If you love fresh warm bread and the cozy feeling that you get when you step inside a bakery, then you'll be thrilled to know that had its grand opening Tuesday.
You couldn't miss it. Customers were standing in front of the business bright and early, at the corner of Lark Avenue and Los Gatos Boulevard, eager to try what they could smell miles away—the aroma of freshly baked "pan," the Latin word for bread.
"It was fantastic ... folks started lining up at 5:57 a.m.," said Jeff Burrill, managing partner of Pangenera, LLC., the regional developer for all the Panera Bread bakeries and cafes in the South Bay.
Doors opened earlier than the normal 6 a.m. start, because of the large volume of customers waiting outside the bakery to be served on opening day. "It was busy throughout the day. It was an amazing opening," Burrill said.
Los Gatan Tracie Smith, 52, and girlfriends Jenni Baker and Victoria Bale, went to the bakery on Wednesday.
"We're foodies here and we're very particular," Smith said. "We want natural things, and that's why this falls in perfect, because it has natural products and it's all baked fresh every night. It's long overdue, and they're very welcome here."
Smith was taking advantage of the "you pick two" deal, which lets you choose between a half sandwich, salad or bowl of soup.
Burrill said compared with the openings of the other eight stores that his business manages, the Los Gatos opening was the most successful. "This Los Gatos cafe is already exceeding our high expectations," he said.
He estimated the cafe had a couple of dozen people served within the first hour of opening, and a Panera ambassador greeted customers by giving them fresh, out-of-the oven hot French baguette samples.
The Los Gatos location is the ninth one that Pangenera, LLC. has opened. The other businesses are in Campbell, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Gilroy, Millbrae and three locations in San Jose, Burrill said.
The cafe, which is part of the national bakery and restaurant chain Panera Bread Co., is 4,450 square feet and features an outdoor patio facing Los Gatos Boulevard with an outdoor fireplace. The business' total seating capacity is 99.
Good news for the economy is that it's given full- and part-time jobs to about 45 people, Burrill said.
The cafe hopes to continue to build its reputation on the fact that its bread is baked fresh every day in-house from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. "All the sandwiches that our customers are eating are on bread that we bake right here," Burrill said. "Our pastries and cookies are also baked here throughout the day."
Asked who he would be competing with in town, Burrill said, "We're quite unique in what we offer. We have a niche that's broadly accepted. We're an authentic bakery, and our cafe offers soups, salads and sandwiches."
The business, open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, also specializes in catering and delivering food to offices, parties and community events.