Startup Has A New Twist on Soft Pretzels

Startup Has A New Twist on Soft Pretzels

Delivery service banks on rise of brewpubs, restaurants, specialty markets

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The Philly Party Platter

Via Steve Goldfine

A Montgomery County man is attracting retailers with a Philadelphia staple, gaining steam in business with the help of a county food group.

Steve Goldfine launched Philly Soft Pretzel Bakery in January, and his doughy treats are now in 10 outlets across the county, including True Respite Brewing Company in Derwood and The Universities at Shady Grove.

Goldfine, of Germantown, hawks the pretzels whenever he’s in local markets or restaurants, and personally deliveries them to his current clients. He’s adding about two clients a week right now.

“It’s all about relationships,” Goldfine said. “At the end of the day, people buy from who they like.”

Goldfine, 53, grew up in Philadelphia eating soft pretzels on Saturday evenings with his parents. He said he was burned out by 25 years in the digital media industry and realized there was an opportunity for a soft pretzel business in the area, something that wouldn’t be possible in the heavily-saturated Philadelphia market. Goldfine said the closest such entity to Montgomery County is a Philly Pretzel Factory location in Crofton, about an hour away.

Goldfine connected with the Montgomery County Food Council shortly after he founded the business, and has taken to its “MoCo Made” initiative. He stressed the importance of working with local organizations and has participated in some of the council’s activities.

A nonprofit group founded by community members six years ago, the Food Council brings together businesses, government agencies, residents and other nonprofits to “cultivate a robust food system” in the county, Executive Director Heather Bruskin said.

About 200 partners are connected within the group, working with and providing resources to each other, with the goal of keeping businesses and jobs in Montgomery County.

The council hosted Food is Opportunity Day at the Universities at Shady Grove in February, with more than 20 businesses and 50 buyers on hand “to facilitate relationships,” Brushkin said. It also has four monthly meetings covering environmental sustainability, food recovery and access, food education and food economy.

In partnership with the county Economic Development Corp., MoCo Made has become the official brand of the council and its members, with signs appearing on shelves and facades announcing the commitment to local business. Farmers are using the logo at nearby markets, and True Respite has it on its beer cans.

The initiative recently manifested itself in a unique pairing, with Gaithersburg tea and spice shop Shafa Blends partnering with Rockville’s 7 Locks Brewing to create a chai tea stout.

“Those relationships can only come about when you put people in the same space and you give them those opportunities to connect with each other,” Brishkin said. “That’s exactly where the Food Council comes in, to provide those spaces and those opportunities.”

True Respite co-founder Bailey O’Leary said Goldfine’s pretzels have been selling well, arriving each Wednesday and gone by Thursday.

Goldfine hopes to have a brick-and-mortar location in six months to a year. He declined to share revenue projections for the year and said he financed the startup with personal savings and credit cards.

The U.S. salty snacks market is projected to reach $29 billion by 2022, an increase of $5 billion from 2017, according to the industry publication Baking Business, which cites a report from market research firm Package Facts. Pretzels play a large role in that market.

The Philly Soft Pretzel Bakery fare includes savory options such as Parmesan and Jalapeno Cheddar along with sweet items such as Double Chocolate and Cinnamon Raisin. Pretzels sell from $2 to $6, depending on flavor.

Goldfine partnered with Rockville-based Swiss Pastries Inc. to make the pretzels, which are figure-eight-shaped in the traditional Philadelphia style. The bakery makes the snacks to Goldfine’s specifications, then packages them with the red-white-and-blue Philly Soft Pretzel Bakery logo.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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