Following the opening of Cook Out and The Willow Bistro this summer, Murray may soon be home to another new restaurant: Panera Bread.
In a statement from Panera Bread Company spokeswoman Amanda Burns, the cafe and bakery chain is targeting the spring of 2015 for the opening of its new restaurant in Murray. The company is planning to build in front of Office Depot and north of Cracker Barrel.
David Roberts, director of Planning and Engineering for the City of Murray, said his department received and completed a review of Panera’s site plan, which included the layout, grading and utilities of the proposed building.
Roberts said they are now waiting on Panera to send in an application for a building permit, which he expects to receive soon.
“I’m assuming from the questions and comments I’m getting from (Panera) that they’re wanting to move forward with this project very quickly,” he said.
Kirsten Shelton, freshman from Mount Vernon, Ill., said she is happy to hear a Panera might be opening in Murray.
“Every time I go home and when I come back (to Murray) I stop in the Panera in Paducah and get a little something,” she said. “A lot of the fast food places here are either burger joints or Mexican restaurants, so a Panera would definitely be successful here.”
William Copeland, sophomore from Chicago, said he is also excited about the possibility of an alternative to fast food coming to Murray.
“It’s about time,” Copeland said. “There aren’t a lot of places around here that really prioritize on organics and authenticity. Believe it or not, a lot of people of people don’t like to eat fast food.”
While plans for the restaurant’s construction are already underway, Panera’s coming to Murray has not yet been confirmed publicly by the city.
Aaron Dail, president and CEO of the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce, said until the deal is done, there’s no guarantee the restaurant will establish its first location in town.
“I know there have been a ton of rumors and unfortunately people talk,” Dail said. “Unfortunately rumors are just that, they’re rumors. So until something is public and official it could very well not be happening.”
In January 2013, it was announced by the Murray Planning Commission that Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches would be purchasing a location in Murray near the corner of 12th and Olive streets. The deal, however, fell through.
Dail said any new business or commercial entity establishing itself in town will be helpful to Murray, locally-owned or not. He said he hopes if Panera comes to Murray that the citizens will not neglect local business.
Andrew Pilgrim, owner of Gigabites Cafe & Deli, said while Panera would serve the same niche market as his store, he is not too worried about the chain’s possible arrival.
“I guess my only concern is that with Panera coming in, they’re a fast food chain everybody knows so it might pull some business away,” Pilgrim said. “But I don’t look at people going to Panera any different than I look at people going to McDonald’s or wherever else in town.”
Pilgrim said he is not sure how much of an effect Panera’s opening might have on his store, but said Murray’s market is big enough to support both restaurants.
He said some competition with Panera may lead to the addition of more services from Gigabites.
“I may adopt some ideas from them or there might be things they do that we don’t offer yet,” he said. “I know they offer a few items we don’t offer, but they’re things I’ve already considered offering. We’re not going to try and ‘beat’ Panera Bread. I just want to meet the needs of the people who are coming.”
Story by Ben Manhanke Staff writer