One of the co-founders of a Goshen-based pretzel company says the product’s growing popularity is the number one reason for the company’s continued success. Ben’s Soft Pretzels LLC has grown from a single location at a mall in Elkhart in 2008 to now 60 locations throughout the country.
Brian Krider, who also serves as chief operating officer, says the company’s growth has been helped by lease agreements with grocery retailers such as Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Michigan-based Meijer Inc. The company opened 27 locations in 2015 and already has commitments to open 21 more this year, nearly half of which are franchises.
Nearly 50 of the company’s locations are franchise-owned. Krider says they’ve only been franchising Ben’s Soft Pretzels for three years.
"In 2008 to 2013, we focused on building six locations and that’s what we did," Krider says. "We ran those locations, built those up to have a steady core skeleton that we could franchise. It seems to be our franchise partners are very happy in what they’re doing and a majority of our franchise owners are multi-unit franchise owners."
The company recently signed deals to bring its product to Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio. The company will also have a presence in eight Meijer superstores this year and is on track to have a presence inside every newly-constructed location.
Krider adds it is important to him and his partners that the company stays local. He says they have a lot of partnerships with local vendors and have no plans to move, despite receiving offers to do so.
"There have been calls from bigger communities that have said, ‘You’re growing faster than some of your competitors. Why don’t you give us an opportunity to put your headquarters here and we’ll make it worth it for you?’" says Krider. "We haven’t really looked at any of those opportunities and I don’t think we will."
Ben’s Soft Pretzels is now targeting markets throughout the country to create high-traffic opportunities for potential new franchisees.
Krider says they’ve only been franchising for three years.