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Guest columnist

Welcome to the neighborhood, Panera Bread

December 30, 2009 - When new neighbors move into the community it is customary for existing residents to organize a welcoming committee and provide a small gift. It's a way of demonstrating the hospitality of the community. During the week of November 16 a new neighbor moved in but the tables were turned in so far as who received the welcoming gift!

By now most Lake Orion residents are aware that our new neighbor is Panera Bread, which opened a store at Baldwin and I-75. This was a most anticipated addition to the community and as evidenced by the large crowds during the opening week, it was most appreciated!

The welcoming gift I was referring to occurred on Friday November 20 when Panera Bread staged its official grand opening. The first 300 customers were given a travel mug and a coupon good for free coffee for the next 30 days. And in fact, the coupon does not expire until January 31, 2010. How do I know? Well, my wife Mary and I arrived at the restaurant at 6:45AM as did scores of others. The crowd was courteous and the staff of Panera Bread was efficient, friendly, and helpful. It took about ten minutes to snake into the restaurant where we enjoyed my favorite a fresh cinnamon roll along with a cup of java.

Panera Bread is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri where restaurants are called The St. Louis Bread Company. Several years ago a St. Louis Bread Company opened on Southfield Road here in Michigan but evidently the reference to another city in the name was not something us Michiganders were fond of. Thus the store had a short shelf life. Once the name was changed though to the corporate name of Panera Bread, the stores in this area and elsewhere in the country began to flourish. During the economic turndown Panera Bread continues to do well attributed to the popular menu and a bakery that has a multitude of different breads. Try the raisin bread it is scrumptious and delectable as French toast!

One of the mainstays of the restaurant is the "Pick Two". Customers choose from a large selection of sandwiches and salads and soups for a very reasonable price. My favorite is the ham and Swiss cheese sandwich along with mushroom soup. My hope though is that the pizza and brisket sandwich which was introduced sometime ago and then taken off the menu makes a reappearance!

If the first week customer traffic is any indication of what is to follow, the Panera Bread restaurant at the new location will be a tremendous success. We ourselves dined on three occasions, as did many of our friends and neighbors. It has become a gathering place for the community and a long awaited addition to the restaurants in the area.

So welcome to the community, Panera Bread, and thanks for the travel mug and the free coffee!

Fortunately we belong to a local gym because those cinnamon rolls can add a few inches to the beltline. Now we only need a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store to round out the restaurant scene!


Bill Kalmar is a Lake Orion resident and former director of Michigan Quality Council.He is a guest columnist for The Lake Orion Review.

Bill is a guest columnist for The Review. He is from Lake Orion.
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