The buttery, hand-rolled soft pretzels at Auntie Anne's are a food-court favorite, but here are some not-so-well-known facts about the pretzel chain, which has been around since 1988.
1. AUNTIE ANNE WAS NOT A GERMAN BAKER, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE INTERNET SAYS.
There’s a rumor floating around that Auntie Anne’s name is Anne Gerschwitz and that she was a renowned baker in Hannover, Germany, who fled to Philadelphia after World War II started. This is not true.
2. THE REAL AUNTIE ANNE WAS BORN INTO AN AMISH FAMILY.
"Like, horse-and-buggy Amish," Anne Beiler said of her parents. When she was 3, her family became Amish Mennonite—meaning they could have a car and electricity for basic needs—and she grew up on a small farm with her seven brothers and sisters in Lancaster County, Penn.
3. ANNE ONLY HAD AN 8TH GRADE EDUCATION.
"In the Amish culture, you go through 8th grade and then you quit school," Anne explained last year. "I just wanted to get married and have a family like my mom and dad did." She married at age 19, and much later, at 50, she went back and got her GED.
4. SHE HAD JUST $25 TO HER NAME WHEN SHE MOVED BACK TO PENNSYLVANIA.
According to her biography, Beiler, her husband Jonas, and her two daughters had no plan for when they moved from Texas—which they'd called home since early in their marriage—back to Pennsylvania in 1987. "Everything we owned was in that truck!" she wrote in Twist of Faith. "I was 39 years old, without life insurance policies or a plan for retirement. In the way of cash, after taking out the money we would need for gas and meals on our journey, we had an astronomical $25 left."
5. THE NAME AUNTIE ANNE'S WAS A NO-BRAINER.
Anne had 30 nieces and nephews, after all.
6. AUNTIE ANNE'S WAS STARTED WITH A $6000 INVESTMENT.
In 1988, Anne bought a storefront at a farmer’s market in Downingtown, Penn., that had been selling pretzels and ice cream. The set-up with the ovens and mixers was there; she just needed to perfect the recipe.
7. THE FIRST "TRAVEL LOCATION" WAS IN ANOTHER "PENN."
While you’ve probably visited an Auntie Anne’s at travel hubs like airport terminals and train stations, the first storefront at a train station was at New York’s Penn Station in June 1995. The next month, they went international, starting with Jakarta, Indonesia.
8. SHAQ IS A BIG FAN.
The former NBA all-star’s franchise group, O’Neal Enterprises, signed on for multiple storefronts in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Detroit area.
9. THE BEILERS RETIRED FROM THE PRETZEL BUSINESS TO BUILD A COMMUNITY COUNSELING CENTER.
In 2005, Anne and Jonas sold the company to his second cousin, Sam Beiler (who was a long-time employee), and used some of their fortune to build a new home for the Family Resource and Counseling Center in Lancaster, Penn., which Jonas had founded in 1992.
10. ODDLY, THE RELIGIOUS BEILERS DID NOT ADD THE HALO TO THE AUNTIE ANNE'S LOGO.
Anne and Jonas Beiler were both raised Mennonite, and in her book Twist of Faith, Anne talks about how God helped her through a family tragedy and helped her build Auntie Anne’s. But the halo over the pretzel in the company’s logo was introduced in 2006 after Sam Beiler initiated a redesign and rebranding.
11. THERE ARE WAY MORE TOPPING OPTIONS THAT CINNAMON AND SUGAR.
12. AUNTIE ANNE'S HAS PRETZEL-MAKING CONTESTS AT THEIR CONVENTIONS.
And their employees are fast! This defending champion can roll a pretzel in 3.5 seconds.