Sam Covelli can't sit still for very long. Perhaps that's been the key behind the growth of his Panera Bread Co. empire. Since buying into the concept almost eight years ago, Covelli, 51, has become the country's largest franchisee of the casual dining restaurant cafe, owning more than 80 throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Florida. He expects to open at least 20 more restaurants in 2005.
Covelli's headquarters and home, less than a mile apart, remain in his native Warren. His nearly 30,000-square-foot mansion, complete with walk-in wine closet and tasting room, exercise and steam rooms, in-ground swimming pool, guest quarters, and an arcade, took four and a half years to build. The latest addition: a basketball court with authentic scoreboard and a painted "C" insignia mid-court.
Covelli spends his time off the clock throwing around a football with his
son, Albert, 15, or watching his daughters Candace, 17, and Danielle, 10, play
tennis or soccer. If he's not with his wife, Caryn, or the kids, he's playing
golf or watching college football. Covelli, a University of Miami (Fla.) alum,
is a die-hard Hurricanes fan.
Typical day: My days vary because I'm on the road a lot. ... I hate
being in the office. You have to be in the stores. ... So maybe one day I'm
in Cleveland, one day I'm in Pittsburgh, one day I'm in West Virginia.
Best customer service story: A woman that was in our lobby was picking
up a huge order and I asked if I could help her. I was dressed well at the time.
She asked me why I was dressed so well and I said it was because I'm the owner.
And right before this she asked if she could tip me.
Defining career moment: When we changed from McDonald's to Panera Bread.
We were the largest McDonald's operator in the country and we decided to sell
and get into Panera. And it was the best move we made. Timing's everything.
Can't make it through the day without: My phone. Once I left it in
the office and thought I was going to have a heart attack. I get a lot of calls.
Morning routine: I love watching the news in the morning. I've got
to know what's going on. ... Then I hit the office and then I hit the road.
Evening routine: Come in, have dinner and see how the kids [are]. We
like to talk with the kids [about] how their day went.
Car: Rolls Royce convertible. I do it with the top down. I just enjoy
it. It relaxes me. I don't do it to show off. I've always liked sporty cars.
Exercise regimen: I used to be crazy. I used to do a lot of miles on
the treadmill. I'd do weights; I would do everything. But now, I don't do nearly
as much. But you have to make time for that.
Best gift received: Eight-foot statue of Ibis, the Miami Hurricanes
mascot, from my wife and my kids for my birthday.
Best gift given: The ring my wife got was pretty impressive.
Guilty pleasure: Some days I watch college football with the guys longer
than I should.
Where you go to escape: If the weather's nice, I'll go hit a bunch
of golf balls, go out there and just keep hitting them. I love that.
Favorite place to play golf: I'm a member of Firestone Country Club
and Trumbull [Country Club].
Perfect Saturday: Probably go to the office for a certain amount of
time. ... If the Miami Hurricanes are playing, I'd love to watch them play on
TV. If it was a beautiful day and I had the time, I would go outside. I love
passing the football with my son. My daughter, if she has a soccer game, I'd
be warming her up outside with a soccer [ball]. There's always something. There's
a possibility if it was a gorgeous day I'd like to hit some golf balls maybe.
I can't just do one thing.
Job around the house: I'm the one that's big into the physical layout
of the house, as far as the building. I'm into that. I like things in certain
places. But Caryn's the one, she's the one that takes care of the household.
Favorite room in the house: My den.
One word to describe yourself: Intense.