It's been open for almost a month now... and we're just getting to the review. There's a reason for that though... the place has literally been to busy to find an open space to eat! I mean... we're talking about lines out the door and parking lots so full that they are overflowing into surrounding businesses lots. We finally ventured out to Panera Bread, determined to find an open table this time. When we did we were pleasantly greeted with everything we have learned to love about Panera Bread.

Duluth's (and the Northland's) first Panera Bread is located within the Hansen Center, a new retail development located off of Maple Grove Road. This location is set up a little differently than most Panera Bread locations we have been to in the past as not only does it have a drive thru, but it also is a production facility. The building itself is basically split in half... with half being dining space and the other half being used for production.

It seems that when new restaurants and retailers come to Duluth they under estimate the amount of traffic their locations will see. So that means that they often design their buildings and spaces on the smaller side of things (we saw this with the first Noodles & Company location), and unfortunately we see that happen with the new Panera Bread location. In our minds we think it wouldn't have hurt to have built a little more dining space as it was quite cramped when we came and that was mid afternoon on a weekday. But let's be honest, we're just thankful to finally have a Panera Bread up here.

What's nice about the Duluth location is that from the moment you enter the door you're immersed in baked goods. The ordering area features walls lined with baked breads and goodies, along with display space abutting the que line area. There's also bar seating along the window area and in front of some of the baked goods display area. The cash registers are squeezed pretty tightly together.. so make sure you pay close attention to where you're standing so that you are in fact in line to order and not in a crowd of people admiring baked goods. Some people get quite aggressive for those deliciously baked Panera Bread goods.

From the registers there is a corridor that runs along the prep area where you eventually will pick up that delicious salad, soup, or sandwich (or both) of yours. Conveniently the restrooms are located down this corridor in case you need to make a pit stop before you pick up your food. A self service soda machine is located adjacent to this area, along with utensils and other necessary dining materials.

The dining area is spacious in a horizontal sense... if that makes sense. It runs the whole length of the building and is pretty skinny. We didn't see a seating count of how many occupants could fit in the space, but we are assuming it must be under the 75 mark. We could be mistaken though. Art work covers the walls which are painted in neutral tones, while modern light fixtures hang from the ceiling and walls. A mixture of wooden tables, chairs, and booths, covered with accents of brightly colored fabrics fill the space. A fireplace divides part of the dining spaces, while wooden shutters separate the pick up area from the dining area.

Our thoughts on the space? It's beautiful and very fitting for Duluth. It's great that Panera Bread has finally decided to call Duluth home and we fully believe that Duluth will welcome Panera Bread in with wide open arms... and empty bellies. We wish the space could have been a little larger, but understand there were many confining elements to the site. The staff at this particular Panera Bread were energetic, helpful, and overall knowledgable about their job. This location looks to be having great success so far and we firmly believe that it will continue to in the future. We also have heard that Panera Bread hopes to open additional locations in the near future in East Duluth, West Duluth, and Superior, which may help with the lack of parking and dining space.

And last but not least... you want to see what we ate right? Well... it's always smart to go with the Pick Two option! This is what we chose!

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And below are some picture of the actual meal... in case you were wondering...




Hansen Center openings begin!

Duluth's most anticipated retail center in quite some time is finally coming to life after a year of construction. Three of the four tenants for the Hansen Center have officially opening for business. We've only had a chance to tour one, but can't wait to see the others!

The Vitamin Shoppe opened right at the end of December as the first official retailer of the Hansen Center project. They're located in one of three retail buildings that is that is located closest to the neighboring Wendy's restaurant (which is closed for renovations... that's a whole other story!);. They won't be the only one in the building though as Sleep Number also recently moved in next door. We stopped by the new Vitamin Shoppe and were quite impressed. It's big, yellow, and filled with vitamins... as one would expect we hope. We've tour the concept store at various locations in the Twin Cities, but were greatly impressed to see the new prototype shown in Duluth. It's quite large, very modern, and much easier graphically to find the perfect vitamin or supplement for your needs. The store houses every vitamin under the sun, along with supplements, energy drinks, powders, etc. So if your health conscious mind can dream it... it's probably at The Vitamin Shoppe.

Verizon Wireless opened at the very end of January marking their journey from their temporary home at the Miller Hill Mall (due to flood damages at their original store) finally complete . Their new store debuted as the first Verizon Wireless "Smart Store" prototype in northern Minnesota and employees 16 people. Here's what you'll notice is different. First office, the store feels huge (it's 3,600 square feet), that's due in part to the better organization, higher ceilings, and ultimately just the clean modern design. But's not only bigger, but also organized far better as we just mentioned. Instead of grouping products simply by types, there is a more interactive approach taken to the store design. There are different areas scattered about the represent daily aspects of life. In each of these areas you'll find the perfect electronics to make this daily tasks just a little easier. The store features a modern design and closely resembles Verizon Wireless' new Destination Store at Mall of America. Check it out! 

Sleep Number has also officially made the move from the Miller Hill Mall. Boy, oh boy, will you notice a difference too! This no longer is the Sleep Number store that you were used to. It's huge. 3,500 square feet to be right. Yeah it's a little dramatic of a change from basically the closet their old store was located in. But trust us, it's one you'll appreciate. Sleep Number is now in a space that is almost four times the size. What does this mean for you? Well first off, happier employees who now have more space to room... not to mention natural daylight. But for you it means more bed space, which intern means you have more options to try out in order to find that bed that literally feels like a cloud. It also means that the "exclusives" will finally have arrived to Duluth. Everyone likes an exclusive product... let alone an exclusive bed. There's also more retail space for other various products/accessories that will help you create the perfect sleep experience. Customers will also take notice in other added conveniences such as bathrooms, drinking fountains, and sitting areas.

Lastly, but not the least by any means, Panera Bread will open up shop by the end of this month or early march. They're currently in the process of hiring 80 people, so if you need a job and love bread... go to their website. Plus, don't forget this location has a DRIVE THRU Now let us be honest... that opening will be a whole story in itself. We can't even begin to contain our excitement! Until then we will all wait eagerly for those delicious cookies, bread bowls, soups, sandwiches, salads, croissants, bagels... should we stop now or later?