The Circle of life: Alumni-owned companies in the Plaza


Laurenly is a local Orange boutique owned by Lauren Miller, a ’06 public relations and advertising alumna. Photo by Sergio Zaciu.

Walk down North Glassell Street toward the Plaza fountain and the streets are flanked on either side with unique restaurants, boutiques and coffee shops. A pink sign hangs outside a store lined with jewelry, clothing and accessories. This quaint boutique is Laurenly, a store owned by Lauren Miller an ’06 public relations and advertising alumna.

“It’s been great. It’s been a really amazing learning experience – it’s been challenging, it’s been rewarding and it’s been everything in between,” Miller said. “It has been the perfect fit for me since day one. I love that the community is just that – a community, and it feels very supportive and encouraging to be a part of.”

Miller returned to Orange six years ago to open her dream business.

“I’ve always wanted to own my own store, since I was a child. It was just a matter of when and where,” Miller said.

From burgers to lattes, to dresses and jewelry, Chapman alumni have returned to Old Towne Orange to open their own businesses and give back to the community.

“The Plaza seemed like a perfect spot to open my boutique because I went to Chapman and loved the idea of being affiliated with the community still, and there was absolutely nothing like it in the Plaza,” Miller said. “It is a place that I had always wished I could have shopped at when I was in school.”

Laurenly, the Aussie Bean and The Burger Parlor are owned and operated by Chapman alumni.

“I remember going into the places along the street, that was a fun time, so I thought it will be so great for Chapman students to be able to walk down here and create their own memories,” said Julia Mahon, an ’04 liberal studies alumna and co-owner of The Burger Parlor, which opened May 2. Mahon owns the restaurant with her husband Joseph Mahon.

The Burger Parlor recently opened its second location on North Glassell Street. Mahon said that Chapman played a large part in where they opened their newest location and said that she is excited to be on the street that once fostered so many great meals and memories for her.

Julia and Joseph Mahon just opened The Burger Parlor in the Orange Plaza. Julia is a '04 Chapman alumna.

Julia and Joseph Mahon opened The Burger Parlor in the Orange Plaza May 2. Julia is a ’04 Chapman alumna. Photo by Sergio Zaciu.

“It’s a tip-top community – everyone has been embracing us with open arms,” said Joseph Mahon. “Julia’s close relationship with Chapman as well as the existing surrounding community here made it seem like the natural thing to do, you can’t really manufacture a plaza. I don’t know if we could imagine a better next step for The Burger Parlor than this location.”

Julia and Joseph Mahon are hoping that being close to Chapman will help build their business and are looking forward to holding special events specifically for Chapman students and alumni.

“Getting emotional connections, creating a family and creating something that’s unique makes us competitive,” Joseph Mahon said. “Our next step will be to establish Burger Parlor as part of the community – really being a part of Chapman is our main priority.”

Chapman’s Vice President of Community Relations Jack Raubolt thinks that it’s great to have alumni returning to the community as extensions of the university.

“I like the idea of having alumni opening businesses in and around the campus. It connects the university with the community,” Raubolt said. “I can’t speak for the students and staff, but I do know that I see little meetings going on in both the burger place and Aussie Bean. I do not know if they are there because it is (owned by) a Chapman alumni or if it’s just a place they like.”

The Aussie Bean is one of three local Orange establishments that are operated by Chapman alumni.

The Aussie Bean in Old Towne is operated by a Chapman alumna. Photo by Sergio Zaciu.

Miller remembers her time as a Chapman student fondly.

“I loved everything about my experience at Chapman. I wish it had been longer than four short years. I learned a lot from my professors and classes and I met life-long friends,” Miller said.

Raubolt said that there are lots of alumni who enjoyed their time at Chapman and are now working in the City of Orange and spreading Chapman’s reputation.

“I think the alumni do a good job of putting Chapman in a positive light,” Raubolt said. “I hope to continue the dialogue with the alumni as we work through improving our relationship with the community.”

Click here to read a review of The Burger Parlor.

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