Ready to roll: Panera Bread opens at Kings Plaza

A WHOLE WHEAT WELCOME: Participating in the traditional “breaking bread” ceremony outside of the new Kings Plaza Panera are Rick Russo, vice president of member services for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Tim Doherty, vice president of development for Doherty Enterprises — franchisee of Panera Bread Brooklyn; Greg George, vice president of operations for Panera Bread New York; Borough President Markowitz; and Racine Rodriguez of City Harvest.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Here’s a bread line everyone wants to join!

Panera Bread, an artisanal bakery, sandwich and soup chain, opened its first Brooklyn franchise at Kings Plaza in Mill Basin on Nov. 14 — and bread lovers throughout the borough are cheering its arrival.

“This place is great…I love this stuff,” said Canarsie resident Diane Strachan, who was one of the first to enter the brand new Flatbush Avenue bread shop near Avenue U. “I used to go to one in Baltimore and when I heard one was opening here, I made sure we were here early.”

Panera, the Missouri-based company that boasts “cozy conversation nooks,” free WiFi, and a varied selection of pastries, specialty breads, sandwiches, paninis, soups, and salads, considers itself a high end cafe for “fast casual” eating.

It will join McDonald’s, Sbarros, Nathan’s, Cinnabon, Taco Bell and Subway at the mall, but it won’t be part of Kings Plaza per-se: there is no way to get to Panera from inside the mall, so if you want a pastry, you’ll have to leave the mall and use the door facing Flatbush Avenue.

Officials at Kings Plaza say no mall entrances were installed because Panera will be open later.

Actually, workers will be inside Panera at all times: when the eatery closes at 10 pm, bakers start baking the bread for the next morning.

Borough President Markowitz celebrated Panera’s arrival by joining in the company’s customary “breaking bread” ceremony outside of the store.

“[Panera bread] means more jobs and more fattening options for guys like me,” Markowitz said as he perused the cookies and sticky treats. “It’ll be good for Brooklyn, because so many people are looking for work right now.”

Panera said that it will employe 120 people between the Kings Plaza store and its second location on Adams Street between Johnson and Willoughby streets in downtown Brooklyn, which is expected to open in February.

Tom Doherty, vice president of development for Panera Bread, said his company chose to put its first Brooklyn franchise in Kings Plaza because of its location.

“[The store] has beautiful visibility from both Flatbush Avenue and Avenue U,” he said. “We like the Mill Basin community and I think we will be well accepted here.”

Yet not everyone was over the moon about Panera’s arrival — and doesn’t think it will fill the hole left behind by the closing of the beloved Kings Plaza Diner.

“This is just another fast food restaurant like McDonald’s,” said Marine Park resident Joe Leib, who showed up to sample Panera’s wares on Monday — and found the eatery wanting. “This is not going to replace the Kings Plaza Diner. I want a place where I can get my eggs made fresh.”

Panera Bread [5100 Avenue U at Flatbush Avenue in Mill Basin, (718) 252-1300]. Open Monday–Saturday 7 am to 10 pm; Sunday 7 am to 9 pm.

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

Anita Quinn welcomes you to Panera Bread Brooklyn.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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