The historic feeling of Old Towne Orange just keeps on changing. More aged shops are transforming into trendier restaurants and stores. Not everybody is happy, but Chapman University’s burgeoning population, and their buying power, makes continuous new looks inevitable.
Longtime fixture Rod’s Liquor, just steps off the Circle, will soon be transforming into another newer restaurant, Bosscat Kitchen + Libations, opening early next year. In the past year, the Orange Plaza welcomed restaurants including Urth Caffé, Snooze an AM Eatery, Fork and Salad, and will be opening Philz Coffee later this year.
And if you have seen the signs for years for the old muffler shop on Chapman, across from Snooze? Soon that will be the latest location of Den Salon of Long Beach.
Yes, there are issues: crowds, parking, competitive pricing. But many from the Chapman community are loving it.
“It is always exciting to see students, staff and faculty in the different restaurants and shops,” said Jack Raubolt, the vice president of community relations at Chapman.
Raubolt wears two hats: He is also vice chair of the Orange Chamber of Commerce. With Chapman’s growth, he sees the changes as inevitable.
“I have to say I was surprised with Philz Coffee because I didn’t know what Philz was until the sign went up. I look forward to trying it once it has opened,” Raubolt said.
Some students are ready for a modernized version of the Circle.
“I don’t see a problem with the Orange Circle being trendy,” said senior Gaby Nguyen, a communication studies major. “I’m interested in trying Bosscat Kitchen with my friends when it opens.”
Ah, yes. Bosscat. Most changes coming to the Circle area concentrate on food options. But with Bosscat Kitchen + Libations, it might well be the libations that hold a special interest to those old enough to. . . well, libate.
Bosscat already has a popular location in Newport Beach, which could be considered one of Orange County’s trendiest cities. Its calling card: “Feed your belly and feed your whiskey-drenched soul.” It offers some 300 types of whiskeys, bourbons and scotches.
As for Philz, its customer base in Fullerton includes a lot of Chapman students.
“I’m really excited for Philz to open in the Circle because I usually have to drive to the Fullerton or the Costa Mesa location,” said junior dance major Caitlin Mead.
Chapman senior Natalie Walker, a strategic corporate communications major, likes Philz because of its variety of flavors.
“The mint mojito is my favorite, and you have the ability to pick and choose what you want to add to your drink,” Walker said.
The Den Salon may seem a bit pricey — $45 to $60 for a haircut wash and style — but its Long Beach success convinced one of its owners, Judy Irwin, that it can be a hit in the Circle too.
Its goal, she said to VoyageLA Magazine, is to make customers feel like they are part of a party atmosphere.
But change is always sad for some. Rod’s Liquor, for example, has been around for 70 years.
“I love working here and I’m sorry to hear that they’re closing,” said store clerk of Rod’s Liquor, Dianna Walker.
Rod’s managers say no date has been set for closing, but “definitely before Christmas.”
As trendier restaurants continue to take the place of other shops, Walker feels that they all seem like the same kind of restaurant, not providing a unique touch or taste to Old Towne Orange.
“In five years it will be a whole food court with a bunch of clustered parking. It’s so congested. Just driving here from my house is three minutes more and I live right up the street,” Walker said.
Gregory Steinmann, from It’s About Time Antiques Market, shared a similar view to Walker.
“Since they put in all the restaurants it makes my customers compete with many more people for parking,” Steinmann said.
The antique shop — a family business that took the space of the old JC Penny — has been in the Circle since 1992. Steinmann said that he has been there for 26 years, recalling the ups and downs as well as the rising competitiveness.
“I’m competing with $8 pizzas and $5 ice creams when I have things worth three to four thousand dollars in here,” said Steinmann. “There are more restaurants than antique stores. When I first moved here there were three restaurants. People came here to shop, now they come here to eat.”
But competition is a fact of life.
Fork and Salad was welcomed to the Circle this past summer. Co-owner Lauren Mann shared her excitement for the busy location.
“Orange caught our eye because of the Old Towne feel. It’s a lot different than our other establishments on Maui,” Mann said. “We are attracting the younger crowd here, but then we also have people going antique shopping in the Circle.”
The new location is working on building relationships with customers and the community, partnering with Orange Home Grown and the local farmer’s market. To Chapman students exclusively, Fork and Salad offers a special student meal with a half salad and protein for $9, and students can receive a 10% discount with a student ID.
Philz Coffee is set to open this winter. Jim McPhail, chief growth officer of Philz Coffee, has a positive outlook on the upcoming location in Orange.
“We are excited about our proximity to Chapman and also to employ as many qualified students as possible. We look forward to being a big part of the Chapman community when students return from winter break,” McPhail said.
The future of the Circle rests in the hands of the consumers, whether that be Chapman students or Orange residents.
“It’s a good mix of people coming to the Orange Circle and it’s just going to get better,” Mann said.