By John Dowd 


The Circle reopens with fresh look for classic diner


John Dowd

PAIGE FICKLER SERVES UP an ice cold beverage at The Circle in Plains. The diner is open after a year of renovations and improvements.

After a year of closure, the Circle in Plains has reopened. Due to issues with hot water damage, the Circle planned to close down early summer last year to quickly effect repairs. However, owners found that the damage was more extensive than previously thought. After a year of hard work, problems and persistence, the Circle welcomes people back into the community diner. In the process of reconstruction, the ceiling was taken out, the roof was updated and there were several internal improvements done.

Owners Larri Jo Ovitt and Joe Gamboa bought the place in 2014. Gamboa is from Sacramento, California, and moved to Sanders County in 2012. Ovitt is from Plains and has lived there most of her life. Ovitt has worked for many years in food service and Gamboa managed a chain of restaurants before, so both brought years of experience to the endeavor. Ovitt has worked at the Circle since she was a teenager, so she has literally known the business most of her life. Ovitt then went to The University of Montana for elementary education for a couple of years, before returned to Plains. She works as the super of the Plains Schools' kitchen during the winter and works the kitchen of the Circle in the summer. Gamboa manages the Circle during the winter.

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

One aspect the Circle crew is proud of is the new look of the inside. The establishment has retained its roots and is striving to keep up the 50's retro diner feel. New stainless steel counters have a polished then ground pattern. There is new tile work on the walls and the new Circle has done a lot to bring out a new vision of the old building.

"I couldn't have done it without the community," said Ovitt, recounting the many challenges faced during the closure. "There's no way we would have reopened without them. It took us an army to reopen the doors." She talked about how recently, just after opening, the air conditioning went out. The Circle team is working through the heat, hoping to replace the unit soon. The building, built in 1969, needs constant work. "Besides the hot, it has been a lot of fun," said Ovitt.

They are also working on adding a few items to the menu. They are about to print some new breakfast menus that will also have that 50's diner look. The Circle also has soft-serve ice cream with eight flavors, and new matching t-shirts. The Circle is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.


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