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Loan from Turtle native helps Circus Drive-In stay open

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ANN MARIE AMES
July 11, 2009
— After months of depressing stories about the international business climate, wouldn't it be nice to read some good news?

One that involves the kindness of strangers?


And french fries?


Here you go:


The iconic Circus Drive-In, 3535 S. Riverside Drive, Beloit, has been saved from closing.


Owners Buddy and Nicole Davis had until July 8 to make good on a $70,000 land contract with the former owner of the bright red and yellow A-frame restaurant between Janesville and Beloit.


The two have put about $40,000 into cleaning and renovating the building since they bought it in 2007, Nicole said. Business has been good, but not good enough to get another loan, she said.


"We went to several banks," she said. "As soon as you mention, 'Restaurant,' they all run."


Then The Beloit Daily News ran a story about the drive-in's plight.


Days before the deadline, a stranger called from South Beloit, Ill.


The stranger had read the story. He asked Buddy if he still was having financial problems and said he wanted to help.


"It was just that simple," Buddy said.


The caller was Rick Holmes, the owner of Qualified Reprographic Service, 537 Blackhawk Blvd., South Beloit, Ill.


Holmes didn't stop by to see the drive-in or ask about a business model. He just came up with the cash, Davis said.


Holmes is a Turtle Township native who remembered the Circus Drive-In, which opened in 1957 as The Golden Point.


As a kid, Holmes had been fond of the Toot-n-Tell, a drive-in up the road from the Circus Drive-In.


Holmes had some money to invest from selling his family dairy farm in Turtle Township, he said. The nostalgia of the Circus Drive-In appealed to him.


It reminded him of the story of the family from whom he bought his printing business last year.


They had been in business for 20 years and didn't want to sell to someone who would shut the doors, Holmes said.


"When I read the story in the newspaper, I thought, 'Maybe that's something for me to look into,'" Holmes said. "I just kind of shifted who they make the payments to on terms that enable them to keep it open."


Buddy's son, Lonnie, chipped in money as did Christine Charbonneau, the owner of The Little Bistro, 315 State St., Beloit.


The Davises know they have a lot of work ahead of them to keep business hopping. They have plans to paint the red A-frames back to their original gold and to clean the golden point on the roof.


Buddy hopes to enclose part of the restaurant for indoor dining.


Even more exciting are the plans to bring back kiddie rides to the lot around the drive-in.


Buddy was so excited about the rides he dashed out of an interview to grab a box of red and yellow tokens.


He pulled out one that has been worn dull from many uses. The words "Good for one ride" were faded in a ring around the edges.


"Just look at this," Buddy said. "Just think of all the rides this represents. How many little hands held this?


"It's kind of like we're recycling time," Buddy said.



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