If you thought Philadelphia was only famous for cheese steaks and cream cheese, you’re only two-third’s right. Philly-style soft pretzels are also big in the City of Brotherly Love–and beyond.
And Philly Pretzel Factory will attempt to publicize that fact on Tuesday, April 26, when the pretzel chain gives away a free pretzel to every single guest who enters one of its stores. It’s all in celebration of National Pretzel Day. DiZio says he expects they will give away around 100,000 pretzels in this one day.
“We have an incredible fanatical following,” says Dan DiZio, President and co-founder of Philly Pretzel Factory, a 100-plus-unit chain born and raised in Philadelphia. “This day is about us having a little fun, giving back, and feeding our guest’s need for great taste.”
Founded in 1983, National Pretzel Day was created when former U.S. Congressman Robert S. Walker
(R-Pa.) declared his favorite food was deserving of a holiday. In April of 2003, Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell joined the bandwagon by re-declaring the unofficial national holiday. “It’s a real holiday,” DiZio says, but, of course, everyone with Philly Pretzel Factory will be working. “All hands on deck,” he says.
A pretzel pusher since pre-teen years
Right around the time of the first “holiday” declaration and long before Philly Pretzel Factory was built, DiZio had already seen his vision. At the tender age of 11, DiZio would ride his bike to a popular Philly street corner to sell soft pretzels baked by his neighbor, Steve Nuel, who owned a small bakery called Kensington Soft Pretzel. The young entrepreneur would sell 1,000 pretzels a day at a price of five for a dollar. After giving a cut to his supplier/neighbor, DiZio would pocket $100.
DiZio sold pretzels on Philadelphia street corners well into his college days. After graduating and spending two years working as a stock broker, DiZio found he missed the pretzel biz. He quit his job, maxed out 10 credit cards, and drove to Florida to get the business’ very first pretzel machine. He started Philly Pretzel Factory with college buddy Len Lehman in 1998, using the same recipe from his street corner days.
(Pictured: Dan DiZio, left, and Len Lehman.)
Today, the Philly Pretzel Factory brand has grown from a single location in Philadelphia to a 120-unit franchise, primarily located in cities along the Eastern Seaboard. Each franchised location makes its pretzels locally, DiZio says, “no frozen pretzels.” The chain sells the original “paper clip” style pretzels, as well as a line of pocket pretzels including a new cheese steak pretzel and buffalo chicken pretzel–plus hotdog and sausage pretzels.
As the world’s largest Philly-style bakery, Philly Pretzel bakes fresh, soft pretzels delivered to customers “Hot Outta The Oven”–as the company’s slogan goes. Each pretzel is hand twisted to ensure quality and freshness. DiZio says the company sold about 125 million pretzels in 2010.