Blue Circle opens on 19E; 5 more locations planned
Published 8:05 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Circle Burgers have returned to Elizabethton.
Today, a new Blue Circle location opened in Elizabethton, bringing with it the famed Circle Burger and all of the classic items from the restaurant’s menu.
Elizabethton was once home to a Blue Circle franchise, but it closed shop in the 1970s. Homer Longmire founded the restaurant chain in Knoxville in 1931, according to the company’s website, www.bluecircleburger.com. The chain grew to more than 30 locations under Longmire’s leadership, including locations in Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama.
The Longmire family sold the chain in 1966 to a company out of Florida called Wometco, and while they company opened even more locations, the restaurant’s reputation began to suffer as buildings fell into disrepair and more competition began to emerge. In 1974, Wometco sold the chain to Enroc Co. out of Wisconsin.
By 1975, only 17 Blue Circle restaurant’s remained and Enroc filed for bankruptcy. The company’s assets were liquidated at auction, and, when the dust settled, only one Blue Circle remained — the one on Bluff City Highway in Bristol, owned by Glen Erwin. That location began serving the famous Circle Burgers in 1964 and is still open to this day with the original sign out front.
When the owners of the Bristol location decided to retire, they also knew wanted to business to continue. That is where Bart Long and Todd Buchanan come in.
“The same family owned it for 50 years,” Long said. “I worked for them. That was my first job.”
When the opportunity came up to buy a restaurant that had been a part of his life for such a long time, Long couldn’t say no. Now, he and Buchanan are hoping to give that same experience to even more people by expanding the chain, starting with the new location in Elizabethton.
“We have our restaurant in Bristol, and we had tons of people come over there to eat from here,” Long said.
The pair decided to put their first expansion in Elizabethton and were able to acquire the old Sammons building on Highway 19E near the Betsytowne Shopping Center. But, Long said, the plans for expansion don’t stop there.
“We’re going to do five more,” he said. “This is the first. Then we are going to do Johnson City or Kingsport, Then we’ll do Morristown and Greeneville and then finally one in Knoxville, which is where they started.”
In addition to helping preserve the historic restaurant chain, Long said he and Buchanan also want to preserve the classic Blue Circle menu as well.
The menu will feature all of the things that made the restaurant chain famous – burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, french fries, shakes, grilled cheese.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Long said with a laugh. “It worked for 50 years and we don’t want to mess it up.”
Though the doors to the new location only opened today, the restaurant has already been seeing support from the community, General Manager Kelly Kitts said.
“We’ve had tremendous response from the Elizabethton community,” Kitts said. “They are really excited we are coming.”
The restaurant opened for business today and will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. offering both drive through and walk-up service.