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Thursday, February 7, 2008

RIP Panera Tower City: Eulogy from a downtown professional woman

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2008 at 5:49 AM

This week we received the heart-breaking news that the Panera in Tower City is no more. Its absence leaves a gaping hole in the overpriced tuna-on-white, slightly bruised apples, and soups-in-a-bread bowl market. Panera was an oasis in a desert of greasy food court options. Sure, maybe there was an occasional hair in the black bean soup, but its delectable honey wheat loaves were an overpowering force next to Taco Bell or Sbarro… Ah, how well we recall the days when the midday line to purchase your savory French onion soup and apple chicken salad stretched out the door. Well-dressed men in suits and buffed loafers waited patiently beside women in government-issued name tags. Where will the giants of banking and commerce dine now? To make matters worse, your exodus comes on the heels of Ann Taylor and The Body Shop’s similar abandonment of Tower City. Alas, all we have left are the skanky-teen apparel options at Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe. Please, Gods of Consumption, can’t we even get a TJ Maxx? Apparently Covelli Enterprises, which ran the Panera franchise, was fed up with this trend too. Allen Ryan, director of corporate affairs, cited the loss of these shops, along with previous mall anchors like Dillard’s, as a main reason for closing the Tower City eatery. “Any time you have a number of tenants that have pulled out… it definitely has an effect on our decision,” he says. When Panera opened at Tower City nine years ago, the mall “was a totally different place,” he says. In other words, suburbanites still shopped there. Recently, mall owner Forest City has tried to reverse the hemorrhaging. It kicked out the rowdy teens, but nothing seems to work. Downtown’s greatest mall is dying without you, Panera. Please come back, lest we be forced to cast our affections to KFC. – Lisa Rab

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