the great car canopy being demolished.
*Note: The “New” in The New Strand Barbeque, appears the first time the name was used. However, its use was not consistent in either advertising or signage. At times “New” appears in the names of both the Saginaw and Bay City restaurants.
**Note: the well- known “Here’s George” popcorn concession wagons were owned by George Koinis and was not connected with the New Strand Barbeque.
The Recipe: Chocolate Malt
This is a recipe column, and the emphasis in the history portion has been on everything but food. While we do not have an actual recipe from the New Strand Barbeque, we are offering a period-appropriate Malted Milk Shake recipe. (If someone has a recipe from the Strand Barbeque, please let us know. And yes, we have enough advertising for another column.)
2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream
¼ cup Milk
Chocolate Syrup – measure with your heart
2-ish Tbsp Chocolate Malt Powder
Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until combined, scrape sides if necessary. Make adjustments as desired for taste and consistency. Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream.
Note: Malt Powder isn’t pictured because, unfortunately, my malt powder became a malt rock.