By CBSLA Staff

ORANGE (CBSLA) — A new study from Chapman University finds that consumer confidence in Orange County is soaring back to pre-pandemic levels as businesses begin to reopen and more people receive their coronavirus vaccinations.

“We are seeing our economy come back to life,” one shopper said.

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Walking around Orange Circle antique mall, it’s like the whirlwind that was 2020 did not happen at all with shoppers, patrons and even cigar smokers out in force.

“Everybody seems to be on a positive note and wanting to spend the money,” said shopper Reynold Quijada.

Chapman University Professor Marc Weidenmier co-wrote the newly released Orange County Consumer Sentiment Index.

After a sharp drop last year, he found the first quarter of 2021 is breaking records.

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A poll of 500 O.C. residents found the following data, among several more:

  • The first-quarter’s survey shows a 56% jump in those who see improvement ahead for U.S. business conditions next year.
  • Business conditions on households are currently up 54%.
  • The sentiment for business conditions versus a year ago was up 322%.

“The medical community and public health officials have finally sort of gotten the upper hand on the coronavirus and businesses are opening up in accordance with health policy, people are starting to get out and go back to restaurants, sit down for a nice meal and these things have really helped drive consumer sentiment over the last quarter,” Weidenmier said.

Dara Maleki, owner of the Pizza Press chain, says in 2020, his business went from just surviving to now thriving.

“I think we’ve always got to be cautiously optimistic, but if we hit our benchmarks, we could really end up being in a roaring 20s situation,” Maleki said.

Chris Daily, the co-owner of Bosscat Restaurant is also stunned at crowds packing his pub.

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“We opened busier, by about double than we thought we were gonna be,” Daily said.

Business owners say they are largely cautiously optimistic and are enjoying the spike in business as coronavirus numbers take a plunge.