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Tornado Damaged Tulsa Panera Bread Reopens

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Nearly four months after a tornado damaged dozens of buildings in midtown Tulsa, many of them are on track to open or are already open.

Panera Bread, located in the 5600 block of East 41st Street, reopened at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Panera says employees who had worked at the store before the August 6th tornado are now back at work. They say those employees had been working at other locations around the Tulsa metro.

That includes Thomas Foote, an overnight baker who was one of two people in the building when the tornado ripped off the front of this building. He and the another baker survived, but their cars were destroyed by debris.

The company had just started a new employee assistance program where employees can pay into it and get help when they have emergencies, like surgeries, house fires and natural disasters.

The bakers were able to get help through that program.

11/27/2017 Related Story: Midtown Businesses Hit By August Tornado Now 90 Percent Re-Opened

David Meuser worked at the Panera before the tornado and returned Tuesday for the grand re-opening. He remembers driving by the store the morning after the tornado just to see the damage himself.

"I just really couldn't believe it," he said. "That was kind of the hardest part. You build friendships and all of the sudden, we didn't have our friends. We didn't even really have a chance to say, 'Well, we'll see you later.'"

The Panera Bread at 41st and Hudson was certainly ready for their moment Tuesday morning and had all the details planned, even down to the official ribbon cutting.

Meuser said not only are most of the employees who worked there before the tornado back working, but several customers said they're returning as well, and are rooting for a comeback story.

"I'm not sure what's really coming back and what's not. I'm not sure anyone really knows that, but I'm hoping that the businesses around here that aren't open yet will continue to come back because this is a busy neighborhood. We need all our shopping in this area," customer Janice Young said.

Some businesses are working to reopen. Woodcraft’s owner said he’s still taking orders and plans to re-open just in time for the holidays.

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