Circle Inn Pizzeria rises from the ashes; reopens in Clearfield
Fire destroyed Circle Inn Pizzeria’s building in January 2022 but didn’t destroy its legacy as a pizza pioneer in Northern Utah. The Schroeder family, owners since 1957, reopened last May in Clearfield, about 3 miles from its original Sunset location.
“The fire was devastating for all of us — so many memories for our family and our customers,” said Exie Schroeder, who has been part of Circle Inn for 47 years. First, the pizza/bar was owned by her late father-in-law, Marion Schroeder, and then by her late husband, John. Now, her son Garrett Schroeder runs the new pizza location with Exie, his wife, Chantil, and his three sons.
Garrett Schroeder said investigators narrowed down the fire’s cause between the pizza oven and the wall. The fire started about 11 p.m. on Jan. 1. It had been a slow day, so both the Circle Inn’s pizza side and the bar side had closed early.
“It was unfortunate, because if it had been a normal day, someone might have been there to get out a fire extinguisher or call the fire department,” he said.
The Schroeders’ hopes of rebuilding on the same Main Street spot in Sunset were dashed. “We had $2 million in damages, and we got $660,000 from our insurance. We were under-insured by about $1.4 million. The building was so old that the cleanup was not cheap,” said Garrett Schroeder.
Several local businesses stepped up to show support with fundraising efforts. “Kamikazes, The Outlaw Saloon, Golden Beverage, Do Drop Inn, US Foods, The Grinders Poker Tour and Taboo Pizza all played roles in helping us in a time of need,” said Garrett Schroeder.
Weighed down with the financial realities, family members debated whether to give up on the restaurant and find other livelihoods.
“But, this is what we do,” Garrett Schroeder said. “We decided to dump everything we had into this new place.”
It was a gamble, because the new location has no bar.
“Before, we had tons of dine-in, because most of our business was people coming in and having a couple of drinks and a pizza,” he said. “We were worried about opening the pizza place without the bar. But we decided to take that chance, and the community support was amazing. It was crazy when we opened — lines out the door.”
There are several tables for dining in, but today’s Circle Inn clientele is mostly takeout.
“We’re not making the money we used to with the bar, but the people have treated us well, and we’ve stayed steady,” Garrett Schroeder said.
The Circle Inn first opened in 1941 at 2253 N. Main St. in Sunset. Garrett Schroeder has a copy of a news clipping announcing the new lunch and tea room, initially opened by Mr. and Mrs. James Morby.
His grandfather, Marion Schroeder, came to Utah from Joliet, Illinois, to work for Defense Depot Ogden. In the early 1950s, he opened The Pizzeria in Roy.
“The dates are hard to nail down, but I believe it was around 1954,” Garrett Schroeder said. “By 1957, he had moved to the Circle Inn in Sunset and took over the whole building.”
Although pizza today is as mainstream in America as burgers and hot dogs, it wasn’t always so. According to food historians, “pizza pie” was mainly confined to Italian-American neighborhoods before World War II. When U.S. soldiers stationed in Italy came home with a taste for the food they had enjoyed overseas, local pizza parlors began springing up across America.
Circle Inn doesn’t claim to serve the first pizza in Northern Utah, but Marion Schroeder’s 1954 founding likely makes it the oldest local pizzeria that’s still in business. A 1957 Standard-Examiner ad touts pizza at Rigo’s Restaurant in Ogden, which is long gone. Tony’s Pizza, still in business, opened in 1963. In Logan, Fredrico’s, still in business, opened in 1958. Further south, Heaps A Pizza, forerunner to Brick Oven, opened in Provo in 1956. In Salt Lake City, old-timers might remember Cinegrill, der Ratskeller and Gepetto’s, which have all since closed.
Circle Inn even predates the big pizza chains — Little Caesars was founded in 1957, Pizza Hut in 1958 and Domino’s in 1960.
Today, Circle Inn uses Marion Schroeder’s same dough recipe.
“Our sauces, salad dressing and salsa are all homemade,” Garrett Schroeder said.
Although the restaurant offers several types of sandwiches, salads and wings, pizza makes up about 97% of the orders, he said.
At Circle Inn, the toppings are usually baked underneath the cheese, rather than on top.
“That’s what makes us unique,” said Garrett Schroeder. “It’s the way my grandfather did it. I think it’s a Chicago thing. If they request pepperoni on top, I’ll do it. But to me, it doesn’t work the same; the cheese doesn’t melt right.”
In keeping up with changing times and tastes, Circle Inn has added a few “gourmet” pizzas such as chicken bacon ranch, spicy Buffalo chicken, Philly cheese and barbecue chicken. But the old-school deluxe pizza is probably the most popular, Garrett Schroeder said.
The cheesy bread is also a big seller: “About 70% of our orders include a loaf of cheesy bread with it,” he said.
Garrett Schroeder’s personal menu favorite is the Carolina Reaper wings, flavored with Buffalo-style sauce made with the Carolina Reaper chile peppers.
“To me, they’re amazing,” he said. “It’s the Carolina Reaper pepper that gives in a bit of a tang.”
According to Guinness World Records, from 2013 to 2023, the Carolina Reaper was the hottest chile pepper in the world.
Circle Inn’s Facebook page keeps things interesting with limited-time specials and discounts, such as a high school lunch special, Wing Wednesday and hot honey pepperoni pizza
Garrett Schroder said that the family hopes to someday rebuild on the original Circle Inn site, but in the meantime, they’ve making pizza in Clearfield. As he said, “It’s what we do.”
IF YOU GO
Circle Inn Pizzeria
Location: 1060 W. 300 North, Clearfield
Contact: https://circleinnpizzeria.e-tab.com or 801-825-6093
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday