By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal business writer
Residents of the Ellet area of Akron have been asking, “Where’s the bread?”
They have been waiting months for a Panera Bread franchisee to break ground on a new restaurant adjacent to the Wedgewood Plaza on Wedgewood Drive.
Now it has been revealed that Covelli Enterprises Inc., a major Panera Bread franchisee headquartered in Warren, has apparently dropped its plans for the eatery. The news comes more than a year after Akron City Council approved plans for the single-story restaurant.
This week, councilman Bob Hoch, who represents Ward 6 where the restaurant was to be located, said residents are disappointed.
Hoch said East Akron residents, who often travel to dining spots in suburban commercial districts, were looking forward to having a new restaurant and gathering spot in their own neighborhood.
“I’ve had people coming up to me and saying, ‘When is the Panera coming in?’ ” Hoch said. “They really wanted to see this happen in their community.”
Hoch said he learned last week from Joe Albrecht of real estate developer Albrecht Inc., which owns the Wedgewood Drive property, that Covelli no longer wants to build on the site.
Albrecht said in an interview with the Beacon Journal that “it’s my understanding” that Covelli will not build on the site. Covelli continues to lease the site.
Albrecht is a vice president at Albrecht Inc., the real estate unit related to Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Co., operator of Acme Fresh Market stores. Albrecht Inc. developed the Wedgewood Plaza, which is anchored by an Acme store.
A woman answering the phone at Covelli Enterprises said Tuesday, “As far as I know they are not going ahead with that.” She referred questions to Alan Ryan, Covelli’s director of corporate affairs, who did not return a call seeking comment.
The planned Panera was to feature a new design with a drive-thru. Many of Panera’s locations do not have drive-thrus.
Akron City Council approved plans for the restaurant on Jan. 14 last year.
Covelli owns about 250 Panera Bread restaurants in Northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as portions of Florida and Toronto, Canada.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.