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Dave Olson, Published September 23 2013

The wait is over: Fargo store satisfies Panera Bread fans

FARGO – Anne Sandsmark and her father, Merle Sorum, are big fans of Panera Bread, so they were among the first to check it out when North Dakota’s first Panera opened here Monday morning.

“I’m from Tampa, Fla. I love Panera down there. Every time my dad comes to visit me, we go to Panera,” said Sandsmark, who lives in Florida and was visiting her dad Monday.

It’s true, her father said, adding that when he visits his daughter in Florida, they make it to Panera Bread two or three times a week.

And he always orders the same thing:

“The cinnamon crunch and hazelnut coffee,” he said.

Did Fargo’s new store live up to their expectations?

“Definitely,” Sandsmark said. “It was delicious. And, of course, the people are so friendly and nice.”

Shane Quail, joint venture partner in Panera Bread, said traffic at the store early Monday was steady and lunchtime was expected to be even better.

He said the Fargo store, located across the parking lot from West Acres, is somewhat unique among Panera Bread locations because it is free-standing.

“Typically, we’re inside a mall, or part of a strip mall,” he said.

Quail said a Panera Bread that is set to open Oct. 8 in Grand Forks is in front of a Sam’s Club, and other Panera Bread stores will open next year in Minot and Bismarck.

Among those eager to try Fargo’s Panera Monday were Holly Winther and Ellen Odland, both of Fargo.

“We were excited, so we wanted to come today when it opened,” Odland said. Both gave the restaurant high marks.

“It was delicious,” Winther said.

“Everything’s really fresh,” Odland said.

Panera Bread hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The phone number is (701) 492-4598.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555