Ronald L. LeRoux, co-proprietor with his late brother, Lyle, of a South Toledo restaurant and supper club where plentiful and diverse buffet offerings and live music for dancing drew a large and loyal following, died Wednesday in his Monclova Township residence. He was 77.
He had cancer, his son Ron said.
Mr. LeRoux and his older brother were synonymous with LeRoux’s Billyle Supper Club, on Glendale Avenue and Byrne Road, which closed in 1987. Billlyle was a combination of their father’s first name and Lyle’s, and it opened in the mid-1940s as a father-and-son operation on Glendale and South Detroit avenues. Their father died in 1949, and Ronald joined the enterprise in the 1950s.
When the brothers — Lyle was president and Ronald vice president — opened the much larger and more formal supper club in 1962, they included a replica of the first restaurant in the design and called it the Tap Room, with neighborhood tavern ambience and budget-menu meals. Billyle became one of the first Toledo-area restaurants with a bar separate from the dining room, said Mary Alice Powell, who as The Blade’s food editor also reviewed restaurants — and happened to live down the street from Billyle.
“I did appreciate their friendship through the years,” Miss Powell said. “Ronnie was a very jolly, friendly person. As I remember, he knew his customers well and was fussy about the food.”
Toledo had only one buffet restaurant in the 1960s, when the brothers adopted a concept that became their signature. Patrons could still order from a menu. On the buffet, the LeRoux brothers offered at least 15 different salads, five hot entrees, hot and cold vegetables, and desserts — and most days, iced shrimp in the shell.
Most weeks, Mr. LeRoux and his brother worked more than 70 hours, and longtime Chef Claude Estep and his staff prepared at least 3,000 meals. A room was available for parties and bowling banquets and wedding receptions.
“It was always an exciting, very busy, very active place,” Ronald’s son Ron said. “Happy is a good word.”
Guests dressed up, especially on Fridays and Saturdays — men in coat and tie. Combos led by trumpeter Hershey Cohen and by pianist Howard Hill and others played for dining and dancing.
“It was a place you could get up between the salad and the entree and dance,” Miss Powell said.
Mr. LeRoux’s son Ron said: “You went there to be seen.”
Family members pitched in, too, with Mr. LeRoux’s children working there when they were old enough. Lyle’s wife, Bernadine, was hostess of the Tap Room, and the LeRoux sisters, Lois and Evonne were active. The family matriarch, Mabel, played a role in building the supper club.
After the supper club closed, Mr. LeRoux operated a restaurant in Waterville for about two years. He later became a real estate agent, selling houses across northwest Ohio for DiSalle Real Estate and, most recently, Loss Realty.
He was born June 18, 1936, to Mabel and William LeRoux and was a 1954 graduate of Maumee High School. He raced stock cars until the early 1960s and still followed auto racing.
He had a cabin on the Black River in northeast Lower Michigan and traveled there frequently with longtime companion Marge Shugar.
He’d been a member of Roberts Chapel Free Methodist Church and Hope Baptist Church.
Mr. LeRoux was formerly married to the late Rosemarie LeRoux and the late Addlie Lee.
Surviving are his sons, William and Ronald LeRoux; stepdaughter, Cheryl Griffin; five grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be 2-8 p.m. Thursday in the Newcomer Funeral Home on Heatherdowns Boulevard, with a memorial service at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The family suggests tributes to Heartland Hospice.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.