Panera to open new Shelton location Monday, more businesses opening soon

SHELTON — Panera Bread is opening in Fountain Square next week with, according to the site’s contractor, more businesses coming online in short order.

Daniel Witkins, Sr., of DFW Building Co., the construction manager for the Fountain Square project, confirmed Thursday that the eatery will be opening Monday on the site located at 801 Bridgeport Ave.

Work on Fountain Square — which remained dormant for more than a year after the start of the pandemic in March 2020 — began again in earnest last fall. Panera Bread’s opening marks the first tenant to open its doors.

“We are 75 to 80 percent filled,” Witkins said. “The remainder of the leases are being negotiated right now. There is very little available square footage left, really.”

The site’s developers, Fountain Square, LLC, announced last September that construction of the 801 Bridgeport Ave. property had resumed. The site, at the intersection with Parrott Drive, was formerly occupied by the United Illuminating Co.

“The slowdown (with construction) was due to financing and inability to get materials on time,” Witkins said. “But we did not lose any tenants.”

Last September, the developers announced they had obtained the necessary financing to once again begin work, but the inability to get materials in a timely fashion slowed the project.

This did not stop the developers from securing tenants for the site. Witkins said negotiations are ongoing with a well-known grocery store operation but could not confirm the identity at this time.

Witkins said the most talked about tenant — Chick-fil-A — is still coming, as is Wafu, a Korean BBQ; Jersey Mike’s; DQ Grill and Chill; Pokemoto; a liquor store; a jewelry store; and Metro Mattress, a New York-based firm opening in the building housing Panera Bread next month.

Metro Mattress owner Bill Spudis called the market in Shelton “fertile,” making it a perfect location to continue his operation’s expansion into Connecticut.

“The shopping center is going to be beautiful,” Spudis added.

Spudis said the company — a family-owned business opened 45 years ago — is based in Syracuse, N.Y. There are presently three Metro Mattress stores in Connecticut, with another two dozen — including the Shelton location — planned to open throughout the state.

“We are not the cheapest, but we are the best value for the dollar at a time when the dollar is worth less and less every single day,” Spudis said. “People who come to our stores, for their money, will not find a better value.”

Panera Bread was formerly located at 850 Bridgeport Ave., the center with Staples and Domino’s Pizza, until closing at the end of last year. Panera had long been known to be opening at the 19.1-acre Fountain Square site, where it will now feature a drive thru.

Panera Bread will be open 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., with the drive-thru operating until 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The Fountain Square project was first presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2017. The project was split into five phases, and final development plans for all phases were approved separately between 2018 and 2020.

The original approval allowed for three restaurants, a pharmacy, bank, coffee shop, other retail, a small office building and a 123-room Marriott hotel. Since that time, there were changes in the list of tenants, headed by the addition of a Chick-fil-A.