One of Lansing’s landmark dining establishments, Clancy’s, torn down

The former Clancy’s building overlooking the Mississippi River at the corner of Main and North Front Streets in Lansing underwent demolition Tuesday, July 7. The building had fallen into progressive disrepair and current owners, Scott Berg and Wally Mahr, say they don’t have any immediate plans for the newly-created lot. Submitted photo.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

The building which housed the former Clancy’s Supper Club in Lansing, a long-time favorite restaurant for area residents and visitors, was torn down Tuesday, July 7. The restaurant had closed around 2009, but many recall fond memories of succulent steak dinners with the best American fried potatoes around. Recent Facebook postings found many area residents reflecting that working at Clancy’s had been their first job. Most also recalled the great food and good times they’d had at Clancy’s over the years.
Clancy’s Restaurant and Tavern in Lansing, which was once featured in an issue of Ford Times as a distinguished eating place, started around 1951 when Walter ”Chip” and Verona Clancy decided to change their tavern into a restaurant. They added on a dance floor and the expanded space became a restaurant. Local Lansing resident and daughter of the Clancys, Barb Leppert,  recalls that the only people she can remember dancing on the dance floor space were the Clancy kids, so perhaps that’s why they referred to it as the “dance floor”. When the building was still a tavern, the specialty during Fish Days was something her parents referred to as “Spanish Hamburgers,” which were really a type of BBQ sandwich. She remembered, “Dad told customers that the recipe cost him $100, which was a lot of money in those days.”
When Clancy’s was in its heydey, Chip’s specialties were steaks and chops. Verona cooked the delectable chicken and fish. Leppert said the reason the steaks were so good was that they were swimming in butter. She recalled, “As the steaks finished cooking, Dad would put on a big glob of butter to melt over the top. They couldn’t be beat.”
Leppert stated that  most of the eight Clancy children were grown when the restaurant started, but those who were around  were all put to work. It was definitely a family venture. She says her own children helped out at the restaurant with washing dishes and her son and his cousin, when they were teens,  started cooking the American fries.
In phase two of Clancy’s, Dave and Amanda Wilson  owned and operated the restaurant for approximately 30 years. One local resident fondly recalled their October pork buffet, featuring every type of pork imaginable.
Mike Conway, owner of Milty’s on Lansing’s Main Street, bought the building after Clancy’s closed. Last winter, he and Sue Stirn, who cooks for Conway at Milty’s, decided that serving some of the same food that Clancy’s was famous for would be a good tribute to the well-known restaurant.
Starting in high school, Stirn had worked for Clancy’s. She knew the secrets to many of Clancy’s favorites. Milty’s featured some of Clancy’s signature dishes on several nights throughout the year. Patrons could once again enjoy the recipes that Chip had originated: dishes such as prime steaks, American fries and ice cream drinks. This experience was an entire evening of one great course after another, an evening of slow dining enjoyment.
Stirn cooked the famous American fries in Chip’s “original” cast iron skillets; Conway charbroiled “prime grade” beef tenderloins; they recreated “made from scratch”  lettuce dressings and homemade soups  using Chip’s recipes, with delicious ice cream drinks for dessert. Later menus also featured Chip’s Salisbury steak recipe and other favorites.
Conway recently sold the Clancy’s building to Scott Berg and Wally Mahr. The building, sitting empty, had gone beyond rehabilitation. Berg and Mahr spoke to several people, including some members of the original Clancy family, city officials and Main Street Matters, and all agreed that demolishing the building would be the best improvement to the space. Berg stated, “We don’t have any specific plans for the lot, but we hope someone will come along with a good idea to improve the community and revitalize that downtown corner. It has a beautiful view of the river and it is a great location.”

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