Tulsa's Coney Island to relocate elsewhere in downtown
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Friday, January 06, 2012
1/06/12 at 5:00 AM
Coney Island Hot Weiner Shop has survived two downtown location changes in its 86-year history, and it will have to endure one more.
Owner Jim Economou said his iconic restaurant at 123 W. Fourth St. will have to vacate by mid-February, but a new site has not been determined.
"We want to stay downtown because we believe it's important to us and the community," Economou said. "But we've been looking elsewhere downtown."
Coney Island's lease for the site, which is on the bottom floor of a vacant former hotel, expired in November and Economou said the property's owners want to raze the building.
Economou is considering locations in the Brady District, where rental rates are lower than the core of downtown.
"We want to stay within five or six blocks, but we've been looking further out," he said.
The hot dog restaurant draws hundreds of downtown employees daily to its lunch-line style setup.
Each of Coney Island's three locations have been within one city block of the original site, which now is part of the Tulsa World building on the 300 block of South Boulder Avenue.
The restaurant started as a chain run by Christ Economou, a Greek immigrant, in 1926. It sold a popular kind of small hot dogs, covered with chili, onions and cheese.
The shop moved a half block west in 1947 to the site now occupied by Orpha's Lounge.
Economou purchased a former motel across the street in 1995 that provided a handful of free parking spots to patrons. He sold the building in 2006 to a Los Angeles investor, and the property is now managed by American Parking.
Economou said the building will probably be turned into a parking lot unless an investor decides to develop the property. American Parking manager Jared Jordan said he is unaware of any development plans.
Tulsa resident Norma Hardesty, who has been visiting the restaurant for nearly 60 years, said she still stops in whenever she is downtown.
"I used to come here as a little girl when I was downtown for dance lessons," she said. "I love everything about the place. I love the food. I love to talk to and watch the people. It's such an amazing place."
She said she is fond of the restaurant's school desk chairs, familiar cast of employees and its downtown locale.
Hardesty, like other customers, said she will likely visit the restaurant wherever it relocates.
Mike Harrison, a construction worker from Oklahoma City who has been working at a downtown federal building, said he is attracted to the restaurant because of its status as a Tulsa favorite.
"It's been here a long time, so you know it's good," Harrison said.
Economou hopes to have a lease signed for a new location soon, but admits there may be a short period - a few weeks or more - when Coney Island Hot Weiner Shop is not operating.
Coney Island history
1926: Christ Economou opens Coney Island at 311 S. Boulder Ave., next to the Tulsa World.
1946: Coney Island moves to 108 W. Fourth St. as Tulsa World building expands.
1973: Christ Economou dies and son Jim takes over business.
1995: Coney Island moves across the street to 123 W. Fourth St. after lease expires.
2006: Owner Jim Economou sells property to California investor who hopes to redevelop building.
February 2012: Coney Island will leave site after lease expires and look for new downtown home.
Original Print Headline: Coney Island to go
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
John Tsilekas (right) and Georgia Tsilekas prepare hot dogs at the Coney Island restaurant downtown on Thursday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
James Morton and his daughter Ashley Morton bite into their hot dogs at the Coney Island Hot Weiner Shop on Thursday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Two men walk past the Coney Island restaurant at 123 W. Fourth St. on Thursday.
MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World