Howley Bread Group
Serving Panera customers in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts

Meet the Howley Bread Group Team

Howley Bread Group was established in 2000 by Mr. Lee Howley to develop, own, and operate a Panera Bread franchise.  After the company opened its first Panera Bread cafe in Cranston in December of 2000, it has grown to the point where it owns and operates over twenty bakery-cafes in the state of Rhode Island, eastern two-thirds of Connecticut, and southeastern Massachusetts.  Howley Bread Group plans to expand to thirty-three bakery-cafes by 2015.

Left to Right: Bahjat Shariff, Tom Howley, and Lee Howley

Management Biographies


Lee C. Howley, President:

Lee C. Howley is a native Clevelander who has been a principal in the successful development of numerous businesses, including Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the East Coast, telecommunication companies and sophisticated health care related real estate.

He has also served in leadership capacities in a number of important civic roles including, at the request of former President Clinton, United States Public Delegate at the United Nations (1994-95) and as Co-Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum (1997-2000).

In 2000, Mr. Howley founded Howley Bread Group, Ltd., a company that purchased the exclusive rights to develop and operate Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Howley Bread Group currently is one of Panera's top franchises, owning and operating a total of 24 bakery-cafes and employing more than 1,000 associates.

Mr. Howley has built successful telecommunication businesses in the NE Ohio area and in Europe. These include North Coast Cable of Cleveland and North Coast of Bratenahl.  The Cleveland and European cable systems were sold in the mid-1990's.

Mr. Howley also founded Howley & Company, a real estate brokerage and development company in 1981.  The focus of Howley & Company and its affiliated entities is on medical office building development and design and construction of sophisticated medical space.

In the community, Mr. Howley has been Chairman of the Arthritis Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland and deeply involved in other civic/church-related groups.  Mr. Howley was also appointed by Governor Voinovich, and re-appointed by Governor Bob Taft and Governor Ted Strickland, to the Ohio Wildlife Council.  He is a memeber of the Board of Advisors at the Georgetown University School of Business and Chairman of the Board Directors at Lake Ridge Academy.

In addition, he has served on the Board of Directors of  the following publicly traded companies: LESCO, the world's largest supplier of professional lawn care products and Boykin Lodging Company, a hotel REIT. Mr. Howley is currently a director of LNB Bancorp, Inc.

Mr. Howley has a B.S.B.A. from Georgetown University and a MBA from New York University. He is married and enjoys sailing and hunting with his two sons.


 Thomas R. Howley, Vice President of Development:

As a partner and vice president of development with Howley Bread Group, Ltd., Mr. Howley has been instrumental in the franchisee's consistent growth, from one Panera Bread bakery-cafe in 2000 to 24 throughout Rhode lsland, Connecticut, and southeastern Massachusetts today.

Prior to taking a position at Howley Bread Group, Mr. Howley was General Counsel and Vice President of Development for Panera LLC.  He arrived at Panera through his work as General Counsel of Au Bon Pain Co., Inc., a publicly traded restaurant company with over 150 restaurants primarily located throughout the eastern half of the United States.  Upon the sale of its Au Bon Pain assets, the company began exclusively developing Panera Bread bakery-cafes.

Before entering the restaurant industry, Mr. Howley practiced law at Boston's Rackemann, Sawyer and Brewster which specialized in providing legal services in connection with real estate development, environmental and commercial lending matters.  He also held the positions of General Counsel for the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Boston (EDIC), a public industrial development agency, and Deputy Director of Communication and Deputy Commissioner of Elderly Affairs for the Mayor of Boston, Kevin White.

Mr. Howley earned his JD degree from Suffolk University Law School and is an undergraduate of Williams College.  He lives in Winchester, Massachusetts with his wife and two children and is an active volunteer in the town government having served as Chairman of the Planning Board.  Mr. Howley also has served as Chairman of the Winchester Board of Selectmen and is now in his second term as a member of the Board.


 Bahjat Y. Shariff, Vice President of Operations:

In 2000, Mr. Shariff partnered with Mr. Lee Howley to form Howley Bread Group, a franchisee of Panera Bread, to develop, own and operate Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Southern New England.

Prior to his present position at Howley Bread Group, Mr. Shariff was a Regional Manager from Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzeria.  His Northern New England region was the company's most successful, featuring 11 stores with a volume of over $25 million.  In the mid- to late- 1990's Mr. Shariff was a District Manager and Project Manager for Au Bon Pain, opening 12 cafes for the company in a new market in California.

Mr. Shariff was born and raised in war-torn Lebanon and moved to the United States in 1984.  Soon after arriving in Los Angeles, he was offered a position at KFC, Pepsico and eventually worked his way up to the position of Market Manager, managing 22 stores with a sales volume of over $22 million.

He is current Member of the Economic Development Committee for the City of Cranston and Past Chairman of the Board of the Cranston (RI) Chamber of Commerce.  He is also a Member of the Early Childhood Council for Children's Friend & Services based in Providence and is a Member of Panera Bread's Equipment and Design Board.  In 2004, Mr. Shariff received the Outstanding Partner in Philanthrophy award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Rhode Island Chapter.  He is an accomplished pilot and resides in Cumberland, Rhode Island with his wife and four children.