Elite Group of Athlete Partners Open Sixth Panera Bread Along California's Central Coast | Be The Boss

Elite Group of Athlete Partners Open Sixth Panera Bread Along California's Central Coast


Mar 11, 2013

VENTURA, Calif., -- Panera Bread will open its first Ventura bakery-cafe on Saturday, October 8, co-owned by former USC All-American and NFL football star, and current ESPN broadcaster Keyshawn Johnson. The newest bakery-cafe is located at 4910 Telephone Road in Ventura, CA. This is the sixth location to open in the Central Coast area.

With its identity rooted in handcrafted, freshly-baked, artisan bread, Panera Bread is committed to providing great tasting, quality food that people can trust. Highlighted by antibiotic-free chicken, whole grain bread, select organic and all-natural ingredients and a menu with zero grams added trans-fat, Panera's bakery-cafe selection offers flavorful, wholesome offerings. The menu includes a variety of year-round favorites to complement seasonal items and breads baked fresh daily in each bakery-cafe by skilled bakers. The new bakery-cafe offers a warm and welcoming environment including intimate seating areas, comfortable chairs, a community table and free WiFi Internet access.

"My partners and I couldn't be more enthusiastic about Panera Bread opening its doors to the beautiful Central Coast community of Ventura," said Keyshawn Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, First Picks Bread Company, a Panera Bread Area Developer and franchisee. "Ventura Gateway is a special retail center and our hope is that it will become the community's gathering place where people can enjoy delicious and wholesome food in a casual and relaxed environment. The concept is a natural fit for this area and it will be well received by this community."

Johnson, along with an elite group of athlete partners and their management team are especially proud to contribute to the economic vitality within these trade areas. A new Panera Bread typically creates 50 to 75 new jobs within the communities they serve. That aspect of the business is especially gratifying to Miami Dolphin and First Picks Member, Reggie Bush; "Investing in Panera Bread is not only a solid investment for me, it's also something I can be proud of. We create new jobs and opportunities from the start of construction all the way to the opening of the doors. It's great to see that energy along with the enthusiasm of so many young people who are working in a cafe that I helped to develop."

Former NFL wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, one of the original members of the group echoes the same sentiments; "I have always wanted to be part of quality businesses, offering a quality product to its customers. By investing in this group, I can go even further than that. Now that I am retired from the NFL, I have had the opportunity to become more involved in truly learning the business. I visit locations, introduce myself to managers and associates, and have attended company award dinners. Being able to show my appreciation to the employees who work hard each and every day to make these places run has been a great experience for me as a business owner. It's something I can touch, feel and see."

Nine year NFL Veteran Anthony Henry agrees; "I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Ventura/Oxnard area as a Dallas Cowboy (the club has held training camps in Oxnard for the past several years). It's one thing to know you're investing in a brand; but it's another thing to go out to your very own locations, see lines out of the doors (as Henry recently experienced when visiting the Camarillo Panera Bread location, also owned by the group), people enjoying meals together, food being prepared, employees bustling, etc. Not only do you feel comfortable about your investment, you also begin to see the big picture, the growth, and the future potential. I knew football wasn't forever, so I wanted to be smart and thoughtful with my investments, and at the same time keep an eye on them."

Current defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys, Terence Newman (also a First Picks Member), has had an affinity for the brand for many years. Johnson and Newman were teammates on the Dallas Cowboys from 2004 thru 2006. Newman noticed players frequented the casual dining cafes, often ordering from the menu of wholesome soups, salads and sandwiches. Newman recognized early on that the Panera customer was a fiercely loyal one, and that the brand appealed to a discerning customer.

"When you witness that type of brand loyalty right in your own community and in your own neighborhood, and you see teammates, their families and even team executives coming into the practice facility with Panera bags, you begin to pay attention," says Newman.

When he learned that Johnson and his First Picks Team were awarded area developer rights for the brand in Southern California, he went to Johnson and his associates (they share the same wealth management firm, RGT Capital Management) and he began to study the First Picks playbook. Like Henry, Newman was very familiar with the Central Coast trade area, having been to many training camps in Oxnard with the Cowboys. "This is an investment you can study on paper, but when you see it in person, there's no question that the brand is performing, and more importantly my investment is performing for me in return."

Panera Bread Ventura is committed to serving the community through its participation in two charitable programs. Through the Day End Dough-Nation™ program, unsold bakery products are donated to local food banks. Additionally it will support the Community Breadbox™ program which ensures that donations made at Panera Bread support the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties, which First Picks matches by 50 percent.

For its VIP opening party on October 5, the bakery-cafe will host an event to benefit the organization with a silent auction and the sale of star cookies. "The support we have received from Panera Bread has been invaluable in helping Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties grant the wishes of children in our community," said Shanna Wasson-Taylor, Executive Director, Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties.

In partnership with 805 Living and Herzog Winery, the grand opening event will feature selections of the bakery-cafe menu paired with Herzog wine. "Our sustainable premium wines pair well with fresh foods, like Panera's sandwiches and salads," said Herzog winemaker Joe Hurliman. "It will be terrific to have them and their offerings in the neighborhood, as well as their support of our local charities."

Johnson and a number of his partners will be in attendance for the opening celebration (by invitation only). They are also available for interviews. The bakery-cafe will open at 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 8, and regular hours are Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

About Panera Bread Company
Panera Bread Company owns and franchises 1,493 bakery-cafes as of June 28, 2011 under the Panera Bread®, Saint Louis Bread Co.®, and Paradise Bakery & Cafe® names. We feature high quality, reasonably priced food in a warm, inviting, and comfortable environment. With our identity rooted in handcrafted, fresh-baked, artisan bread, we are committed to providing great tasting, quality food that people can trust. Nearly all of our bakery-cafes have a menu highlighted by antibiotic-free chicken, whole grain bread, and select organic and all-natural ingredients, with zero grams of artificial trans fat per serving, which provide flavorful, wholesome offerings. Our menu includes a wide variety of year-round favorites complemented by new items introduced seasonally with the goal of creating new standards in everyday food choices. In neighborhoods across the United States and in Ontario, Canada, our customers enjoy our warm and welcoming environment featuring comfortable gathering areas, relaxing decor, and free internet access. Our bakery-cafes routinely donate bread and baked goods to community organizations in need. Additional information is available on our website, http://www.panerabread.com.

About First Picks Management
First Picks Management is an area developer and franchisee for Panera Bread in Southern California and on the Central Coast of California. Founded in 2006, First Picks Management is a business development company for the enterprises of professional sports athletes and select high net-worth individuals. The group invests intellectual, human and financial capital into promising businesses for the prudent development and management of enterprises. To date, they have partnered with over a dozen professional sports athletes and business entities to achieve these objectives. They work with start-up entities as well as seasoned brands. www.firstpicksmgmt.com.

About Herzog Wine Cellars
Nestled within the strawberry fields and farm rows of Oxnard, California lies Herzog Wine Cellars. Here, under the watchful eye of head winemaker Joe Hurliman, the winery combines the artisan craft of premium California winemaking with the deliberation and unyielding standard of kosher supervision and Herzog family's heritage of perfection. Guests of Herzog Wine Cellars experience a wine making legacy spanning nine generations, in a stylish and modern winery that is nothing less that au courant. The grounds feature a lavish granite tasting bar, private tasting rooms, boutique and outdoor terrace. Discover the finer things here at Herzog Wine Cellars. www.herzogwinecellars.com

SOURCE Panera Bread