Relocating anywhere always presents a series of challenges — learning new street layouts, knowing where to buy the freshest produce, and adapting to regional quirks, to name a few. Prior to moving permanently from the East Coast to Saint Louis in 2016, I was being flown into town to style food for an occasional shoot, usually for local clients. The most notable of those clients was the fast casual chain Panera.
While I knew Panera originated in St. Louis, and I had been to several of their locations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it wasn’t until I had spent the first year living in my new town that I realized the chain’s name wasn’t all it seemed to be. The conversations usually went something like this: A photo assistant, an art director, or a photographer I was working with for the first time would ask, “Who else do you work for locally?”. Of course I’d reply, “Panera.” as well as anyone else of interest I had been working for at the time. The response never varied, “You mean Bread Co.” (Pronounced C-O, Co, not company, BTW). “We call it Bread Co here.” or on occasion, “It’s The Saint Louis Bread Co.” I’d always quip, “Yeah, Bread Co.”, until I finally realized how passionate the locals are about this regional difference.
Even this stubborn ex-New Yorker knows when it’s a good time to do a little research and learn the whole story. My first (and last) step was to read the Wikipedia entry for Panera Bread. I wasn’t surprised to confirm the chain had originated in St. Louis County, but what I did not realize is that the original location of their first store was in my suburban town, Kirkwood. In 1993, the company was purchased by another infamous baking chain, Au Bon Pain. The name Panera was adopted at that time in order for the company to more easily expand beyond the St. Louis region. Learning these details definitely cleared up any remaining confusion I had regarding the company’s origins.
In short order, I too adapted to survive here in the city I now call home. Whenever it comes up, I’m always sure to correct myself and use “Bread Co” anywhere in the greater St. Louis area, and “Panera” when I’m anywhere else in the country. Whatever they’re called where you live, I can tell you firsthand, they’re always a pleasure to work for. The company is constantly developing and test-marketing new menu items, utilizing clean and natural ingredients as much as possible, as well as fostering a positive work environment for their employees. From a styling standpoint, this makes Bread Co and/or Panera an ideal client in my book!