In 2019 Josiah Martin took over his family’s business, Martin’s Pretzels, he was a senior in high school. In 2020 a 5 year plan to move the corporate office and facility happened sooner than expected. It was a dream come true until 2020 turned out to be extraordinary in more ways than one. In addition to dealing with new challenges brought on by the pandemic, only 8 weeks after the new facility opened it burned to the ground with absolutely no explanation. What could have been a throw in the towel moment only strengthened Josiah’s resolve to grow the family business and continue a legacy in one of the greatest cities on earth.
Listen to today’s episode of The Nothing But Good Podcast to hear:
[1:30] how Martin’s Pretzels are one of the last bakeries in the country to make handmade pretzels
[2:30] how Martin’s Pretzels came to be a New York City staple
[4:00] how appearances on TV shows affect sales
[5:20] what hearth baked means and why it matters to Martin’s Pretzels
[7:15] the ingredients used in Martin’s Pretzels - it’s the same recipe they’ve used since 1935
[9:10] how Josiah decided to take over the family business
[11:20] why 2020 was an extraordinary year in more ways than one
[13:30] what it looks like to rebuild a business after massive tragedy
[15:50] what made Josiah feel like Martin’s Pretzels was a calling on his life
Links from Episode 10 of The Nothing But Good Podcast:
Order your pretzels at martinpretzels.com
Add Martin’s Pretzels to your Oh Goodie box!
Transcription of Episode 10:
You're listening to The Nothing But Good Podcast, a show that believes you should know where your food comes from, or more specifically, who it comes from. Each week, we bring you new interviews with the makers and founders of the brands you love so you can see how they came to be and what makes them different. We focus on telling the stories of emerging brands and brands who are committed to using better for you ingredients in the snacks they create. Every episode of The Nothing But Good podcast is brought to you by Oh Goodie Box, a snack box subscription service that sends healthier snacks directly to your home or office so that you have the fuel you need to make your greatest impact each day. Order your first box at ohgoodiebox.com and use code PODCAST for 15% off your first order. That's ohgoodiebox.com and code PODCAST for 15% off your first order. Now grab a snack and let's get to today's show.
Thank you so much for being on the show today, for everybody listening and watching out there would you mind introducing yourself and a little bit about Martin's?
Absolutely. Well thank you for having me and excited to be here today. So Martin's Pretzels Bakery is one of the last pretzel bakeries in the country. To make a handmade pretzel we are one of the few pretzel bakeries that also makes a hearth baked pretzel. So our pretzels are made from just water, flour, yeast, and salt. And we use a old fashioned technique original recipe from my great, great Uncle Henry, who started the bakery in 1935. And so I'm now actually the fourth generation to run the bakery and really excited about the potential the bakery has and just the opposite actually work with you guys. But many other companies have found our products and are using them now. It's really exciting to be able to work with the product like this and a product that's kind of unique in its own way but also pretty popular.
I'm so excited to have you guys come into the Oh Goodie boxes and J&J. And I was reading on your website not only do you guys have this long history, but you have a pretty impressive cool history, like in a famous market in New York. You people have been featured on Jimmy Fallon like tell me a little bit about like, how has Martin’s been kind of like a staple in New York.
Yeah, so there's a lot of history there. And so I guess to start from the beginning, in 1982, a gentleman by Alfred started looking for an opportunity to kind of exit his office job. And he somehow connected with my grandfather, who was selling pretzels at the time, and making them and they had a handshake agreement. And they started selling, Alfred started selling pretzels at the Union Square green markets, which are a pretty big trademark, if you're from New York City, or have visited there, a lot of tourists visit there. And we'll kind of go to that type of market for an outdoor setting. And so eventually, so actually, this June will be our 40th anniversary of being in a city. And so kind of some of those things that you mentioned, we get a lot of publicity being in the city. So obviously, just a lot of regular consumers will come through, visit the business day in and then be able to go home and purchase our product online. But also, you know, we've been featured on multiple TV shows, and obviously other kind of smaller, like magazines and different restaurants, really famous restaurants in the city that we get to participate in.
So cool. And when this thing has happened to you, do you see an increase of sales with that? Or I'm just curious, like, is it a fun, like marketing publicity thing? And like it's a cool thing to put on a website? Or do you see the uptick that comes with that? Because I think we assume for sure, like on Jimmy Fallon, you must get like millions of dollars of orders. Like what's the reality behind that?
Yeah, well, it's not that extensive. To your point, though, there is definitely I think with any, anytime we were able to work with some publicity, it definitely helps us out a lot. And it's something that we really kind of depend on as a smaller brand. You know, we don't have a PR firm or something like that, that that you know, we work with for those sorts of things. So it's really opportunities that come our way that we love to work with and even just any little opportunity we can to get the name out there. It's a lot of fun and it's nice because the product itself everyone knows what a pretzel is. Most people have had pretzels. It's a very popular snack item, but very few of them had a handmade pretzel that's unique to ours. So it's something that's not unknown to many people. So when they hear about it, and they're like, Oh, I love pretzels and it's handmade and it's hearth baked like this is super unique and that's often what gets the entry.
I love that. And I feel like I should know this but I don't think I fully understand when you say it’s hearth baked like what does that mean?
Yeah, great question so hearth baked means that it's baked on a stone. And so our operation, instead of most companies will use a conveyor belt, which is just a regular wire mesh belt. And so ours instead is made on a stone, which has a complete science behind it, between how it's baked and the textures that it makes. So essentially, if you've ever had, say, like, maybe a popular item would be like pizzas baked on a stone. There's a lot of shops like that, depending where you live, where it'd be baked on a stone, and there's a unique flavor to it. That really, you can't, you can't duplicate with any other type of machine. So being hearth baked just means that it has, it's baked on a stone. And that it's it. Yeah, it's hard to describe it kind of has like a kind of a smoky flavor. But it's not overwhelming, like, yeah, you just have to try it.
I know, my husband makes sourdough bread and the finishing lasts 15 minutes it's on a stone in the oven. And I don't know if that makes a difference but I swear he makes the best bread on the planet. So I think it is just has a unique taste to it but it's so good. Um, so I guess when you're looking at doing like hearth baked handmade that seems like it's probably more labor intensive than just a regular conveyor belt. Is that correct?
Oh, very much. So yeah. And it's, yeah, there's really no way to get away from that being, obviously, we're handmade, it's our brand. So that's never going to change, our slogan is handmade forever. And so it's something that's very much part of who we are and I think it speaks to something that goes back to when the business was started in 1935 was the middle of the Great Depression. And so there was a lot of, of labor available for one thing, but also, our ingredients are only water, flour, yeast, and salt. So they're very basic ingredients. So back in the day, those ingredients are very easy to get your hands on. And so not only that, but then I mean, I think just in general, people are looking for a handmade product that goes with their snacking needs and stuff. And so that technique of using a handmade product, I mean, handmade, handmade stuff is just the best in general. So we think that we there's no reason why we should get away from that. And there's definitely a huge interest in market for a handmade product that is just super unique, but yet, people love it.
I think so too, I think of the world, in so many ways, the world is so much more complicated than it used to be. But I feel like in that there's this innate part of us that's going back and craving simpler forms of everything. And so I know in the snacking world, like using pure ingredients, whole ingredients, reading labels, caring about how something is made, caring how it's sourced, like those are all so trendy, and but a cool trend that's happening right now a big shift in the market is taking place. So I agree, I think making it by hand, sticking to this pure ingredient, not putting crazy preservatives in them, it speaks to a higher quality of product and it almost feels comforting, like I cannot wait to taste them because it just feels like oh, it would feel like cozy a little bit. So I love that. And I think one of the things that's so interesting when we first talked, we first met just to talk about the partnership. But in that meeting, you mentioned that you've actually taken over the business. Is that correct?
Yeah. So a little bit of history there. My grandfather was the owner until I took over in 2019 and it was just before I graduated high school, and it was about an hour and a half from where I live. And so at that time, there was kind of a lot of things, a lot of moving pieces with New York City markets and different things that were happening where something really needed to change in the bakery in order for the bakery to continue where there were multiple things really contingent on the success of the bakery. And so at that point, I felt like it was something that I needed to step in and help out with. And so I've said, beginning of 2019 I'd started going down to the bakery a few times a week just to analyze what needed to change, I'm not a baker, I've never done manufacturing before. But I started from a very young age in my dad's retail business, and those same business principles applied to a bakery as well. And so working with people, and getting things figured out and analyzing the things that weren't happening, or the things that were happening should have been happening, all those little things that needed to change. And then in April, we went ahead and purchased the bakery from my grandfather and then I took over the ownership of the day to day management. And then from there, it's kind of progressed into multiple different things.
Gosh, I feel like that story is impressive. Like, regardless, it's crazy impressive to think you did that beginning in high school. I'm just like, I am looking at someone who should be like 40 years old, and you're like, 20/21. Really? Oh, my gosh, can't even legally buy a drink and this is amazing. So it's super impressive. And one of the things that kind of struck me in our conversation is not only did you kind of take over, you know, right before the world changed completely, but then also in that you guys had a personal tragedy with your manufacturing facility. Is that right?
Yeah, 2020 was an extra year, I think extraordinary, then just kind of the whole pandemic stuff. But so Yeah, and actually, it's pretty crazy story. But so, so then finishing the story. So after I took over the bakery, we had like a five year plan to move the bakery to new facility and like deck it all out and everything and really keep going from that place. But as I got more involved, I realized that it was really coming down to getting into a new facility, things were just really outdated there at the original location. And things really needed to change. Not only that, I was also managing our other retail business Martin's Country Store at the same time. And so the bakery was an hour and a half from, from where I was managing, so my office, so there's just a lot of different things and hard to manage. So anyway, we ended up moving the bakery in 2020. In June, we stopped operations, and we moved the bakery. And we started back up in November and so over that process, we put a new facility and everything was, you know, brand new. And really, it was a dream come true for ours and we were able to do it, and all the things that happen in between then. So that was of course during the pandemic. So there was different challenges with that as well. Adapting to some market changes with that in New York City, especially. But then, so then we ended up opening again at a new facility in November. But not only was it only eight weeks later that the baker actually caught fire and burned on December 12 of 2020. So that added to the whole year and everything that happened, not only just after just moving into the bakery, that was like a dream come true. But then just everything that went along with just having a new business like that and taking it on and the challenges that come with that alone.
I guess that's a little over a year ago now that all that happened. So yeah, you're right. So then how did you recover from that, like you just are at this all time high, like dreams are coming true. And then huge devastation. And so here I am talking to you, obviously, the business is still going. So how, how did you overcome that? Or how are you guys overcoming that?
Yeah, well, thankfully, thank God, we're back in a new facility. And we're operational again. But in between now and then I mean, after, there's no way to really describe the emotional like roller coaster of all the events that happened with just finishing something like with your own hands, and then just add up there no reason at all. It burns down. And not only that, it was the bakery and our like headquarters for the store. So it was like our office or warehouse or retail. It was all there was massive. It was one of the biggest fires in the area. And so yeah, after the fire, I mean, it was it's really amazing. It really solidified my commitment to the company, to the brand. I think for a lot of places or a lot of companies. That's really a make or break moment. And I feel like a lot of companies, if you look back in their story, they all have that moment of like where they like took out the extra dollar or like they put in all their money or like something drastic happened and that was sort of like the catalyst for the future of the company. And in some ways I feel like that's the story for Martin’s Pretzels, the bakery where this moment where we had lost everything and it was just completely destroyed, how we're actually that really just kind of like furthered my commitment. I just I couldn't give up on it, it was something that I had to see through. And somehow through all of that, we ended up opening again last November 2021. And so that's the facility that we're in right now. And so ever since then we've been really just excited to be making pretzels again. And it's just, just, yeah, it's, it's awesome.
I'm so excited for you. And I guess one of the questions that keeps kind of like popping up in my head is, you are a very young man. And it seems like you grew up in the business, you love the business, but at what point, it's one thing to, like, see a need. So you can see a team, that the business, something needs to change in order for it to continue. But it's one thing to see it and then it's another thing to say, Hey, I should I need to be the person who does this. I feel like it's, it's on me to do this. What kind of made you feel like it was for you? Or like, I don't want to say it was your calling, but for lack of a better word to say that, like, what made you feel like this was a call for you?
Hmm, that's a great question. I think it's different for every business in some ways. I think for me, specifically, it was combination of multiple things. First of all, my grandparents had put so much into the company. For years, they really put most of their life into it and just seeing the state that it was in, was really pretty sad. And the business was losing money by the day. And there wasn't a good reputation there. And there were just a lot of things needing to change in order for it to, you know, sustain itself even. And so I saw that need. And then I also saw the potential that was there. I mean, it's being in New York City is really hard to come by and having the history and the reputation and the city that we do. It's something that it's really hard to turn a blind eye to. And so I kind of saw the potential there. And also just overall, in general how a brand like this could really grow quite a bit. And so I think it was just kind of a few of those different things that really made me personally want to get involved. I also I do believe it is something that I am called to in a way, like you said, and I not only that, but also the resources that I have with our other business really made it a great opportunity for us to get involved, despite the challenges, and probably if I had known all the challenges I wouldn't have. But I think it's just taking things one step at a time and kind of living through faith at the moment got me through those things.
I love what you said that you're not the first person that I've interviewed who said if I had known what I would be facing going into it, I don't believe I would have gone forward but looking back they're so grateful that they didn't you know, and I think that's such a it's such a beautiful gift of life to not know I think sometimes it can be frustrating the unknown, but then sometimes you can look back and just be like, well, thank God I didn't know. So. Yeah, gosh, I just I absolutely love this story. I love the pretzels. So excited to feature you guys. I guess one of the last questions that I have, it's kind of going back to the very beginning of the story. And you said that Martin’s got started in 1935 during the Great Depression. Do you know why your great, great Uncle felt like starting a pretzel business in the first place?
Oh, my, you're really testing my history here.
I was like it's a really long time ago. It's just you don't know. That's okay. Well, I'm very curious. I'm just thinking like, you move forward after this crazy pandemic and fire and it feels almost fitting, but the pretzel company got started in a horrible time of depression as well.
So well, I can't recall specifically for my great, great Uncle, what, what he, I should look into that what got him into the business. I know that when, when my grandfather bought it, he also, just like me, didn't know anything about baking. He hadn't done manufacturing, kind of grew up on the farm setting for most of his life. But the baker actually went up for an auction and it was like a Tuesday night I believe, and my grandfather went and he bought the bakery and he didn't sleep I remember him telling me because he didn't sleep that night because he didn't know how to make pretzels and he actually had to get taught like how to and everything. So it's interesting how we have a similar story there. So I remember that generation but I can't remember that one before that.
No, it's so far removed. I also love that your grandpa just like couldn't sleep, knew nothing about it, baking, but knew that he needed to own the pretzel business. And I just think, yeah, is a beautiful step of just like blind faith in that. So, absolutely. There's a church that I passed every day on the way to the coffee shop pretty much, but they always put a new little sign out. And it said, if it's your calling, it will keep calling you. And I feel so true for so many entrepreneurs, there's just something you don't really know why but you just like it, you almost breathe it like you just wake up and you against all better judgment against knowing that will be easier. You're a very skilled, capable young man, you could go get a job with any Fortune 500 company that you wanted to, and yet, there's something in it that just makes you wake up every day and keep going and pursuing because you can see the vision. So I guess what, moving forward, what is the vision that you have for Martin's pretzels?
Yeah, well, thank you. Just to continue on that on that thought. I think that is a necessary component of being an entrepreneur, you have to have the calling and that inspiration, because it's not just, it's not just work. For me, it's a lifestyle, just working in general, my parents instilled that in me from growing up. But I think you have to be able to have that commitment to the business, especially when you're starting a business or if you have a similar story as I do, because there are going to be challenges like that, that come up that you're going to have to really, it's, it's going to really further your commitment to the company and to your vision of the company when it can be. So I think it's all in all, it's something that you have to be willing to put a lot of effort into, because that's certainly what it takes. But moving forward I'm just excited to be making pretzels again, honestly, it feels like it's the lowest bar but it's, it's just great to be making pretzels. And so we have a lot of great opportunities coming up, we're going to be featured on a few shows will be on Good Morning America in June. And that's a big one for us. So different opportunities like that, that we're excited about. In general, we're just excited to be getting back into distribution. That's a lot of our focus right now. And so getting a lot of connections there with working with buyers and stuff. So we will be getting into some bigger stores here in the next few months. And yeah, beyond that. I don't know. I mean, I've always liked to dream big. So I'd love to start another bakery. You know, another maybe close to the city or out west somewhere. It's always fun to dream of those kinds of things. And I don't like to put a ceiling on those things either. So who knows? We could see we never know maybe I'll have a bakery near you someday or something.
I love you to come to Austin. So well sure everyone. I mean, he was just like, man, we need to support these guys. I gotta get my hands on some of these handmade heath made pretzels. They can find you in our Oh Goodie boxes for sure. But if they wanted to order directly, how would they do that? How can they support you? Where can they follow you? All of the things.
Thank you. So we have, we do a lot of Instagram @Martin'spretzels as well as Facebook we just do a lot of interactive posts on there as well. So you can go to there we have a hashtag, #pretzelfix. So you can see how people are getting their pretzel fix in there. But if you'd like to purchase our products you can go to martinspretzels.com anytime anywhere and we'd be happy to ship them to you, we have free shipping. And there's a whole array of new products. We have flavored pretzels, mustards and of course the classic pretzels as well.
Wonderful and we'll link to everything in the show notes. I'm gonna go on right now and order some mustard because I was in preparation for this. I was looking at it like, Oh, I love the frosted and the soft big pretzel.
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