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|Type||Fast food chain|
|Founded||Redondo Beach, California, (1994)|
|Headquarters||Pasadena, California, United States|
|Number of locations||175+|
|Parent||Levine Leichtman Capital Partners|
Wetzel's Pretzels is a Pasadena, California-based chain of fast-food restaurants. The first Wetzel's Pretzels location opened in 1994 at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach, California. Today, Wetzel's Pretzels has over 175 locations in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Philippines, Lebanon and the Middle East.
- Pretzels, consisting of several different flavors.
- Wetzel dogs, hot dogs with pretzel bread for buns.
- Wetzel Bitz, bite-size pretzel bits sold in a cardboard container.
- Frozen Lemonade, sold in a variety of flavors.
- Frozen Granita, a frozen version of the Italian dessert.
Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps are the chieftains of pretzel empire Wetzel's Pretzels. In 1994, the two were working in marketing at Nestle USA. On a business trip to Seattle, the colleagues, though not friends at the time, started kicking around the idea of pretzels as a new snack-food business. An eavesdropping stranger told them soft fresh-baked bread pretzels were really tasty. The pair got excited and started mapping out a business plan that night at a bar. They wrestled with finding a name that could be trademarked. Everything Phelps wanted had already been taken. Wetzel, who had been teased in the schoolyard with "Hey Wetzel, you pretzel," kept his mouth shut. A friend who was a marketing consultant finally pointed out the obvious for a name. The chain expanded quickly, and in 1997 Hollywood movie producer John Davis came in with $1 million raised from angel investors. Only after opening a company-owned flagship store at Disneyland in 2001 did the pair realize they had made it. "It was one of the top retailers in all of Downtown Disney per square foot," Phelps said.
Los Angeles private equity firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners Inc. bought a majority stake in the company in 2007 for an undisclosed amount. Phelps still owns a 20% share, while Wetzel holds a smaller stake.