Remembering Panera

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Good afternoon,

The sign is off the building at Panera on Newark’s Main Street.

The popular spot for students and baby boomers was another casualty of Covid-19.The same seems to be true with the location at Christiana Mall.

Panera served as a backdrop for the effort that eventually led to Delaware Business Now.

Back in the final days of the Delaware Business Ledger, it was a convenient meeting place, especially when the office we shared with theNewark Posttook on a funereal air after a staff downsizing during the financial crisis.

Mark Corrigan and I soldiered on with the Post and with the help of other dedicated people at our bank-owned parent company helped the weekly celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Along the way, we looked for ways to survive in the digital age. Some of those conversations took place at Panera, Santa Fe, Catherine Rooney’s, and a couple of other spots around town.

Panera took on added importance once the ax fell at the Post.

The newspaper now operates remotely from its mother ship in Elkton, MD, with Josh Shannon keeping community journalism alive in the college town.

The restaurant was perfectly situated for quick meetings or as a getaway from the home office. Parking was usually available at the city lot behind the building.

Coffee was self-serve and there was always a tempting breakfast item. At the time, pastry from Starbucks was suspect and its coffee, while a step up from Panera, was and is overpriced.

AsDelaware Business Nowfound its niche in the market, Panera meetings trailed off.Construction on Main Street did not help either. Meetings sometimes ended up at Paneras on Kirkwood Highway or Concord Pike.

Looking back, the Newark Panera did not lend itself to the socially distanced age of Covid-19. The loss of foot traffic as the university remained largely closed was probably the last straw.

Even before the pandemic, the chain was moving toward a business model that focused on carryout and less contact with those pesky customers.

Brewhaha survives as an independent coffee spot on Main Street. Looking back, it deserved more than an occasional visit. Still, I will miss Panera as a stop on this interesting digital journey. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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