A PANDEMIC LOOK AT THE CIRCLE’S CHANGING RESTAURANT SCENE

Businesses located on Glassell Street have been thriving after Orange decided to close the street to traffic and open the ‘Orange Plaza Paseo.’ (Photo by Joe Perrino)

Ask most seniors, who have spent all four years at Chapman, about restaurants in the Orange Circle, and they’ll go on for hours about the times they had a juicy, homemade sausage from Linx, a chili cheeseburger from Burger Parlor, or a bento box from Tokyo Cafe.

Well, those businesses are gone, and changes in the Circle dining scene are sparking up like wildfire. It’s worked for some restaurants on the closed-off Glassell Street, like Jaxon’s Chix Tenders, but those outside Glassell are not as fortunate.

“We’ve been losing about 60-80% of our revenue Monday to Thursdays,” said Bobby Adam, general manager of Buttermilk Fried Chicken — located two blocks west of the Circle on Chapman Avenue. “We had to close Monday and Tuesday because we were losing a lot of money.”

Buttermilk Fried Chicken, located on Chapman Avenue two blocks from The Circle, has seen a decline in business since the pandemic began. (Photo by Joe Perrino)

On the other hand, Jaxon’s Chix Tenders — which rebranded from the Burger Parlor in May 2020 — has seen advantages being on Glassell Street, where the street is closed to traffic and businesses can hold seating on the road in front of the restaurants.

“We’ve seen sales go up every week recently over the past few months,” said Amanda Lankin, Jaxon’s Chix Tenders’ supervising manager. “All these businesses (on Glassell) are thriving. I feel that shutting down the street was a major break for these small businesses.”

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Jaxon’s Chix Tenders aren’t the only two businesses seeing staggering differences in sales. Watson’s Soda Fountain is the oldest restaurant in the Circle, opening in 1899. Currently, it’s experiencing its worst sales in business history according to Sean Frank, supervising manager. 

Jaxon’s Chix Tenders, located on Glassell, has seen more positive than negative with the street being shut down during the pandemic. (Photo by Joe Perrino)

“We’ve had to shut down multiple times,” Frank said. “We’ve had to rehire staff three times. We’ve had a major loss of business. It’s been very hard.”

Like Watson’s Soda Fountain, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, which opened in August 2019, is going through its roughest patch since opening. Adam mentioned the revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic as an issue, but attributed the public’s confusion on where the business is as well as its location as other ailments. 

“Some people think we’re the Taco Stand or Wahoo’s so they walk in expecting that,” Adam said. “The location in general is just kind of hard (for customers) to find.”

Some Chapman students have affirmed Adam’s findings, saying they get confused whenever they’re looking for a bite to eat.

“I had always seen that restaurant, but never walked in because I wasn’t sure what it was,” said Chelsea Kegans, a senior communication studies major. “There’s like four restaurants all right next to each other and it’s kind of confusing as to which one’s which.”

Senior Chelsea Kegans also believes it to be a little complicated to find Buttermilk being tucked away off of the busy Glassell Street. (Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Kegans)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken, located on Chapman Avenue between Olive Street and Lemon Street, does not receive the same luxuries as those on Glassell Street. 

It seems like most restaurants outside Glassell Street have had problems staying afloat because of their location, but this may not be much of a surprise based on locals’ dining habits. 

Many Chapman students have enjoyed how the Circle is set up for outdoor, socially-distanced dining. Some, like Pratik Mulpury, a senior computer science major, prefer to eat outside at one of the many restaurants on Glassell Street.

“I usually go to restaurants that are closer to campus,” he said. “Mainly because there’s more parking on that side, but a lot of those places I’ve been eating at all four years and the set up right now is really nice with the seating in the street.”

Senior Pratik Mulpury prefers to eat closer to campus for convenience rather than trying to find parking farther down Glassell Street. (Photo Courtesy of Pratik Mulpury)

With restaurants on Glassell Street presumably taking away a lot of customers from Chapman Avenue businesses, how do they plan on staying afloat?

“We’re slowly improving (sales) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Adam said regarding Buttermilk’s future plans. “A lot of Chapman students like our chicken, so hopefully when this is over our revenue will improve.”

Likewise, Frank believes Watson’s is on the brink of improvement.

“Moving forward we want to hire our staff back and get our full menu going,” Frank said. “Everything is kinda getting better, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Until then, businesses outside of Glassell Street will continue to find ways to improve sales despite difficult circumstances.

“One day at a time, one foot in front of the other,” Frank said. “We’ll get through it.”

Sean Frank, supervising manager at Watson’s, believes as the pandemic comes to an end, they will see rapid improvement in its business. (Photo by Joe Perrino)

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