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Panera Bread offers ‘everyday oasis’

A new bakery that bills itself as “an everyday oasis” has opened in Madison. Panera Bread’s address is 8179 U.S. 72 W., adjacent to Target.

General manager Jennifer Russell describes Panera Bread as a “bakery/cafe that you can visit and eat lunch, dinner or simply a small snack. You can sit in our dining room with your laptop, read the paper and relax.”

Sourdough is a favorite bread flavor. Choices are country (white), French, three cheese, whole grain, honey wheat, sesame semolina and rye. Size varies from standard loaves to a “miche” yielding 10 sandwiches.

Summer’s most popular order is strawberry poppyseed chicken salad. “Our customers wait all year for that salad to come back,” Russell said. “It’s full of fresh-cut fruit and our antibiotic-free citrus pepper chicken.”

Cinnamon crunch bagels are another crowd favorite. “They’re baked fresh daily with cinnamon and vanilla chips throughout with a big pile of cinnamon sugar baked on top,” Russell said.

Unusual orders are no problem, even a bacon-turkey bravo sandwich on a blueberry bagel, which Russell once prepared.

Other choices at Panera Bread are whole grain and French baguettes, bagels, cookies, pastries, soups, salads, barista and smoothie drinks, hot panini sandwiches and cold sandwiches. Kids’ menu orders include beverage, a yogurt tube and choice of salad, sandwich or soup.

Russell’s eight-year career with Panera started in New Jersey, followed by Decatur and Huntsville. “And now Madison … hopefully for a long time,” she said. “I love this company. It’s a great place to work.” Russell oversees about 50 employees, with managers Timmy Kiker, Trista Bush, Tim Sullivan, Jordan Adams and Ashley Clem.

“I’m sure we’ll be successful in Madison. I’ve never heard someone say they don’t like Panera Bread,” Russell said. “Many customers have been waiting for us to open.”

“Running a successful restaurant is all in how I treat my employees. If I treat them with respect, they’ll in turn treat my customers like that. It’s the trickle-down effect,” she said.

The free “My Panera” program randomly rewards food freebies or discounts.

Daily hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Sunday opening at 7 a.m. For more information, call 256-721-7831 or visit panerabread.com.

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