Old Towne Orange’s Watson’s Will Close After A Century?

The famous Orange soda fountain Watson’s, which has been serving up burgers and malts for more than a century, is about to shut down, closing a chapter in the restaurant’s colourful history as a landmark in the Orange Plaza. Owner Billy Skeffington predicted that Watson’s Soda Fountain and Cafe will close in its location on Chapman Avenue over the next few weeks due to increased rent and operating costs. According to the owner and social media, Hectors on the Circle will occupy the location starting next month.

But if Skeffington has anything to do with it, the Watson’s brand won’t go, he insisted. He has already started searching for new locations in the city’s Old Towne and has enlisted the aid of Orange real estate agent Al Ricci. Ricci stated that there are currently three candidates, but he shied away from revealing the locations. Ricci is searching for “a simpler, ’50s hamburgers and milkshakes” business, he claimed.

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Watson’s was first established in 1899 as a pharmacy, then in 1915 it changed into the soda fountain that it is today. Over the years, it has garnered customers like George W. Bush, who once stopped in for a malt. It has been a Hollywood set, appearing in films like the Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do!” And throughout time, it has kept its nostalgic vibe. Skeffington painstakingly renovated the property with a blend of old and new after purchasing it from the previous owner Scott Parker in 2015.

New meals and beverages were introduced thanks to Skeffington’s more contemporary, sophisticated take on the diner setting. He got a bigger liquor licence so he could sell dessert drinks and speciality cocktails. But despite having a stylish new menu and updated decor, it seems like the company was unable to keep up with the facility’s escalating operating expenses. Parker claimed that Skeffington was already having trouble covering the $14,000 rent each month when he purchased Watson’s from him.

“I just couldn’t do it, so when I left, I was so happy to leave. I’d been working there for 50 years. Parker expressed his appreciation for Skeffington’s renovations, which kept the building’s character while showcasing certain historical artefacts. Others objected to the diner’s rehabilitation, but Parker said he would have loved to make the alterations if he could.

Parker stated, “He’s attacked for changing things, but everything changes. Jeff Young, a resident of Orange, recalls seeing the terrace outside the soda fountain packed with patrons years ago as he passed along Chapman Avenue, with “motorcycles and cars parked there.” The 72-year-old said Friday from a bench inside Plaza Park of the traffic circle that it looks like “the traffic for their business isn’t nearly what it used to be” lately when he and his wife, Debbie, wander in to buy muffins.

It’s always empty, Debbie Young stated that Watson’s is still considered to be a “institution” in Orange. Since moving to the city in the 1970s, the pair has spent many breakfasts and evenings together. The Youngs’ best recent purchase was some baked pastries. According to Debbie Young, who saw a decline in the number of small shops and antique stores in Old Towne Orange as new businesses come and go, it appears that consumer preferences for some of the types of shops that originally studded the circle have changed over time.

Parker blames the rising rent prices for local businesses for the decline in the number of small retailers. Small businesses may become priced out when new restaurants go up and increase the competition for available space, he claimed. Jeff Young observed, remembering establishments like Coco’s Bakery or Reuben’s or “a bunch of different eateries that are just no longer here,” that it might simply be like anything else that exists in a time and place that eventually moves on.

He explained that things alter and people’s preferences shift with passing generations and other factors. And what was trendy back then isn’t as popular today. As a result, certain areas disappear and new things appear. However, Orange Councilwoman Arianna Barrios, who represents the area that encompasses Old Towne Orange, believes that more work has to be done to maintain the district’s history and aesthetic, which are highly prized by many companies. She described the historic district as “one of the jewels in the United States in terms of public places,” adding, “We are the protectors of such things

.” “We are entitled to defend that. We are required to safeguard that, she continued. “This way, we may impose restrictions on the enterprises who relocate here. It is old-fashioned. We need to protect a particular character. The city, according to Barrios, should identify ways to assist owners of historically significant enterprises like Watson’s in preserving their past. Parker concurred, adding he hopes city officials would find a solution quickly to help protect the establishments that uphold Old Towne’s distinctive flavour since “after a while,” he said, “it’s going to get destroyed.”

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