Published: May 18, 2012 11:53 AM
Modified: May 18, 2012 10:29 PM
CARY - CARY - Familiar orders poured in at Circus Family Restaurant as closing day approached.
Dot Avery got two hot dogs and a key lime milkshake, an order shes been placing for about 44 years. Bill Leslie got the chocolate-dipped vanilla cones that he shared with his wife the night she proposed marriage
Weve had a lot of goodbyes, said Elizabeth Staton, better known as Mama Liz, the woman who has worked the Electro Freeze milkshake machines since 1975.
The Chatham Street hamburger joint with the ketchup-and-mustard roof never saw its business recover after the recession, said co-owner and manager Kurt Benrud. He and his partners will close their doors in Cary tonight, ending a constant struggle to pay rent and salaries for eleven.
Ive never worked for anybody else, said Benrud, 59. He started at Circus, like several of his crew, as a student at Cary High School. I never wanted to see tomorrow happen, he said Thursday afternoon.
Little has changed, from the paintjob to the menu, since the former Dairy Queen changed hands in October 1977. News of the business closing drew dozens of people, some seeking a last taste of old Cary, others curious about a landmark theyd passed a dozen times.
It makes you feel like youre back in time, said Linda Howard, huddling beneath an umbrella with two other Cary High School alumi. It makes you feel young again, she said as the rain fell harder.
Back behind the restaurants plate glass windows, Benrud quoted a particularly relevant passage of Shakespeares King Lear.
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!, he recited. When a storm lashed Lear, Benrud said, the king welcomed it because there was no choice.
Benrud, a well-loved community figure, is unsure where hell go when his job of 44 years ends. Some of his staff may relocate to the restaurants Raleigh location, or a sister business, Dallas Famous Chicken n Biscuits. Others are unsure it will be hard for the 40- and 50-year-old employees to find food service jobs, or a manager as understanding and kind as Benrud, Staton said.
I guess thats why weve stayed so long, she said. Ill miss the people more than the paycheck.