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Back in 2004, I was a junior in college, hungry -- as most college students are -- and with only a few bucks in my pocket. I decided to check out a sandwich shop I'd heard good things about but never tried: Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA ) .
I was immediately smitten, and both my stomach and my portfolio benefited from this encounter. It's been a long time since I've been to a Panera or owned the stock, but the recent share price has me interested again.
Follow your stomach
The first time I visited a Panera felt like the first time I visited a Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) . The place was clean, the air smelled good, and employees smiled and made you feel like they actually liked customers. Better yet, the food tasted great, was better for you than a burger, and wasn't outrageously expensive.
By my senior year, I decided to buy shares of Panera. The Atkins craze had struck, and anything associated with carbohydrates was suffering. Although the shares weren't exactly cheap, they had shed a pound or two, so I scooped some up. After the Atkins diet lost its luster, Panera's results improved, and the stock doubled.
It appears that a combination of lackluster results and a tough stock market have pushed down Panera's shares to near where I originally bought them. I've since gotten a lot stricter (cheaper) about what multiples and valuations I'll pay for a company, but I'll probably take another look at Panera. I've heard nowadays that the "in" thing isn't hanging out at a Panera or Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) , but rather grabbing some froyo (frozen yogurt) at places called Pinkberry or Yogurtland, or a burrito at Chipotle (NYSE: CMG ) (NYSE: CMG-B ) . But to me, the appeal of a good sandwich and a clean, well-lit place is timeless.
Further freshly baked Foolishness:
Whole Foods and Starbucks areMotley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Chipotle is both aHidden Gems and a Rule Breakers recommendation. Both of these market-beating newsletters can be sampled free for 30 days.
Fool contributor Emil Lee is an analyst and a disciple of value investing. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. Emil appreciates your comments, concerns, and complaints. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is prone to pastry-induced flashbacks.