It is with great sadness that I write about the closing of Panera Cares in Dearborn. Readers of this blog will know how greatly I admired the actual location on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, but also the innovative hybrid business model.
It was a true community gathering space, where a cross section of Metro-Detroiters would mingle. Students, families, retirees, business people, the unemployed-of a wide variety of racial and socio-economic categories would enjoy a hot cup of coffee and comforting soup all based on your ability to pay. If you could afford to, you were asked to chip in a little extra, if you were struggling financially, you could get a meal and were asked to volunteer your time. The staff were always so friendly and welcoming, helping to create a convivial community atmosphere.
A family travelling could stop in and get a delicious day old loaf of bread or bagels for a snack on the long car ride back to Ohio, Illinois or Kentucky after visiting family, or the historical sites.
Metro Detroit seemed like such a wonderful location for a Panera Cares, the combination of midwestern pragmatism and down to earth community sensibilities, but unfortunately the economic realities of bills and rent supposedly became too much at this time.
Although the Panera Cares website states that there are no new locations being considered at this time, I am holding onto hope that this great idea is simply a few years ahead of its time.
In November, the time when late fall yields to winter and we prepare for the long chill ahead, when we both remember our losses and give thanks for the harvest, those of us fortunate to travel might give pause to recall the many in America for whom food security is a daily struggle.
Check out the PaneraCares.org website for more info on food security and to watch Ron Shaich speak at Tedx St. Louis.
Family Questions for Discussion
1. What is food insecurity?
2. How many American's are reportedly affected by food insecurity?
3. What are some of the family travel experiences for which you are most thankful?
4. What are some of the best ways to foster gratitude while you are travelling?
5. What is the Panera Cares "business" model?
6. Could it work for other restaurants or types of businesses?