A time and place for bread at Panera

Barb Macias moves fresh baked goods in the newly opened Panera

By Melissa Flores
Gilroy
– The golden walls reflect the color of a perfect asiago cheese
loaf and focaccia bread. The reddish brown tables and chairs match
the shade of a baked sourdough round. Even the picture frames are
embossed with bagel shapes. And if the decor doesn’t put customers
in the mood for a cheese Danish or
a slice of tomato basil bread, the smell of rising dough wafting
passed certainly will.
By Melissa Flores

Gilroy – The golden walls reflect the color of a perfect asiago cheese loaf and focaccia bread. The reddish brown tables and chairs match the shade of a baked sourdough round. Even the picture frames are embossed with bagel shapes. And if the decor doesn’t put customers in the mood for a cheese Danish or a slice of tomato basil bread, the smell of rising dough wafting passed certainly will.

The first of 15 bakery-cafes planned for the Bay Area, Panera Bread, located in the Gilroy Crossings shopping center, opened for its first day of business Thursday.

Store owner Jeff Burrill said many factors came into the decision to use Gilroy as Panera Bread’s entry point into the Bay Area.

“Destination shopping centers work well because they bring in people for lunch and dinner,” Burrill said. They also bring people in during the chill period, the time between meals when restaurants tend to be quieter.

Panera Bread is readily suitable to lunch time crowds as well as people looking for a place to chill, as Burrill said. The entrance area has small bar-style tables and chairs for people who want to grab a quick cup of coffee or snack. The dining area includes tables and booths for people who want to take their time.

The cafe also has inviting armchairs spread throughout, with leather seat cushions, for those who’d like to plop down for a few hours and take advantage of the free wireless access available in the bakery cafe.

“One of things that is really cool for my generation, is you can come here, open up your laptop and surf the Internet while you hang out,” Manager Martin Renteria said.

Panera Bread has 15 locations in Southern California and Sacramento, and more than 770 locations nationwide.

One new fan of the shop is Alisa Perez who works at Glen View Elementary School. She came to the preview on Wednesday and was back for lunch on Friday.

Sharing a booth with three friends, she mentioned the sandwiches were a good size.

“I got bagels for the secretaries I work with,” Perez said. “We need more stuff like this [in Gilroy.]”

Aside from being a great meal spot, Panera Bread is already giving back to the community that has welcomed it with open arms. Each Panera Bread participates in what the company refers to as its Dough-Nation program.

“The bakery business does not carry over [from day to day],” Burrill said. Panera Bread donates every baked good left at the end of the day to the Gilroy chapter of the Salvation Army to be distributed to people in need.

Each Panera Bread location also chooses a charitable partner to work with in each city. The restaurant has change collectors at the registers for customers to donate to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. They company matches the donations 100 percent.

The bakery-cafe has also turned into a hot spot for students local for summer jobs. Many of its employees are Gilroy School and Gavilan College students. They hired a 50-60 employees for their opening, the majority of them local to Gilroy.

Rebecca Tirado, who is in charge of the Via Panera program, a carry-out option for larger orders, said the staff already feels like a family since they spent a week together in training.

“I love this place,” she said. Her favorite item on the menu is the Greek salad.

“We hope everyone in Gilroy comes in and takes a look at our beautiful cafe and experiences what it is really about,” Burrill said. “If they experience Panera with its warmth, they will come back and visit many times.”

Melissa Flores is an intern, who recently graduated from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. Reach her at 842-1526 or [email protected]

Name:

Panera Bread Bakery-Cafe

Location:

Gilroy Crossing, 6865 Camino Arroyo

Primary Business:

Pastries, soups, salads, sandwiches.

Owner:

Jeff Burrill

Manager:

Martin Renteria

Business Philosophy:

We form a connection through our authenticity and service.

What makes it unique:

The first Panera Bread location in Northern California, it is an all-in-one cafe/bakery/restaurant with access to a wireless internet connection.

Phone:

846-7430

Web site:

www.panerabread.com

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