Covelli Kicks Off Pink Ribbon Bagel Campaign

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – This year represents a special milestone for the Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign conducted annually by Covelli Enterprises at its Panera Bread cafes. 

This year’s campaign, which launched Tuesday, is the 10th for the Warren-based Panera franchisee, coming just over a month after the 10th annual Panerathon. Both efforts raise funds to support the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center.  

“This will be our 10th year partnering with the Joanie Abdu Center so we felt like this year selling the bagels was extra special,” said Ashlee Mauti, director of marketing for Covelli Enterprises.  

Sales of the cherry vanilla bagel, shaped like a ribbon, represented Covelli Enterprises’ first step into cause marketing, Mauti said. Since 2010, the company – including its 315 cafes in eight states –  has raised more than $6.2 million to support breast cancer programs in the communities it serves, including more than $3 million raised in the Mahoning Valley to support the Abdu Center.  

“We don’t go pink just to go pink. We do this every October for the reason that we are making a lasting impact on the lives of real people in our Valley and beyond,” said Sam Covelli, owner/operator of Covelli Enterprises. “With the millions of dollars raised through our Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign over the years, we have helped to save lives. It really is more than just dough. And we want our customers to know they made this happen.” 

During Tuesday’s kickoff, 100% of sales of the specialty bagels went to the campaign. For the rest of the month, 10% will go to the cause.  

“We want to do better each year. We feel very fortunate that our customers have been so generous and giving that we have been able to do a little bit better each and every year,” Mauti said. 

Last year, the seven local Paneras – Austintown, Canfield, Niles, Warren and Hermitage, Pa., plus the two Boardman cafes – sold 36,000 of the special bagels, she reported.

Though all the cafes sell roughly equal numbers of the Pink Ribbon Bagels, the Austintown café typically leads in sales. The store’s general manager is Joyce Mayer, who goes all out in decorating the store – and her staff.

Mayer bought 20 pairs of pink-ribbon socks for employees. “I bought all the socks they had at the store,” she said. 

Store operators from across the company texting photos of what they do for the launch day say they “know it’s not like Joyce’s store,” Mauti reported.  

Mayer also purchased Panera hoodies from Knight Line Embroidery in Girard. “Whoever sells 100 bagels outside work gets a hoodie, and so far I had to give out three hoodies,” she said. 

Among the store decorations this year is a pink-painted bench that a man had made in memory of his girlfriend after her death. Having seen news coverage of what the Austintown store was doing last year, he contacted Mayer just before the end of the promotion and asked if he could bring the bench to the store.  

This year, Mayer reached out to him and asked him if he wanted to bring it back for the entire month. “He was thrilled,” she recalled. 

Both Mayer and Mauti point to a strong sense of family among employees and customers. 

That feeling even brings some past employees back to help out on days like the Pink Ribbon Bagel launch. Miamee Buccella, who left the Austintown Panera in June after working there for five years for another full-time job, was back behind the counter Tuesday.

“I love Joyce,” she said. “I call her my mother hen.”     

Part of the reason Mayer so strongly promotes the bagel sales is the generosity of Covelli Enterprises’ owner in dedicating all of the first-day sales to the campaign. “If somebody’s going to be that generous, we sure better push it,’ she said. “We’d better go the extra mile.”  

This year, the campaign also is focusing on education, Mauti said. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is greater than 90%. 

An estimated 220,000 women in the United States annually are diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,000 of those die from the disease. Ohio has the fourth-highest mortality rate in the nation for breast cancer, and northeastern Ohio’s mortality rate is higher than the national average.   

“Early detection is key in survival rates for breast cancer,” Mauti said. “If [walking into our stores] reminds people to go out and get their mammograms or it reminds people to do breast self-exams, that’s what it’s all about.” 

Pictured: On hand for the kickoff were Joyce Mayer, manager of the Austintown cafe; Kierstin Begley; Alexis Jackson and Ashlee Mauti, director of marketing for Covelli Enterprises.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.