Who ever would have thought that the Orange Inn would diversify? How do you diversify a juice joint, even if it was the most famous juice joint on the Orange County coast?
From 1931 until it closed in late 1986, the Orange Inn on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar served up fresh-squeezed citrus juice, nuts, date shakes, sandwiches and other local goodies to legions of faithful motorists, cyclists, surfers and passers-by. It was a bright green-and-orange institution, the perfect roadside shack, cheery and Spartan.
When the inn's lease from the Irvine Co. ran out, the place didn't die, however. It just became more urban, moving a few miles down the coast to downtown Laguna Beach, still on Coast Highway.
"We disassembled the old Orange Inn and took a lot of it with us," said Kathleen Bodrero, who owned the inn with her husband, John, since 1971. "We just loved that place."
So, she said, did the developers who made up Sand Canyon Historical Partners, a group that has renovated several buildings off Sand Canyon Avenue in Irvine to form Old Town Irvine, a complex made up mostly of restaurants and a hotel, La Quinta Inn.
"They contacted us about 6 weeks after we closed (the original Orange Inn)," said Bodrero. "They were all surfers who remembered the Orange Inn."
The group, said Bodrero, wanted to know if she and her husband would be interested in opening an expanded Orange Inn on their property, on the site of the old Irvine Garage, once the first Ford dealership in Orange County.
"We'd always wanted to expand and serve breakfast through dinner when we were out on the coast," said Bodrero. "We also wanted a kind of convenience market. Not a 7-Eleven, but kind of like a little country store."
So the Bodreros took the old sign that once sat atop their original inn, along with their collection of more than 300 framed orange crate labels, and set up shop late last year in the converted garage, which today is restored to its original 1930s Art-Deco design.
And the place--called the Orange Inn Cafe and Market--is not merely a freeway-side juice joint, but a combination cafe-deli-bakery and country store, fulfilling--and then some--the Bodreros' dreams from the old days of the Orange Inn.
Many of the original Orange Inn items--sandwiches, juices, house brand jams and salad dressings, as well as other edibles--are served in the deli and the cafe, which opens at 6 a.m. daily and serves three meals a day.
"The things we used to serve as specials at the old inn we're now serving every day in the cafe," said Bodrero, items such as chicken and fish dishes. And, she said, the wine sold by the bottle in the adjacent market can be taken into the cafe and enjoyed with meals for a $3.50 corkage fee.
The inn has begun to offer catering, said Bodrero, and "we'll probably be doing room service at the La Quinta Inn within a year."
The place did not take long to be discovered--or rediscovered. Bodrero said there is often a 40-minute wait on weekends, with customers pressing their faces to the large front window in an attempt to spot a vacant table. And, she said, when the planned extension of Sand Canyon Avenue to the beach is completed, they expect a new influx of old friends.
"They tell us Sand Canyon will empty out right about where the old Orange Inn was," Bodrero said.
THE ORANGE INN CAFE AND MARKET AT A GLANCE
Where: 14962 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine.
Hours: Market--6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Cafe--6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Information: (714) 857-9116.