Panera Bread restaurant coming to Island Park


John Vitale, the Island Park man who owns and operates the Bridgeview Yacht Club among other businesses is beaming these days with news that the national chain restaurant Panera Bread will soon move into a shopping center he has developed just north of the Long Beach Bridge.

“This is big news,” Vitale told a Herald reporter. “This could be the key to the revitalization of Island Park because this is the first national tenant to come to the community since Sandy struck last October.”

Panera Bread restaurants are considered to be ‘fast casual” restaurants rather than “fast food” restaurants, Vitale said, adding that diners at restaurants in that category are up five percent while many other types of restaurants are down in terms of customers.

Panera Bread serves a variety of bread products, soups, salads and sandwiches and has hundreds of outlets around the nation.

Vitale said that he is hoping to get the outlet open in mid-October, but that it would certainly be ready for customers no later than November 1.

Vitale said that he was looking for a national brand to anchor the shopping center after Sandy and that Panera found him.

A spokesperson for the restaurant chain said that it is building the 25-seat restaurant in Island Park because it has the demographic population that makes its restaurants successful.

The chain already has 10 outlets on Long Island, with the closest to Island Park being in Rockville Centre and Lawrence.

Vitale said that he was still unsure of what other stores would populate the shopping center, which is anchored by a supermarket that has been in place since before Sandy.

He indicated that there are a couple of strong possibilities that still need to be finalized, he said, including a large gym and a dance studio.

Meanwhile, he is looking forward to next summer and the reopening of the Long Beach boardwalk.

“Our business will really begin when the boardwalk reopens,” Vitale concluded. “That is a key to this entire area.”