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Purple Cow building in Oakhurst, photo by George Lurie

Purple Cow Gives Way To Greener Pastures

OAKHURST — The former homes of two prominent local businesses — the Purple Cow and Mike’s Iron Horse Barbecue — were demolished Thursday.

Crews using heavy equipment leveled both dilapidated structures this week as the first stage of a redevelopment project off Highway 41 and Royal Oaks Drive.

California Paving handled the demo work, removing everything on the property — including some older oak trees, although one large oak just off Royal Oaks was spared.

Steve Barsotti, who has owned the property for several years, is working with local Realtor Alan Murray to redevelop the parcel. But first he needs to find tenants.

“Right now, there’s is some interest but we don’t have anybody specific in mind yet,” Murray said Friday. “We’re looking for a couple of Triple A retail tenants or maybe a mix of smaller stores.”

The property is zoned for commercial use and Murray says Barsotti is willing to build to suit or “do a ground lease.”

“Steve already has a preliminary site plan and we’re just waiting for the right tenant or tenants to come along,” Murray says. “Whatever he puts in there, it’s going to look nice. That [parcel] is one of the first things you see when you come into Oakhurst.”

The 1.5-acre lot, which offers a view of the river, will be left vacant until a deal is made.

“Steve just decided to clean up the property because it was becoming an eyesore,” Murray says. “Homeless people were living there and we just decided it was time to take the buildings down.”

Barsotti, the president of Foster and Parker Insurance in Madera, also owns other Oakhurst buildings including those which house Pete’s Place restaurant and the Auto Zone at the intersection of Highways 41 and 49.

The Purple Cow, which operated for more than 25 years, was run by Linda and Kerwin Duerksen. The eclectic shop sold clothing, seasonal decorations and a variety of arts and crafts and hand-made, one-of-a-kind items.

In 2013, the store was in the news after a car crashed through the front door of the business.

Mike’s Iron Horse Barbecue, which was located next door to the Purple Cow, was also well known in the area. Chef Mike Petersen’s ribs, steaks and sandwiches were slow cooked — “Mike’s-style” — on a custom-made, seven-compartment roaster shaped liked the front end of an old-fashioned  locomotive train.

Mike’s had only been in operation for about five years but Petersen’s signature BBQ was featured on a 2016 episode of the the television program Dining Out Along the Road.

Barbara Petersen, who owned the Iron Horse property and is Mike Petersen’s mother, said Thursday she was “a little sad” to see the old buildings go.

“Honestly, I kind of wish I hadn’t sold it now,” Petersen said. “It’s sad to see it torn down.”

“But I’m very proud of what my son accomplished there,” she added. “Mike used to get up at four o’clock in the morning to put the meat on the smoker. And he’d stay there cooking most days til eleven o’clock at night.”

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