In June 2015, Phil Agnello was visiting family in his native New Jersey ready to take a mini-vacation with cousin Bobby Agnello.
Then suddenly, several of Bobby’s employees at his pretzel store called in sick. So, instead of a weekend in Las Vegas, Phil Agnello spent his vacation working in the pretzel shop and loved every minute of it.
“I saw what the business was like and thought it would be good in this area, and that’s how the shop came about,” said Agnello, 44. The cousins uniting to bring a new twist to Copperas Cove with the opening of their Philly Pretzel Factory last week.
Located at 2990 E. U.S. Highway 190, next to H-E-B in Copperas Cove, the 1,000 square-foot store will offer homemade pretzels baked fresh every day.
“We want to be a pretzel shop that makes the best pretzels anyone has ever had,” said Phil Agnello, co-owner. “A pretzel appeals to everyone, regardless of their age, because of the different flavors.”
Among the flavors are the traditional soft pretzel, cinnamon twists, pepperoni, hot dog-wrapped pretzels, Philly cheese steaks and party trays. The dipping sauces include four types of mustard, and cheese, cinnamon, chocolate and buttercream. A spicy fiesta pretzel with jalapeno peppers and Pico de Gallo will cater to Texas taste buds. Customers can eat outside at a few café tables, but most of the business is to-go.
Before becoming a “pretzel man,” Phil Agnello served three years in the Army as a heavy-wheeled mechanic, and 18 years at All-American Chevrolet in Killeen as general sales manager. “I love working with people, so the pretzel store is a natural fit for me,” he said.
Inspired by Bobby Agnello’s success — he opened six shops in the last five years in New Jersey — Phil Agnello’s
plans to open two stores in Killeen and one in Georgetown within the next three years.
“The area is a good market for this type of food product, so we see a lot of potential here,” Phil Agnello added.
The Philly Pretzel Factory started in 1998 in Philadelphia. The first store is still there, as well as a corporate office and training facility where new franchise owners take a week-long session.
“Everything under the sun that we need to run the business is a phone call or email away from IT support, marketing and project management,” said Phil Agnello. “This company is great with helping a new owner.”
The startup costs were more than $100,000, including minor construction, ingredient and equipment costs, and it took about four months for the built-out, permitting and inspections.
The Agnellos took out a business loan to establish a line of credit since they are planning to open multiple stores.
A Cove resident for 20 years, Phil Agnello moved to Belton, but said the Copperas Cove city departments were “awesome” and very supportive with the business coming to the area.
Pretzels date to the fifth century and were created by European monks. The shape was meant to resemble the crossed arms of a person praying. In the Middle Ages, the pretzel was embraced by the Catholic Church because it could be eaten during Lent, when breads made with eggs were banned. By the 17th century, the pretzel was a big part of the German culture, in which children wore pretzel necklaces as a good luck symbol in the new year. German immigrants brought the pretzel to Pennsylvania, opening the first commercial pretzel bakery in 1861 in Lancaster County.
Phil Agnello said this is an exciting but nervous time for him as the new store launches. His business advice to other entrepreneurs is to be patient and passionate.
“Success doesn’t happen overnight, so plan thoroughly and make sure it is something you love to do, then commit yourself completely,” he said.