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NFL’s Keyshawn Johnson Opens Santa Barbara’s First Panera Bread Bakery-Café

State Street eatery, in La Cumbre Plaza, will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday

Former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson is opening the first Panera Bread in Santa Barbara.

Panera Bread is a popular bakery-café chain that serves freshly baked breads, bagels, pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads. The Santa Barbara location, at 3851 State St. in La Cumbre Plaza, will celebrate its grand opening Saturday.

“Panera Bread is a brand that fits so well with the California lifestyle,” said Johnson, CEO of First Picks Management. “Good food, great ingredients, exceptional customer service in a relaxed atmosphere. You can’t get more ‘California’ than that.”

Johnson, a current ESPN analyst, founded his business development company as a means to pursue his business interests in the food service, hotel and real estate industries. The Panera Bread franchisee and area developer has partnered with more than a dozen athletes since the company’s 2006 inception, including former NFL wide receiver Dennis Northcutt.

“Investing in Panera Bread is not only a solid investment for me, it’s also something I can be proud of,” said Northcutt, adding that the store will add 50 to 75 jobs. “We create new jobs and opportunities from the start of construction all the way to the opening of the doors.”

Panera Bread will donate unsold bakery products to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County through the Day End Dough-Nation program and supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation through the Community Breadbox initiative.

The bakery-café will also hold a silent auction to benefit the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, formerly the Santa Barbara Breast Cancer Institute, at its invitation-only event Friday.

“The support we have received from Panera Bread has been invaluable in helping raise money for our cause,” Love said, “and we are pleased they selected us to be the beneficiary of cookie sales for its first week of opening.”

Chipotle will move in next to Panera Bread this spring at the former Baja Fresh location, and Backyard Bowls opened its La Cumbre location last October.

Saturday’s grand opening event of Panera Bread will feature selections of the bakery-café menu paired with Bridlewood wine. It will open at 6 a.m. this Saturday, and regular hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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