Before Circus Drive-In tent flaps come down, former employees say goodbye
WALL — To passing drivers, the scene outside the Circus Drive-In on Tuesday was one many had seen at the popular restaurant for decades.
A dozen people in the lot got out of their cars in red shirts and white shorts, looking like they were ready for another day of work.
Actually, they came to pose for photographs in front of the restaurant's iconic clown sign before it is torn down.
The Circus, which first opened back in 1954, now faces its demise after the owners earlier this year announced their intent to sell or lease the property. When the for-sale sign first went up, it sent shock waves through the community, sparking an effort to save the building from the wrecking ball.
Samantha Kelly, who worked at the restaurant for five years and was one of the people responsible for organizing the photo session, said she has fond memories about her time as a customer and an employee.
"This was my first job and I continued all the way until I was 20," she said. "Coming here was definitely a routine thing for my family."
Kelly said the Circus was an important part of her life, and also the lives of countless others who will not be able to enjoy their homemade onion rings or Bozo Burgers anymore.
"There's just a lot of nostalgia about it," she said. "We had constant regulars and we had people from all over the country come because it was different."
Amanda St. Amand, who worked at the restaurant for eight years, said her time at the Wall establishment was like coming home to see her summer family.
"I think it was the oldies feel of the place. It was a fun atmosphere" she said when asked why people kept coming back for decades. "The music reflected the business, you were able to pull up and eat in your car, we had a clown every Friday and Saturday."
St. Amand called the closure "mind blowing."
"It's unreal. It's sad. It's very sad," she said. "In my opinion there was no reason why they couldn't have reopened it again for another season, or sold it to somebody that was going to continue to keep the business alive."
One look inside the restaurant and St. Amand said it looks like they could be ready at a moment's notice to start slinging food again.
"They just redid it not too long ago," she said. "The inside is immaculate."
That work, she said, included new tables and countertops in recent years, as well as new walls.
"I know that we would we would all be willing to go back to work here if it was opening," she said.
Despite that desire to return to work, the owners have given no signs of wanting to spend another year in the restaurant industry or of selling to someone who would.
Since the for-sale sign first went up, there was an effort made to have the building preserved as a historical landmark, and PETA expressed interest in turning the property into a "empathy museum focusing on animals who suffer when exploited for entertainment in circuses."
There has been no update about the status of the sale or lease of the building, so no way of knowing when the structure might get torn down. In the meantime, the former employees on Tuesday had another chance to make more memories before the final tent flaps come down.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com