Antique store closing brings new restaurant to Old Towne Plaza

Owners of Smoqued BBQ are set to open new restaurant, Brewery 1886, in December 2019 or January 2020. Brewery 1886 will open in place of former antique store, George II Antiques. Photo by Cassidy Keola, staff photographer

The number of restaurants is slowly increasing in the Old Towne Orange Plaza, replacing many long-existing antique shops.

Brewery 1886, set to open in December 2019 or January 2020, is one of them. Brewery 1886 will replace the already closed George II Antiques. Brewery 1886 stems from the same minds behind Smoqued California BBQ, Mike Hernandez – who is based in Orange – and Andrew Ciora, based in Michigan. Smoqued opened in 2012 when the two decided to collaborate after a career of managing breweries.

“We thought Orange County needed barbeque,” Hernandez said. “Orange was an upcoming area that was lending itself to new restaurants and we wanted to get in there. When I opened up Smoqued in 2012, there were about eight restaurants and there at least double now.”

Hernandez decided to open Brewery 1886 because he has “always felt like the Orange circle needed a brew pub, where people can hang out and have a beer.” “We’re going to brew our own beer for on-site consumption only and a cocktail bar. It is the only brew pub in Orange. The Circle needs that,” he said.

The difference between a brew pub and brewery, Hernandez said, is that breweries have manufactured beer and tasting rooms. 1886 will serve its own beer on site, with a restaurant that will serve steaks, sandwiches, appetizers and pub fare. The restaurant will seat 150 people and have a full bar. Hernandez also spoke to restaurants replacing Orange’s antique stores and acknowledged the area’s changing business demographic.

“I love the antique shops, but there were so many back in the day, I think there’s a nice blend. There’s still plenty of antique shops; it’s what attracts people to Orange,” Hernandez said.

The name 1886 comes from the year the building was constructed, three years before the town of Orange was established. Hernandez said that when trying to come up with the name, he was inspired by the engraved year on the building. The building was closed as an antique shop for eight months before he and Ciora bought it.

“Orange has always been a quaint city for its antique stores, but it is all about economics,” said Rob Ward, a resident of Orange since 1998 and president of Efficiency Insurance Solutions. “If the antique stores aren’t making money, they are going to relocate. I love going to antique stores, but restaurants bring a lot of activity to the Plaza, which gives the city revenue and brings people from outside the area.”

Kristine Houston, the owner of Elsewhere Vintage and Joyride Vintage, had a differing opinion about restaurants in Orange, which was once considered “the antique capital of California,” she said.

The amount of restaurants has caused a scarcity in parking and has driven up rent, Houston said. Her business has survived because the vintage items draw people from the film industry.

“Right now, it feels like we are turning into Chapman’s food court. We love Chapman students, but there comes a point when they’re making downtown like any other center,” Houston said. “It’s going to push out the independent businesses, probably us included eventually. I have mixed feelings.”

She cited Fullerton as an example of a city where independent antique stores and mom-and-pop businesses were driven out by restaurants.

“The city is just seeking that temporary tax dollar, not thinking about long term success and it’s disappointing,” Houston said. “I wish people would look for the overall good rather than a temporary financial gain.”