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Pretzel Innovation Key for A Taste of Philly

The traditional twist is only the beginning for Mark Rossi and his staff.

Pretzels shaped like lobsters.

A cheesesteak pretzel.

Pretzel-wrapped hotdogs.

A cinnamon bun pretzel slathered in buttercream icing.

There’s no end to ideas when it comes to pretzels for West Deptford native Mark Rossi and his staff at A Taste of Philly in Woodbury.

“Everything you can do with a pretzel, we’ll try,” he said.

That’s meant all of those aforementioned pretzel combinations, plus more. Rossi said it isn’t enough to just have great pretzels any more, with other pretzels shops in the area competing for the same pretzel fundraisers and daily retail sales.

“We try to do different things that will attract customers,” he said.

And given how versatile the humble pretzel is, Rossi said the possibilities are nearly endless—from breakfast sandwiches to burgers, he said he’s trying to wow the people who might otherwise stroll past the shop on Broad Street.

“The goal is to bring people in the front door,” Rossi said.

On an average weekday, A Taste of Philly turns out around 2,000 pretzels, with about three-quarters headed straight out the door to one of the store’s wholesale clients around Gloucester County, Rossi said.

With that more limited retail market at the store itself, innovation is even more important.

So besides pretzels shaped like soccer players, or pretzels topped with pepperoni and cheese, that’s meant adding other products—water ice in the summer, coffee to fuel the county workers who stop in first thing—to find ways to make the shop self-sustaining.

“We’re a morning, afternoon and evening shop,” Rossi said.

And weekends, too, even hosting birthday parties, where kids can try their hand at twisting a traditional pretzel, or design something a little more interesting, from a house to a baseball to anything in between, Rossi said.

“It’s like Play-Doh to them,” he said.

The pretzel shop has slowly grown since opening in 2008, though the mix of wholesale and retail has remained mostly the same. Grabbed a pretzel at Heritage’s, or had your kids bug you for money for a pretzel sale at school? Chances are, Rossi baked them.

But growing the retail side remains a goal, which Rossi said is looking better. Now that downtown Woodbury is getting healthier, with the addition of some restaurants and stores that weren’t there when the economy soured, Rossi said it feels like the city is slowly coming around, which benefits everyone.

“Things are starting to change now…so that helps out,” he said. “Each year, it’s getting better and better.”

By bringing in those innovations and establishing the shop as a full-service, one-stop-fits-all experience—“The only thing we don’t have is a drive-up window,” he joked—Rossi said he thinks things will continue to build and bring more traffic along Broad Street.

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