“It was exciting in the beginning,”said Tom Mangine, who is in his 25th year in the food industry. “There was a lot of hype around the store. It was like a honeymoon. Like any business in the first year, it can be rough at times. But if you love the product and have a passion for it, then it should be a good match. And in Bayonne, there are no places that make it fresh every day right on the premises like we do here.”
The company’s founding maxim has been to serve pretzels “Hot Outta the Oven.” The company’s founder started by selling pretzels on the streets of Philadelphia in the late 1980s at the age of 11 with the help of neighborhood kids. With his college roommate, the founder then opened the first Philly Pretzel Factory in the Mayfair neighborhood of Philadelphia soon after graduation. By 2004, Soft Pretzel Franchise Systems, Inc., franchised the Philly Pretzel Factory Brand across the Philadelphia region, and now has grown into 12 states. Bayonne’s franchise is the only one in Hudson County.
“If you love the product and have a passion for it, then it should be a good match.” – Tom Mangine
Tom Mangine started out as a teenager pushing carts at the old Pathmark on Route 440and worked his way up through management until he became Pathmark’sdirector of field operations. By that time, he and his wife Tracy had moved to Woodbridge, NJ, where they would raise their son, Anthony, who is now 34.
Tom eventually left Pathmark to spend the next 15 years running a deli meats business delivering Thumann’s products to Pathmark stores throughout the region. Unfortunately, Pathmark’s decline precipitated the Mangine’s, whose business went belly-up, forcing the family to rethink their future.
With the Mangines’ future up in the air, the family knew their experience in retail would pay off.
“We already knew the retail end of the business, so we knew pretty much how things were going to go,” said Tracy. The question was what to sell, and where.
“We would always bring pretzels for parties and family events,” said Anthony Mangine standing over a plate of green-sprinkled pretzels shaped like four-leaf clovers for St. Patty’s Day. “It’s part of the reason we thought it would be a good idea to open up.”
Since opening, Anthony discovered a renewed appreciation for the simple pretzel. “I used to heat up those frozen SuperPretzels and eatthem with chocolate milk. It was my favorite,” said Anthony, who now spends his days baking fresh pretzels. “Now I’d never buy a frozen one.”
One of the customers’ favorite pretzel orders, according to Anthony, are the rivets, which are shaped like short pins or bolts. Customers often dip the rivets in nacho cheese, like at the movie theater. Other favorites are the sourdough pretzel and cheese steak pretzel.
The dream for the Mangines is to one day open another pretzel shop, maybe in Jersey City where Tom ventured decades ago for his first business opportunity. For that to happen, they have to be successful here in Bayonne.
Bayonne is a great place to open a business, especially for a family like the Mangines who have a strong network of hometown family and friends. Their challenge now is rediscovering the city.
“We’vebeen getting involved in sports, students, clubs, that kind of thing,” said Tom.
The Mangines are seasoned retail businesspeople.
“We are successful,” said Tracy. “We’ve made it back to our hometown.”