Customers sad to see Panera closing

The usual vibe at the Panera Bread in Cherry Creek Plaza was missing Sunday as staff counted down the hours before the store closed at 4 p.m.
 
“I’ve been coming here every day the last four or five years. I think it’s terrible,” said Martin McHale of Homewood who sat by the fireplace reading a newspaper. “They said they talked to the mayor and they weren’t going to close here. I really hate to see it close.”
 
The business has been in the plaza at 18416 Governors Highway for 15 years making their signature breads and cookies and serving up Panera’s famous panini sandwiches, soups and mac and cheese dishes with a slice of bread, chips or an apple on the side.
 
Most tables were empty and staff could be seen packing up supplies to move to the new Panera at 175th and Halsted Streets. One employee said it felt like “a break-up” with the community.
 
“It’s tragic,” said Jane Robinson of Hazel Crest.  She wasn’t sure Halsted would get her business. “It’s not the same. Halsted is so crazy busy but this is neighborhood. That’s the difference. That’s big commercial, this is neighborhood.”
 
Al Macey of Flossmoor said Sunday was “a sad day.  It breaks my heart.” He said the Panera TV commercials show a laidback environment. The Cherry Creek store was that and more, because it was a neighborhood location and close to Homewood-Flossmoor High School. The Halsted store won’t be anything like that.
 
Chabre Ross of Flossmoor said the new location “is definitely not as convenient for us. That’s a trek and it’s a busy road, a lot of congestion.”
 
One employee said staff wasn’t involved in the decision. No one from corporate asked them about what the store meant to them or their customers.  

“It’s all corporate. The people in St. Louis (Panera headquarters) don’t know anything about this store,” he said.

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld initiated a letter-writing campaign on March 12 in an attempt to persuade Panera officials to reconsider.

He said Sunday that he has not yet gotten a definite response from the company, although he hopes to hear something soon. He has heard from the Panera officals that residents are sending letters and email messages about the closure.

"They said they've received a lot of emails and letters," he said. "We have certainly made our position known to them."

Area residents who want to contact the company can reach President and CEO Blaine E. Hurst at Panera, LLC, 3630 South Geyer Road, Suite 100, St. Louis, MO 63127-1234 or  [email protected].
 
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