Pizza-flavored pretzels coming to Ala Moana


POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009

A longtime repeat Hawaii visitor who now calls Oahu home is about to open Hawaii's first Wetzel's Pretzels franchise at Ala Moana Center.




On the Net:

        » www.wetzels.com

Jimmy Kim's background is in finance, working at NBC Universal in Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Originally from California where Wetzel's Pretzels LLC is based, Kim found himself jonesing for his favorite pretzel snacks, though soft pretzels are easy to come by on the East Coast.

So how do California pretzels and working in New York City add up to a franchise at Ala Moana?

“;I always wanted to live in Hawaii,”; he said.

“;I used to come here every year, growing up,”; and decided to move here when the franchise opportunity arose.

“;I'm also working on a full-size restaurant,”; he said. It will not be a Wetzel's, but those plans are not yet ready for prime-time, on-the-record conversation.

Wetzel's is building out next door to Cinnabon, by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the Makai Market food court and will employ 15 people.

The Ala Moana Web site indicates its opening target as summer 2009, but he hopes to open March 21. He is in the process of hiring, and interested applicants should e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

It will be the first soft-pretzel company at Makai Market, though Pretzelmaker, a brand managed by New York-based NexCen Brands Inc., has four locations on Oahu and two on Maui. Its Windward Mall store closed in recent months.

Wetzel's Pretzels sells the familiar, original-style soft pretzel sprinkled with stark white salt, but “;there is a huge difference”; between Wetzel's and Pretzelmaker, Kim said.

“;We have larger pretzels, first of all,”; and Wetzel's offers “;more variety.”;

He notes Wetzel's pepperoni pretzel, marketed as “;pizza with handles,”; and jalapeno and cheese pretzels, as well as the company's granita drinks and frozen lemonades in wild cherry and mango flavors.

There is also a Hawaiian Pretzel on the menu. Yes, (sigh), it has ham and pineapple on it.

Opening a food business with restaurant experience is hard enough in good times, but Kim's background is not in restaurants, and we're in a recession.

Franchisee training addressed the economy and Kim was also told, “;Wetzel's sales are still increasing. In the last year, Wetzel's sales are still going up, while other foods are going down,”; he said.

Wetzel's is named after co-founder Rick Wetzel. His executive bio on the company Web site says, “;Yes, he was called 'Wetzel Pretzel' in grammar school.”;

Talk about success being the best revenge.


Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).