Longtime owners of Springfield, Lebanon “Steak N’ Shake” pass the torch to new family

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Through his decades of dedication to the company called “Steak n’ Shake”, Gary Leonard has seen lots of things in Springfield change, and many people dine at his tables.

“We have just been a part of the fabric of Springfield,” said Leonard. “We have met so many great guests, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many great people because you don’t do this alone.” 

That’s how it has always been, since Gary’s father, Herb, started working with the company in 1939.

In 1973, Herb moved to Springfield and became a franchisee at two restaurants and put Gary to work.

In the 80’s, Gary took the reins from his father. In fact, his mother played a role too.

“So that’s her,” Gary says, motioning to a picture on the wall. “She is helping open up a new restaurant. What she’s doing is holding balloons. They gave the kids balloons, and they gave the adults plants.”

After almost 50 years with the company, Leonard will be passing on his family legacy to another person who has a long history with the company, Mike Stennett.

“The ideal person to do this was Mike.  Mike is second-generation Steak N’ Shake just like me. I worked with his father for 17-18 years.”

Stennett says he was overwhelmed when Leonard approached him with the opportunity and explained that the Leonard’s were a massive influence on he and his father, and he plans to keep the legacy alive.

“Herb was a good mentor to my dad,” Stennett says, fighting back tears. “I’ve heard my dad say many good things. To able to walk in here and to be able to be in those shoes again, is a pretty cool thing.”  

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