Family turning former Chipican into grillhouse and lounge

The old Chipican Restaurant sign is free for anyone who wants it the new owners say. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

A Sarnia couple is converting the former Chipican Restaurant into a new grillhouse and lounge, with a nod to the memories the building holds for so many locals.

“I remember as a little girl in the ‘70s seeing the flames coming up from the barbecue pit,” says Laurie Frayne, who bought the closed business at 1150 Christina St. with husband Dean.

The dining room barbecue pit is one of the few features that will survive the renovations currently underway.

The Fraynes owned and operated Court Café & Catering in the Sarnia courthouse for the past year and have sold it, opting to purchase the former Chipican Restaurant and do a complete makeover.

The Chipican dates to 1948 when it had a jukebox and late night dancing. In the ‘70s, it was one of the few places in Sarnia offering homemade pizza.

But most of all, The Chipican was known for 60 years as a steak house with an open barbecue pit. It was also a popular breakfast spot and a fixture in the city until it shut down in 2016.

The Fraynes like the location and say the building’s solid construction drew them.  Simultaneously, they had an opportunity to buy the furniture and fixtures from the former Razzers restaurant in Corunna.

That made remodelling more affordable, especially after members of the Fraynes’ church offered to voluntarily help with the renovations.

The new Lake Point Grillhouse & Lounge is scheduled to open in late spring and will feature a banquet room for 47 and seating for another 160 in the lounge and dining room.

The Frayne’s 21-year-old son, Kevin, will manage the front of the house. He wants the Lake Point to be a gathering place where friends can talk and enjoy a good meal without competing with screens.

“We won’t have TVs,” he said. “Sarnia has enough sports bars.”

“People want a quieter place to enjoy the company next to them,” added Dean, who previously owned a family restaurant in Thedford for 18 years.

The Lake Point is named for the original street names at the intersection. Lake Road is now Christina Street and Point Edward Road is now Michigan Avenue.

“We kept some of the history with our name,” said Laurie.  “I appreciate the nostalgia attached to a business like this and want to keep a little of it.”

The Chipican Motel next door was severed years ago from the restaurant and is not part of the Frayne’s acquisition, she noted.

The new restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It will specialize in shareable platters of cheeses and meats to enjoy with drinks.

“We’ll have ribs, chicken, homemade meatloaf, lasagna, fresh Rainbow trout and, of course, steak,” said Dean who is running the kitchen. Entre prices range from $14.99 for a burger to $49.99 for lobster. Steak dinners cost $25 to $35.

“People say you can’t be everything for everyone but we can be a family restaurant as well as something different at night,” said Dean. “We can have a bar at the front and linen on the tables in the dining room.”

But before the cooking commences, the Fraynes are busy ripping up flooring, painting, and hanging new light fixtures. A new accessible washroom is being installed on the main floor.

The unique Chipican sign that’s been a landmark for decades must come down and the Fraynes are anxious to find someone who wants it.

“It’s free if you come and get it,” said Laurie.

A job fair is planned within weeks to hire 28 to 35 staff.

The new Lake Point Grillhouse & Lounge will be open daily except Mondays. Anyone interested in the old Chipican sign complete and its kitschy artwork can call Laurie at 519-332-9929.

Got a great business story?  Contact Cathy at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.