The History of Auntie Ann’s Pretzels

This article was written by Phin Upham

Anne F. Beiler opened a small pretzel stand with her husband Jonas in 1988. They called it “Auntie Anne’s,” a name now synonymous with casual trips to the mall. It began life as a small shop in the Downington Pennsylvania Farmer’s Market where the pretzel was well received. In its first year, the business went from one to eight stores and a bakery located in Harrisburg.

Auntie Anne’s has managed to survive because of its adaptability to almost any retail landscape. Its first mall location was in Park City Center, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It spread to nine states by 1990, claiming over 50 locations at that point. It opened an airport location in 1992, and a train station location in 1995. That was in Penn Station, which is prime real estate.

Growth was exponential. The company had over 800 locations by 2005, and an international store in Indonesia.

Auntie Anne’s is also big on charity, with its locations having donated a total of $4.5 million to local children’s hospitals, and through the Children’s Miracle Network.

Auntie Anne’s relocated to the town of Lancaster, taking over the town’s old three-story Post Office building. The purchase price was $7 million. The style is modeled after the 1920s art movements, characterized by high ceilings and brass doors.

The company is owned today by FOCUS Brands, the same company that owns Cinnabon and Schlotzky’s. Auntie Anne’s has also enjoyed some publicity from its affiliation with shows like “Be the Boss,” and “Food Court Wars.”

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website

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