After nearly two decades of operations, the Westport Panera Bread will close next week.
Area franchisee Original Bread Inc. plans to shut down the location, at 4117 Mill St., at the close of business on May 19. It is offering the employees positions at its other 25 area locations.
Eric Cole, vice president of operations, said the lease and franchise agreement for the Westport location will be expiring soon. That, combined with the “decline of available, acceptable parking for our guests, has led us to make this decision.”
The Westport location opened in April 1997 under the chain’s original name of St. Louis Bread Co. It is tucked away behind a prominent parking lot in the heart of Westport, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Mill Street.
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But now that lot is under development for three operations — Insomnia Cookies, Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe and Qdoba Mexican Grill — that will block the view of Panera Bread and other establishments from Westport Road. It also will take away about 30 parking spaces.
Cole said sales at the Westport restaurant already have dropped in the last couple of years as more and more operations open up in the area and parking spots become harder to come by.
“Parking is getting tighter and tighter and tighter. The average consumer is not going to drive around looking for a parking space when they are on their lunch hour,” Cole said. “It’s a shame because we have been there for so long.”
Original Bread will continue to focus on finding new opportunities in its territory — the Kansas City metro and the state of Kansas. It recently added a patio to its location at 135th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park. It also plans to add a drive-thru to its Mission location this summer.
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