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Alumni bring Philly Pretzel Factory to South Bend

| Friday, August 25, 2017

The first time 1996 Notre Dame graduate Mark Naman tasted a real Philadelphia pretzel, he was living in New Jersey with his wife, Maryse, a member of the Saint Mary’s class of 1996. It was, in a word, “phantastic.” That’s the experience they’re aiming to bring to the South Bend community with the Philly Pretzel Factory, Mark Naman said.

“You get the pretzel hot out of the oven, and it’s a different experience,” he said. “It’s the first time people have access to a pretzel right out of the oven. … It’s really phenomenal.”

This June, the Namans opened the first Indiana location of the Philly Pretzel Factory on South Bend Avenue, across from The Linebacker. They view this exciting opportunity as a chance to share a product that they are passionate about with the South Bend community.

To celebrate the recent opening, the Namans are holding a grand opening celebration, which includes a ribbon cutting ceremony and a raffle for two Notre Dame football tickets Friday, as well as free pretzel giveaways for all customers Friday and Saturday, Mark Naman said.

“It’s a great opportunity to come try the product,” he said. “We mix the dough fresh every morning, put it in this machine that strings it out for us and then we twist them ourselves.”

Students who hail from the east coast might recognize the Philly Pretzel Factory, Tom Monaghan, chief development officer of Philly Pretzel Factory, said. He said he hopes the pretzels can bring a little taste of home to students while remaining well within their budgets.

“It’s bringing a little bit of comfort food from home that many are familiar with — not only pretzels, but also Philly cheesesteaks,” Monaghan said.

Maryse Naman agreed and said she wishes a store of this kind was open when she was attending Saint Mary’s.

The low prices of the hand-made and hand-twisted pretzels — which can be paid for using Domer Dollars — make them a perfect snack for a college student on the go, Mark Naman said. An employee on a lunch break or a student on his or her way to class, he said, can be in and out of the store with a freshly-made lunch in five minutes.

Beside the classic pretzels — which are made fresh daily with high-protein malted-barley flour — the franchise offers specialty items such as cinnamon pretzel twists, mini pretzels, pretzel dogs, cheesesteak pretzels and a variety of mustards, most of which are available in party trays. They recently launched a new party tray of “mini dogs” — pigs in a blanket — which the Namans hope will be a big hit during tailgate season.

During football season, the store plans to open early on home game days and close well after the games end.

“We also felt that we might get some of the student body involved — whether it’s working here or in terms of fundraising,” Maryse Naman said.

The fundraising program will give clubs, teams or dorms the chance to buy a large quantity of pretzels at an extremely low cost for resale, Mark Naman said. Additionally, the store will provide the first 100 pretzels free of charge.

“We are going to look to start engaging with clubs and student activities,” Mark Naman said.  “I remember from my time at Notre Dame, I was in a few different clubs and we were all trying to find ways to raise money.”

To the Namans, Philly Pretzel Factory serves as more than just a food service. They plan to be engaged in the community through charitable organizations, local businesses, schools and universities, Mark Naman said.

“What we liked about the business — and why we decided to stay here after leaving Notre Dame — was that we like the community,” he said. “The student community and the local community makes it a fantastic place just to live, and we want to stay engaged with that. … We won’t just be staying in [the store], we’ll get to go out and be a part of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s and the local Michiana community — the churches, the businesses and the schools.”

Monaghan and the Namans are all looking forward to giving South Bend the real Philly pretzel experience, Monaghan said.

“We couldn’t be more proud to have a franchise with an ND alum,” he said.

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