Dan DiZio got his start in the pretzel business at the age of 11, when a neighbor by the name of Steve Nuel recruited him to help sell bags of fresh pretzels to drivers of cars stopped at red lights along Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia. Back then, there were just ten pretzel-making machines in the city of Philadelphia, with the bakers working all night and selling the fresh pretzels to vendors, convenience stores, schools and office workers before closing their factories each morning.
After graduating from East Stroudsburg University, DiZio briefly worked as a stockbroker before he and his college roommate, Len Lehman, returned to the pretzel business in 1998, when they purchased a 1920s pretzel-making machine for $11,500 and rented a space in the Mayfair area of Philadelphia. No strangers to entrepreneurship — in college, the pair ran a “party house,” charging $5 a head and hiring a cleaning crew to come in in the morning — they initially planned on baking at night and closing in the morning, like traditional bakers. But when the smell of freshly baked pretzels wafting through the neighborhood had customers lining up at the door, they realized they were onto something.