Where do these pretzels come from anyway?
Philly native Alissa Harris remembers getting pretzels from the food carts outside Franklin Institute science museum as a kid. “There were just kind of like, one guy, and you had hot dogs and pretzels. It wasn't a proper big business or anything,” she said.
There’s a good chance those pretzels Harris remembers were made by Center City Pretzel, which bakes thousands of pretzels for wholesale and retail from its storefront in South Philly’s Italian Market. Center City’s pretzels are crusty and craggy on the outside, moistly dense and soft within -- shaped in the classic Philly way to produce an ovular shape, and baked lined up in a close-set row so they stick together. Walk into the tiny alcove at the front of the massive, garage-like bakery, request pretzels, pay cash, leave. (It’s that same no-nonsense mentality that makes cheesesteak orders just as abrupt and effective.)
“Word of mouth has always been our thing,” says Erika Bonnett, a manager at Center City Pretzel, which her father started 40 years ago. In that time, they’ve never advertised, but generations of families and small business owners have patronized the shop. “Grandfathers and great-grandfathers used to purchase from us, and whoever took over their business over, they told them where to buy from.”