How Wetzel's Pretzels really got its name - Exclusive

There's nothing quite like a soft, hot pretzel when you're starving after a long flight. So when you see the bright blue letters of a Wetzel's Pretzels sign — beckoning you to come hither as you struggle with your carry-on bag in Terminal C — the last thing you're probably thinking is, "Why is it called Wetzel's?" Same goes if you're happening upon a Wetzel's in a mall food court or Disney theme park; you've got other things on your mind. You're ready to eat and go!

But, would it surprise you to know that one of the founders of Wetzel's Pretzels is named Rick Wetzel? Which might lead you to assume the brand, which now has 340 locations in 28 states in the U.S. and around the world, is named after him. This brings us to a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, though: Did Rick Wetzel choose to sell pretzels when he first hung a shingle in 1994 because this popular snack rhymed with his name? Or, did Wetzel first decide to sell pretzels and then had the "aha!" moment that the primary attraction of the business he was building just happened to be two letters off from his surname? In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Wetzel, who also owns pizza restaurant Blaze with his wife and business partner, Elise Wetzel, cleared up this mystery once and for all.

Rick Wetzel decided to sell pretzels before he had a name for the brand

The name of Wetzel's Pretzels was actually "the last thing we came to," Wetzel said, "but it's a fun name." Instead, he and co-founder Bill Phelps, as well as other stakeholders, worked out other details of the business first, and knew they wanted to sell pretzels before they had picked out a brand name. As Elise Wetzel recalled it, "We actually had huge debates over what to name the company, and it was a third person who suggested it."

If Rick Wetzel wasn't the first one to suggest naming the brand after himself, perhaps that's because he was already weary of the rhyme from a childhood of being teased about his name's similarity to the snack food favorite. "When I was a kid, I was always called 'Wetzel Pretzel,'" he explained. (Kids! Seriously?!) But since Wetzel's Pretzels had become a household name by the time his children were school-age, "At least it's an endearing term now, not a mean snipe at you," he said.