DEARBORN (WWJ) – It looks like any other Panera Bread inside, but the Dearborn cafe isn’t like all the others. WWJ’s Kathryn Larson has more on their one year anniversary and why they celebrate Thanksgiving everyday.

Panera Cares General Manager Colleen Kincaid said they’re trying to offer the same kind of personal experiences that you’d get at a regular Panera Bread restaurant. But this Michigan Avenue Panera swirls their refreshing business model with kindness and community spirit.

Here, suggested prices on menu signs remind customers that donations run this cafe. People are encouraged to take what they need and donate their fair share. There are no prices or cash registers, only suggested donation levels and donation bins.

And no matter how you slice it, it’s an experiment in human nature that a year later continues to work.

“A lot of time you’ll see people come in and they’ll be concerned about the fact that they don’t have any money, but its absolutely, you know, that’s what we’re here for,” said Kincaid.

The operation works because of folks like John Thierry, who regularly stop by before work and stuff the donation box full of spare change or extra bills.

“I like the fact that they redistribute money. You see poor people in here once in a while who can’t afford to eat, and I always like to throw a little extra because of that,” said Thierry.

Panera Cares is a non-profit that’s all about shared responsibility. So if you can’t afford your meal, they ask that you sweep up, bus the tables or do whatever you can to help this project succeed.

“With the economy that we’re in, it’s just so needed around here that, you know, a mom can feed her kids for five bucks at a Panera Bread and get something that’s actually nutritious and that she feels good about feeding them,” said Kincaid.

And feeling good and giving thanks is something this Panera plans to do — even on Thanksgiving Day.


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