Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rising to the Occasion

Rising to the Occasion
Panera Bread Opens in Nut Tree Village
By John Ireland/Business Writer

Sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries and breads are available now at Panera Bread, located at the Nut Tree Village in Vacaville. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

It won't be difficult to find the newest tenant at the Nut Tree Village. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Panera Bread opened its doors this morning at 6 a.m., a day after welcoming family members and special friends to an introductory practice run to test-drive the service and menu. Judging by the satisfied smiles on the faces of the volunteers, the only eatery in the retail center is already a big hit.

"The public should love it," said Sean Wiskeman, vice president of leasing and marketing for Westrust, the company that oversees the various storefronts in the Village.

"They're a great operation - a beautiful restaurant with a great atmosphere," he said. "They're a first-class tenant and we're certainly pleased to have them at Nut Tree Village."

Panera general manager Doug Fearon promises a new experience for Vacaville.

"A lot of people in town are in for a big surprise when they come to Panera Bread," he said. "People think we're just a bakery (but) we're very close to being a full-service restaurant."

Part of the St. Louis Bread Company imprint, Panera Bread has only been in Northern California for two years, but its reputation for tasty quality is spreading as quickly as the aroma of fresh-baked dough. That's based in large part on the fact that all bread and pastries are made fresh on the premises every day.

"There's nothing ever left over from the night before," said joint venture partner Todd McDermott. "We're baking through the night, finishing up our bagels and pastries right before we open. So you have hot bagels when you come in at 6 a.m."

McDermott noted that Panera Bread offers more than unique flavors.

"The fact that it is all fresh and healthy and organic also makes us different," he said of a lineup that includes sandwiches, soups, salads and pizza.

McDermott was part of the team that helped place the bakery-cafe in Vacaville. "Our real estate team has an elaborate plan for what works for Panera," he explained. "(Nut Tree Village) came up as a great site in a town that's plenty big enough for Panera, in a very visible, well-known location."

Panera Bread joins Famous Footwear, Tilly's and Justice: Just For Girls as new operations at Nut Tree Village. Wiskeman expects Amici's East Coast Pizzeria and Fentons Creamery to join them by mid-April. According to the posted Coming Soon signs, other businesses expected to open this spring include Thornton and Sons, L+L Hawaiian Barbecue, Top Coat Salon & Spa, Clothes Fit: Fine Men's Wear, Barbecues Galore, Teaz Me Tea, Kool Kids, and T-Mobile.

John Ireland can be contacted at business@thereporter.com.

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