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New Cafe Adds to Transformation of Shopping Center: Panera Bread Set to Open

Changes to the strip mall at 711 N. Bedford Road continue with the opening of the trendy chain eatery that's expanding throughout the region.

The Bedford Green shopping center, located on Route 117 and near the Bedford Hills/Mount Kisco border, is best known for featuring Shop Rite and the new Marshall's shoe outlet. Soon it will add another attraction: Panera Bread.

The chain bakery-café is set to open Aug. 9. 

"This will become the 12th location that we own and operate," said Lowell Farkas, a partner in Take Home the Bread, the franchisee that plans to open 10 more Panera Bread restaurants in the lower Hudson Valley. "We felt that Bedford Hills was a location we wanted to be in."

Settling on the shopping center was an easy decision when Farkas noticed the free, abundant parking and easy access to the eatery for customers.

The center is undergoing several changes, with Marshalls and Panera moved in and a CVS pharmacy proposal on the table.

Panera Bread is known for its comfy setting, free wireless connection and its food–fresh-baked pastries, muffins, croissants, bagels and artisan breads. The dough is delivered daily to the restaurant and baked in-house nightly. They also offer a slew of smoothies, sandwiches, salads and soups (even ones served in sourdough bread bowls).

The opening is not anticipated by everyone with pleasure. Only a few storefronts down in the same shopping center is J&M Deli, a Bedford Hills establishment for 20 years. Owner Brenda Olivero doesn't have bread bowls for soup, or wireless internet. Her store has three eat-in tables. She worries that Panera will take away from her business, but hopes that her product will keep her clientele.

"Wouldn't you rather have fresh homemade deli food than chain food?" Olivero said.

J&M Deli frequent customer Jordan Koby would. He works in the shopping center's pharmacy, and will continue to eat at J&M even after Panera Bread opens.

"The food is excellent, the prices are excellent," he said. "I know the people there, I know their names, and they take care of you."

On the other side of the shopping center, at Premier Martial Arts, karate teachers Brandon Durham and Chad Weiss look forward to the opening of Panera Bread. They are fans of the antibiotic-free chicken and other healthy options offered on its menu, and think it will become a popular spot for their fitness-frenzied clientele.

"There's a lot of women that come kickbox here in the morning, and I can see them going over there for a coffee afterwards," he said.

But when it comes to Panera Bread putting J&M Deli out of business, Weiss doesn't think it's likely to happen.

"I think that in terms of clientele, there are always work trucks out there," he said. "Those guys like delis, they don't want to go to Panera Bread. That deli is a working man's deli, and I think it will continue to be so."

Panera's grand opening is stretched over a few weeks. Monday, Aug. 9 is the date when Panera will be up and running fully and Aug. 16 is the ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration. But first, from noon - 2 p.m. and 5 - 7 p.m Aug. 6 and noon - 2 p.m. Aug. 7, Panera will host an open house  "Friends and Family tasting."

"We invite all the neighborhood businesses and families to come in and we do a tasting for two hours," said Tony Diaz, another partner in "Take Home the Bread."

Diaz explained that all the guests from the community will be provided with play money that they can use to order real food and beverages.

"It's advertising for us, but at the same time we train our employees," Diaz explained.

Connection to community could be considered a "pillar of Panera." As part of the chain's philosophy, all bread is baked fresh the night before it is served. Unsold product is donated at the end of each day.

"The average Panera donates about $140,000 worth of retailed food yearly," Lowell said. "For the opening, we will be making a donation to the Westchester Food Bank, our donation partner at this time."

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