Share, , , Google Plus, Reddit, Pinterest, StumbleUpon


Posted in:

Panera Bread opens: Elmwood rises


Panera-opens-Bufffalo-NY-2Panera Bread has opened on Elmwood Avenue, much to the happiness and displeasure of all. There are those who didn’t want to see a Panera on the street due to the “chain” factor of the business. But others embraced the idea knowing that Panera would be displacing another chain (Blockbuster)… and as far as I can remember Blockbuster was not only an eyesore on the street, it was also leach that never gave back to the community throughout all of the years that we (as a community) fought to bring the street back to life.

Panera Bread is different, from what I can tell. One can already see the life that it has added to Elmwood, with patios that open to an indoor/outdoor seating area, creating a vibrancy unlike anything this building has ever seen. The addition of the patio creates a connective sea of outdoor seating all the way to Cleveland Avenue. Even Blue Fin got its act together in anticipation of the Panera opening (they added a patio just days ago). Suffice to say, I like what I’m seeing on this block… the only thing that could be better would be an infill project in the Benchmark parking lot across the street, but I digress.

Another thing that surprised me about Panera (other than the glassed-in, practical indoor/outdoor seating arrangement) was the massive size of the café/restaurant. It extends back towards the end of the parking lot, seating upwards of 120 people (according to  Panera Bread Joint Venture Partner Eric Thein). I introduced myself to Eric during my visit and congratulated him on the opening. I told Eric that I had received an email from Mike Ciancio who had worked for Panera for the past 6.5 years, and his manager Sonia Velazquez. The two wanted to pass along a message to me/Buffalo Rising readers regarding the opening of Panera on Elmwood. See here:

We have been talking with the locals and have been getting great feedback. We have also gotten some negative comments, but we are here to add to the community. We want to be part of the Elmwood district and help form the future. Lots of people don’t know that we donate all of our leftover food to local charities and food banks every single night. We have brought 60 more jobs to the area, and have cleaned up and set a higher bar for business surrounding us. Yesterday we walked house to house on the surrounding blocks and gave out a “green” reusable Panera Bread shopping bag filled with some of our chocolate chip cookies to kind of welcome ourselves. We also went to all of our neighboring business with the same bags and a few extra cookies and some catering menus. Before we opened to the public, we pulled people off of the street for about an hour during lunch and dinner, and gave out free food while training our new employees. We’re not here to hurt any business in the area, we respect everyone around us, and I think a few people might be getting the wrong impression [we’re here to show them that’s not the case]. Hope to see you soon.


As far as I’m concerned, Panera Bread is like “night and day” compared to what we were stuck with before they moved into the neighborhood. I remember the old battle when Starbuck’s was moving into the neighborhood – you would have thought that it was the end of the world. To have a healthy mix of anchor chains and small businesses is… well… healthy. I’m still going to support places like Five Points Bakery and Caffé Aroma on a regular basis. But there are others who will come into the city because a familiar eatery like Panera is now open. Hopefully those people will spend some quality time on the street and rediscover a city that they swore off years ago.

Take a look at the picture above and think back to a time when the view would have looked onto what was then known as “Needle Park”. My how things have changed.

Share, , , Google Plus, Reddit, Pinterest, StumbleUpon

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

8089 posts


Leave a Reply
    • elmdog
      “If it drives globe and others out, its a huge fail…”
      No — if it drives Globe and others out, it means Globe and others didn’t step up their game . . .

      • MartinKemp OR — it’s possible that both will thrive.  Sometimes, the more good quality places you have, the more you attract in people.  MOre people come because they have more choices, and it becomes a big draw.
        Just like when the first bars opened on Chippewa, people worried that it was oversubscribed.  All it did was grow more and more.  Let’s hope that it works here too!

        • Rand503 MartinKemp Same reason malls thrive, they all sell the same stuff, but having many options in one setting increases appeal to the masses.

        • brownteeth Rand503 MartinKemp You mean “used” to thrive.  I agree with you, but actuallly malls have been declining for the past decade.  There ahsn’t been a single new mall built anywhere in the US in the past five years, perhaps longer.  Their heydey was the 60s through the 80s.   Partly because of the internet, of course, but also because people just got tired of them. 
          All the more reason to look to the future and be diverse and offer a unique shopping experience, as Elmwood currently does.

        • Rand503 brownteeth MartinKemp Uhh, have you been to the Galleria lately?  Or even Mckinley? I’m not saying they’re great but the model still thrives by all definitions.

  1. Globe Market and spot coffee will just need to win customers over with superior quality products, options or shopping experience. I bet there is room for good quality local places and some chains.

  2. One of the
    best things about Elmwood, IS the lack of chain restaurants.
    When I take
    out of towners to Elmwood, they all appreciate how diverse it really is. Go to
    many other cities, you have strips like Elmwood, except all the places to eat
    are chains. I know when I go out to eat, I’m looking for something a little
    more unique, not the same rubbish I can find in any town USA. Not to mention
    supporting local business benefits our community much more that a chain HQ’d
    out of town.
    I do however believe
    this place will not experience the huge success it has elsewhere, for the same
    reason places like Domino’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, or Taco Hell aren’t as
    prolific here as they are in other towns; why go to a chain when our local
    places are better?

    • 16thStreet So what did your out-of-towner friends say about that the Blockbuster that was there before? 
      Panera is not only a better option, they made the building into something that is VERY appealing.

      • I’m not saying Panera didn’t make it more appealing, because they did, but it’s still a chain on a street that is uniquely Buffalo.
        Competition is good, but not always. Put a Walmart on Elmwood and Hertel and we’ll see what happens.
        Like others have said, if it doesn’t hurt other businesses on this street, then good. But chains have the advantage of volume and the cost savings and lower prices it brings.
        We’ll see how it all pans out, I’ll avoid them at all costs.

  3. If it brings more action and interest in Elmwood village and its real estate, than I am all for it….I would rather see local small mom and pops do well though…

  4. In every city around the world small businesses and chains operate next door to each other.  I have no evidence of this, but in the past 10 years I would say the amount of successful small business shops is growing rather than declining.  Many people especially younger people that are moving back to cities want the small business experience over the big box.  Panera offers a type of experience and product that previously wasn’t available.  
    God knows what is going to happen when Chipotle wants to move in.

      • 16thStreet Yes, I’d say their stuff is more fresh than Panera.  Maybe they will have to adapt their menu to be a little different.  I personally would never go to Panera except for the free wifi if I needed it.  I’m sure some people feel the same. 
         What is wrong with a little competition?  Globe can’t be Panera and Panera can’t be globe.  Seems like there is room for both.

    • Exactly, every successful viable city in this country has a mix of chains and locally owned businesses. Once high school resumes I would expect this Panera to be a magnet for the students. It certainly is in other parts of the country where I have travelled. Given the quality of Globes products they will do just fine. Hopefully Elmwood and at some point Hertel will continue to attract a healthy mix of well run chains like Panera. This is good for the city

  5. Competition is part of the business economy, though.  Globe does a great job, and has created a name for itself over the years.  I really don’t think they need to worry.  Having chains shows that the area is thriving, so we should be proud in a way

  6. I’m pretty indifferent about it, really. I suppose it reflects positively on the increasing vitality and reputation of the neighborhood, but I will still tend to patronize locally-owned businesses, to keep more of my money circulating locally. Local businesses spend much more of their revenue locally, buying from more local suppliers than national chains do, who have their own supply infrastructure already established.

    I’m not sure I would label Blockbuster a leech or an eyesore. For a long time, it filled a very useful role in the neighborhood. I remember spending quite a bit of time perusing the shelves after school, at a time in my life where I was suddenly old enough to be allowed to watch R rated movies at home. I acquired a lot of my pop culture background from VHS rentals from that Blockbuster! In recent years, yes, a video rental store seems kind of useless and anachronistic, but for a long time it was a much more useful shop for a lot of people than yet another sandwich shop would be.

  7. I agree that the thing that distinguishes Elmwood and Hertel is the entrepreneur rather than the chain.
    However, Panera is not a Taco Bell. I really like their bread. Chains are factories. They figure out what works in their menu and their environment then duplicate it over and over.
    Having Panera’s on Elmwood not only raises the foot traffic on Elmwood which helps everyone but it also pushes the non-chain restaurants to up their game. Most notably is that there is a lot of street level work that needs to get done to humanize the street:
    -replacing the sidewalk with say stamped concrete to look like stone or brick if not actual stone or brick.
    -pots and hanging baskets (certainly more than current)
    -sconces in front of the buildings that use lighting to add accent, depth and a bit of drama to the street.
    -architectural details…there are still some retail additions where the pedestrian sees 4-6 feet of brick from when the building was converted from a residential porch to retail. Its sad.
    -If there isn’t enough sidewalk seating then utilize their rooftops if possible.
    I cannot help but go back to an older article that compared the 1 story retail on Elmwood to the older 1st floor retail with 2-6 stories of apartments above. At this point in Elmwood’s lifecycle property owners should seriously be thinking about how to add residential above their 1 story retail buildings.
    I would also go a step further and say that with Panera’s on Elmwood some retailers may get knocked off the strip but that need not mean they go out of business but rather find a less competitive environment on Delaware, Main or Grant. It could actually mean better business and better profits in a less competitive environment on an up and coming street, Something worth considering.

  8. on chain businesses. 1. what will make Elwood unique or any neighborhood for that matter if it is filled with the same shops as any strip in anywheresville America? 2. I do not know if panera is guilty of this but corporations and chains have not only the ability but the propensity to utilize their vast financial resources and their economy of scale to destroy competition. local business can not compete with this always. (ie: panera could give sandwiches away or runs crazy special to undercut competition. 3. th e potential of future chains… panera is not the only chain on Elwood for sure but it is really t he only ch

    • (please excuse typos and such I m on a tablet that I am just figuring out). ….only chain in direct competition with local business (globe) so the real question is when that hotel goes up on north Elmwood across the street from a TGIF going to be an anchor tenant? or are going to split aesthic hairs when Johnny rockets and jack asters shows up?

    • buffalonia  Exactly!
      It’s not like Globe or Spot can magically “Step up their game”. I’m sure they’re not making money hand over fist, so if a competitor comes by and offers a similar product for a few bucks less, it’s not like the local guys can just lower their prices and expect to make ends meet.
      Well made points buffalonia.

      • I work at this new Panera, and have been with the company for 6.5 years. I am the one who suggested this story also. Panera can not decide on deals from store to store, and knowing the company well we would never offer a deal that amazing that it would hurt a local business like that. The best deal we did was give away free food for a few hours while training, only so the food didn’t go to waste and so we could invite the neighborhood to try out some stuff.

    • I am a devoted (some might say snobby) localist, but I some people do like these kinds of chain restaurants and stores, and there’s no reason they can’t be in the city as long as they follow the zoning code and all other laws (including the upcoming Green Code which will require good urban form).
      National chains already in Elmwood Village that have not led to the complete destruction of the thriving local shops there:
      H&R Block
      Key Bank
      Rite Aid
      Coffee Culture
      Bank of America

      SPoT Coffee
      Penzey’s Spices
      White Rabbit Frozen Yogurt

      And I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed some.  I shop at locally-owned businesses whenever possible, but beyond that, what can anyone do? You can’t make a law requiring all businesses to be locally-owned.

      • JSmith11 it is what is it.  It may not be the first or the last but it is pretty cynical and predatory of them to set up shop directly across the street from a local competitor. (and if locals go the way of the dodo then Elmwood becomes  a suburban strip mall with an urban design. which might be what some folks like but not me.)

        • buffalonia  JSmith11 Predatory?  Seriously?  Its called COMPETITION!  CAPITALISM!  Its the system we live in.  Survival of the fittest.  Elmwood won’t become a suburban strip mall with an urban design because its not designed that way.  Besides, wouldn’t the local shops/restaurants like the foot traffic a well-known chain brings to the street?

        • BuffaloBuck buffalonia  JSmith11 No, they don’t.  Starbuck’s is known for allowing small independents to pave the way and create foot traffic.  Then they open a store as close as possible to the local store in and attempt to force them out.  
          It’s actually a winning strategy, and you will see that there are fare fewer independent coffee houses in most cities than there available in the mid-90s as a result.  
          And if you want to argue about quality, I challenge anyone to argue that the Olive Garden has decent food.  They simply do not — and yet they place on Transit is packed all the time.   Perhaps that a comment on the tastes of the American public, but you can’t argue that quality always wins in the end.

  9. Very nice store front,  tastefully done.  Big deal if it’s a chain.. you have a business paying taxes. More then likely I would stick to Cafe Aroma but I am glad to see this store front occupied.

  10. A chain is a franchise with a local owner.  If you don’t like that, you’re a flaming lib who simply hates corporations because you hate success.  The reason chains thrive is because they’re better than the competition, local or national, that’s called capitalism which is what’s being threatened in this “holier than thou” society we now have called New York State.  Chains become chains because they started as a local mom & pop restaurant/shop and succeeded so much that they decided to go regional then national with franchises.  If one of the mom & pop shops along Elmwood become so successful that they went national, would you suddenly hate them for being successful?  Get real.

    • BuffaloBuck    Some chains (such as this one) are corporate-owned and not a franchise.   So there is no local owner.
      I’m not against Panera at all, but just saying…

      • 300miles BuffaloBuck Good point, but still, who really cares who owns it?  If customers like it, it deserves to be there.  I’m just sick and tired of all the corporate bashing in WNY.  Corporations, like it or not, bring jobs and help an economy thrive, along with small, individually owned businesses too.

      • 300miles  That’s almost entirely true that there’s no local owner of Panera, although it’s a good bet that there are a lot more more part-owners of the whole set of chains with some presence here (including NASDAQ-traded Panera).   
        Anyone who has large index mutual funds or a public union pension, and no doubt some individual shareholders here too.
        If anybody wants to own say a $100 or $500 part ownership in Panera, they need only the funds and to do a few mouse clicks.  If someone wants to own $100 or $500 share of Globe or Cafe Aroma, well I suppose they could try asking the owners if they’re open to arranging that, but….

    • BuffaloBuck 
      So what your saying is that a successful store on Elmwood (or Hertel) that is encouraged to open an additional store on another up and coming retail street such as Amherst, Main, Delaware, Grant, Niagara, South Park, Abbott, Genessee, Broadway, Division, etc….could actually assist in creating our own local franchise or chain….that could then leapfrog to a regional store.
      Ive often said that Elmwood and Hertel should do more to share their success with other retail streets in Buffalo. Your comment supports what I have been saying.

      • TominBuff BuffaloBuck Exactly.  This makes me think of Mighty Taco, a  locally-owned chain that started off as one local restaurant that succeeded so much that they expanded into many more around WNY.  Mighty Taco could easily expand into a more regional and likely national chain but the owners refuse to do so for whatever reason.  I don’t know if they have franchises but never-the-less, they started small then expanded.  Do we hate them now?

    • BuffaloBuck Sorry, but that’s just BS.  
      Sure, some franchises start out as mom and pop stores, but the reality is that today most are started up as corporate speculative prospects.  You may think Chipotle was started by some poor Mexican immigrants who happened to hit upon a winning formula, and then consulted some attorneys to see how they could franchise it?
      Hahah.  It was dreamed at the HQ of McDonald’s.  Panera Bread is a spin off from Au Bon Pain.  
      You are correct that sometimes they are owned by individuals, but many are corporate owned.  Furthermore, the whole point of a franchise is even if individually owned, you pay a hefty franchise fee upfront to the corporation (usually several hundred thousand dollars), you have to prove that you have a certain amount of personal wealth, usually several hundred thousand dollars, not including your house, and you have to pay a hefty portion of your profits to the company.
      All that money is collected from the economy and sent to corporate HQ, which is NOT Buffalo, NY.  
      Compare that with a place such a Globe, in which the owners are all local, all their startup costs went to the construction, development and marketing of their enterprise, and all the money collected locally are placed in a bank somewhere in WNY.  
      There is no comparison regarding the economic impact of franchise vs. locally owned.  Franchises have advantages, of course (less likely to fail, for instance), and they have the value of consistency.  But the economic impact isn’t one of them.

      • Rand503 BuffaloBuck And you point is what?  Yes, I know what you are saying and I still say that no matter HOW the franchise started and no matter HOW the franchise operates within the corporation, it is usually an instant success because it follows a formula for success and there’s nothing wrong with that.  And no, not ALL the money (profit is what I suspect you mean) is collected from the economy and sent to corporate HQ. If the franchise is locally-owned, MOST of the profit stays local.  If the franchise is corporately-owned, then yes, I suppose most of the profit goes back to the corporation but so what?  What about the money EARNED by the local employees?  That money stays local.  What about the money spent by the franchise to operate such as utilities, rent, supplies, food, etc.  That money stays local too.  Better a successful franchise than nothing at all.

        • Rand503 BuffaloBuck What if a local restaurant on Elmwood become so successful that they expanded into a national restaurant chain but remained based here in Buffalo and profited from all its chain restaurants around the country because the money was sent back here?  Would he hate them because they became a national chain restaurant?

        • BuffaloBuck Rand503 I agree — better a successful franchise than no business at all.  But that’s not my argument.  Of course it doesn’t matter that a franchise began as a corporate model, contra to your earlier suggestion.  Of course employees earn money, which is the same for a locally owned business.  Of course the franchise pays for utilities and so on.
          Penzey’s is actually a great addition to Elmwood. (And that actually did start as a small business that expanded).  That’s because there is nothing like it in WNY and the quality is high, and you can’t obtain their spices otherwise, unless your order by mail or online. It’s a draw that pulls people from all over WNY.
          Globe also serves that function.  Although there are delis and other eateries in WNY, none are just like Globe.  IT’s  a draw — another reason to go to Elmwood instead of Transit Rd for an afternoon of shopping and eating.  
          Not so Panera.  You can them in many places around WNY, the exact same thing.  That might be good for people who live in the Elmwood area, but it isn’t a draw for people in the suburbs.  Plus, it isn’t that much more unique than Five Points Bakery or any other eateries.  It’s perfectly fine, but I can get a soup or salad just as good in dozens of places around town.  
          Yes, it’s better than an empty storefront.  And they are probably better than most other chains even.  But that hardly means its the best use of Elmwood Ave.

        • BuffaloBuck Rand503 Nope, because the economic activity would generate tremendous advantages.  And there is some cache in having the “original” located right on Elmwood.
          For those who conflicted, I would argue that’s a happy conundrum to have.

        • BuffaloBuck Having said that, I ‘m not against Panera Bread presence.  I am hoping that they will help create a synergy that will draw more traffic to that area, and more people will discover Elmwood and Globe and Spot and all ther other great places there.  
          I would prefer all locally owned, but Panera isn’t a bad choice by any means.  And if they help boost foot traffic, that’s good.  The only danger is if their success means landlords raise the rents higher across the avenue so much that it forces out the locally owned, and only the deep pockets of chains can survive.  that would NOT be good.

        • Rand503 BuffaloBuck That will ever happen but personally, I don’t care if the whole street is chain restaurants but that’s just my capitalistic ideology coming out.  Don’t worry, I believe Elmwood will always be a healthy mixture of national and local businesses.  I just don’t like it when people become so close-minded to chains that they lose sight of what economic growth is all about.

        • Rand503 BuffaloBuck
          As far as I am concerned, let them raise the retail rents on Elmwood. Its not to the detriment of Elmwood so much as the benefit of other up and coming retail strips that are looking for retail capable of being a significant draw to act as an anchor.
          An average player on Elmwood would be an major player if not prime anchor on Main, Delaware, Grant or Niagara. They could stabilize an big part of the surrounding neighborhood.
          For me…Id like to see less retail on Elmwood. Id like to see more residential on Elmwood rather than more retail.

  11. There’s some irony in the fact that one of the world’s largest suppliers to these chains is located just a few blocks away, Rich products.
    Not taking sides on the chain vs. local discussion, just a couple of facts.  The big advantage for the chain is using a pre-packaged par-baked product that only needs to be be reheated.  It eliminates waste, and reduces the wages in the kitchen (you don’t need a baker who understands yeast) and the amount of equipment is greatly reduced. 
    Another way to eliminate the expense of a kitchen (other than a convection oven), some chains will use local suppliers.  When Starbucks first came in the area, they visited various bakeries, and allowed them to compete for the contract by Fed-Ex’ing samples to the corporate office.  If I recall correctly, the local bakery needed to be edi capable, which limited the number of wholesale bakeries that could compete for the contract.  You also needed to deliver quite a distance daily.  I think Vito’s had the early contract.
    Today, I’m fairly certain they use their own parbaked, or a product from Rich’s that would be wholesaled by someone like Sysco or Maple Leaf.

    • bfranklin At Panera we have 2 bakers per day actually, one overnight baker, and one day baker.  The dough is brought in cold every single morning from a main center in Ohio.  We then prep and bake the bread that night for the next day.  As for our pastries, nothing really comes in ready to go, everything must be prepped and proofed and baked.  Not a single item has an preservatives, and everything that is left at the end of the night gets donated.  And at Panera at least, we don’t have any items from Rich Products.  We have a full size proofer, rack oven, and deck ovens.  Not any arguments, but just wanted to give you some info!

      • I don’t think my description was too far off.  Rather than being parbaked, the product is proofed and baked on site.  
        If you think about going to your favorite pizza place, sometimes you’ll get a crust that is either ‘thicker or thinner’ than normal.  Bringing the dough in each night removes some of that variability.  Similar to Subway not having a meat slicer, I don’t think Panera has a mixer, does it?  Maybe a small one, but I wouldn’t think they have anything over a 20qt.  
        Personally, I don’t mind some of Panera’s food.  If I’m buying something that’s being sold as ‘artisan’ bread, I’d prefer to support the onsite ‘artist’ that actually produced it from flour, yeast, etc.  Granted, the opportunities for doing this dwindle each year. 
        From Motley Fool below.
        Panera controls the quality of bread and other ingredients with 24 facilities that distribute to company stores and franchises daily. They supply dough for fresh bread along with tuna, cream cheese, and other consumables. Fresh dough is the key to their signature high quality, artisan bread. Distribution is through a leased fleet of 200 temperature-controlled trucks operated by their associates. They bake through the night shaping, scoring, and finishing the dough by hand ensuring fresh-baked loaves every morning and throughout the day. This segment is surprisingly profitable with 14% margins and 7.5% of total revenue.

  12. (sigh).  There is an empty parking lot across the street from the Avant.  Why can’t Uniland build their signature HQ building there?  There are empty parking lots on Franklin St as well. Why is it so necessary that Uniland build at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa — would it really ruin all their future earnings to be a block or two away from their ideal location?  Why is this particular spot so coveted that they just can’t do business from any other location?
    Really — shouldn’t we be encouraging infill with our new buildings rather than tearing down fine old buildings, and disrupting profitable businesses?  Every one of those, such as Bada Bing, will have to shut down and during the construction.  That’s lost revenue and taxes, but I guess everyone is okay with that because, hey, we get a shiny new building.  
    And we can’t — absolutely can NOT — criticize Uniland’s decision.  Oh no — they are building something new, and that creates jobs!  Plus it boosts our self esteem!  We need something new or else we just crumple up and die.  
    I’m so over this attitude that everything a big company wants to do is fine, even if they destroy the very thing that they brings them there and creates a desirable neighborhood.  And I’m way over this attitude that they must build RIGHT HERE and NO other location can be considered.  And they must TEAR DOWN the old because it just doens’t fit their plans.
    I’m not against this if they keep the building and build a tower behind it.  I don’t particularly care about the interiors either.  I’m willing to compromise.  So should Uniland.

Leave a Reply