Panera Bread fills a very large void

I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is a choice that comes with many drawbacks, as well as many advantages, much like any other geographical location on the planet.

Some of the main advantages include cost of living, diverse and beautiful terrain, seasonal changes, and being relatively close to large cities like Philadelphia and New York City.

Some of the disadvantages include the weather, which we’ve discussed before (and is purely my opinion which is not held by all), but there is also one other one that has plagued me personally for the last 10 years or so. Technological uptake in this area is incredibly slow. Most of the 20th Century, for this area, was devoted to working in Mines. Only a few generations ago, many people in this area never finished High School to help support the family. This effects many generations thereafter, including my own.

Many that I went to school with are still totally technologically ignorant. The generation after me uses technology very limitedly (cell phones and gaming mostly), but there are not many businesses in our area that are overly reliant on technology beyond point-of-sale systems and credit card machines.

This has made this area technologically stagnant. So, when I see photos all over the place of people gathering in groups at nice cafes to get work done, or having meetups or “camps”, I am actually unable to participate due to plain old geography.

Panera Bread recently opened a branch about twelve miles from me. Its reasonably accessible, has free wi-fi and has the perfect atmosphere that is conducive to relaxing and getting work done. This fills a very large void for most of the people in this area.

That isn’t to say that our area hasn’t been edging ever closer to this though. Ever since Walmart started selling 802.11b routers for reasonable prices, hotspots have been popping up all over the place (mainly in peoples homes and inside businesses). Which means that when you drove around, you could find a wi-fi connection with relative ease. However, we have a Borders book store and a Starbucks that do not have wi-fi at all. We have McDonald’s which offers wi-fi for about $2.99USD per two hours. But who wants to sit inside of a McDonald’s?

I spent a few hours in Panera Bread yesterday, scoping it out. The prices are reasonable, the food was great and the environment was very good. I can definitely see myself visiting often – now if I could just find four or five people to join me.