Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps were working for Nestle when the concept for Wetzel’s Pretzels was born. The two were on a business trip when Wetzel told Phelps about an idea his wife had — to make big, soft pretzels to sell at the mall. That night, they sat at a bar and drew out their business plan on napkin.
Wetzel sold his Harley Davidson to help raise funds for the fledgling business, which they started in their spare time. They brought in a partner to help create the recipe in Phelps’ kitchen, and when it came time to open shop they persuaded a mall landlord to come to the house to try their creation. The landlord liked what he tasted and rented Wetzel’s Pretzels its first store.
That was 1994. About a year later, Wetzel and Phelps got their lucky break when they were offered a severance package from Nestle. They opened up several more stores before deciding to franchise in 1996. There are now 250 stores nationwide, with locations set to open in Japan and India this year. System-wide sales are more than $100 million and same-store sales were up 9 percent in 2011.