Nineteen years ago, the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review was an eight-page newsletter with only two colors. Now, 100 editions later, the community publication has grown to a full-color, 40-page paper filled with dozens of articles and distributed to 35,000 residents.
The Plaza Review was born when a local business owner wanted to collaborate with Mike Escobedo, a graphic designer and advertising professional, on a monthly town newsletter. The collaboration ended after two issues, but Escobedo took the initiative to continue the publication on his own.
Although some encouraged Escobedo to distribute the paper outside of Old Towne to draw new people in, he felt as though there was so much information about the community that even residents didn’t know. Since the paper’s inception, Escobedo has continued to focus on highlighting the stories in and around Old Towne.
“I would relate it to an orchestra, where you first have to train the orchestra to make beautiful music, which will appeal to the local audience,” he says. “Those people will then tout the orchestra, attracting outsiders, which is what we found works with the Plaza Review.”
Today in 2020, the Plaza Review is a vibrant publication, complete with recurring sections like “New to the Neighborhood” and “Talk of the Towne” and the popular “Old Towne Property” that gives readers insight on Old Towne residences and homeowners. While the sections highlight different aspects of Orange, the stories serve one main goal: to connect the Old Towne community.
“Twenty years ago, the community was close, but not nearly as connected as today,” says Escobedo. “I believe that featuring human-interest stories about our immediate neighbors connects people who may not have known about one another.”
Sandy Quinn, President of the Old Towne Preservation Association, was featured on the cover of the May/June 2013 edition with his German Shepherd, Google. Even now, seven years after his “Old Towne Property” article was published, Quinn says he still has people recognizing him and his dog in the Plaza.
“I’ve always looked at the Plaza Review as part of the fabric of Old Towne and the glue that helps bring it all together,” says Quinn. “These cover stories are fascinating. Mike takes you through their historic homes and highlights their lives.”
The Plaza Review’s human-interest stories also serve as an introduction to Orange for Chapman University’s newest students. For the past 15 years, the school’s student orientation leaders have distributed the paper at check-in tables, and in 2013, then-President Jim Doti mailed the latest issue to all 1,300 of the university’s incoming freshmen. Since the Plaza Review’s first issue came out, the relationship between the publication and Chapman University has strengthened.
“The Plaza Review helps communicate the exciting and interesting things happening at Chapman,” says Doti. “As a result, many Orange citizens attend those events and enjoy them, because the Plaza Review brought those opportunities to their attention.”
While the Plaza itself has seen the growth and evolution of countless new businesses and restaurants in the last two decades, the Plaza Review continuously works to support these new businesses and connect them with customers through the “New to the Neighborhood” section. Dr. Alex Romero, owner of Orange Circle Optometry, says the Plaza Review has been there for his highs and lows. When he first took over the existing optometry storefront in 2013, Romero was concerned that Old Towne residents wouldn’t recognize that he had rebranded the location.
“When our ‘New to the Neighborhood’ article was published, we got a second chance, and it really got the ball rolling for us,” he says. “We use a questionnaire that asks how our patients heard about us. A lot of people write in the Plaza Review.”
Dr. Romero also recalls when Orange Circle Optometry was burglarized, and the Old Towne community came together to donate to the business to help him and his wife get back on their feet.
“Mike let me use a page in the Plaza Review to write a thank you letter to everyone for their support,” he says. “I’m able to build relationships with people because of the Plaza Review.”
Another loved feature of the Plaza Review is the “Coupon Winner” section, which offers readers a chance to win a gift certificate to any advertiser of their choosing. The column highlights last month’s winner in a short, personable article.
For the businesses that advertise in the Plaza Review, a winner choosing their business to receive the gift certificate is validating and exciting. Cheryl Turner, owner of Paris In A Cup on South Glassell, recalls the gratitude she feels when her teahouse is chosen.
“The people are always so happy to win,” says Turner. “The experience provides a nice sense of community.”
Carolyn Cavecche, former Orange Mayor and current President and CEO of Orange County Taxpayers Association, shares that the Plaza Review provides her with so much insight into community happenings that she usually drops everything to read it cover to cover.
“I get goosebumps when the Plaza Review gets delivered to me,” she says. “I open my mailbox, and it’s like seeing a letter from a friend. It makes you feel good about living in Orange.”
With so much negativity in our modern world, the Plaza Review’s optimistic outlook and focus gives Cavecche a warm feeling.
“Having a positive hometown publication come to you now is so much more important for our community than it was 100 editions ago,” she says. “It’s my favorite paper to read.”
Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
134 South Glassell St, Old Towne Orange CA 92866 / 714-743-6919