After opening its doors in Forest Hills for business on May 15, the Philly Pretzel Factory has received positive reviews from pretzel lovers in the community.
“Being that something positive is taking place during a really difficult time and they see it as a sign of hope when they visit us. It feels really good to give them something to smile about,” said Jose Villa, a former commercial banker turned franchise owner of the first Philly Pretzel Factory in Queens.
Together, Villa and his wife, Nancy, a public elementary school teacher, decided to open the family-based business at 118-14 Queens Blvd., serving a traditional Bavarian pretzel found in Europe and Germany. The pretzels are baked fresh daily and serve as a fairly healthy snack, Villa said.
The company’s menu offers a wide variety of pretzels such as bite-sized pretzels dipped in butter and sugar, mini cheesesteaks melted in a pretzel ball, pretzel dogs, spicy sausage, a pepperoni melt pizza, and much more.
Additionally, Villa says he is looking forward to eventually creating custom pretzels, especially one for his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.
The Philly Pretzel Factory is based out of Philadelphia with 170 locations nationwide. The company has four other locations in New York City with two stores in Brooklyn, one in Long Island, and another in Staten Island.
A Queens native, Villa grew up in Corona and Fresh Meadows and now resides in Long Island. When given the option to choose a location in Queens, he considered Forest Hills due to the accessibility of public transportation nearby, he said.
“I love the community and there’s really good transportation here,” Villa said. “I think of it as the gateway to Manhattan because the E train is nearby and the LIRR is only two stops. If I want to develop business in the city as well, it’s not too difficult and I can get there.”
According to Villa, construction on the site began in December and the new eatery was scheduled to open in March, but unfortunately, there was a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were told by corporate that it doesn’t make sense to open a store during a pandemic,” Villa said. “If it were up to me, I would’ve opened earlier if possible because a lot of people with pretzel franchises were using their business to fundraise and deliver pretzels to precincts and hospitals. But unfortunately, we weren’t open and couldn’t do that.”
Additionally, when Villa received the main oven for the store it needed to be hooked up by a company specialist before they could open. However, the worker was based outside of New York and unable to get there due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the staff trainer is also based outside of New York and was unable to train the new employees.
Since its grand opening with nine staff members working part-time and full-time, Villa said they have considered the importance of everyone’s safety with social distancing guidelines in place.
It’s strictly takeout and orders can be placed on the company’s app and other services such as DoorDash and Postmates for delivery.
“There’s a lot of equipment and heavy machinery in here, so for me, it’s safety first all the time. And while it’s different having to wear masks and gloves, considering the risks, it’s not a big deal for me at all,” Villa said. “Hopefully, we’ll find a cure for this and will no longer have to do that in the future.”
Overall, Villa says the family-based business is in for the long haul to be a part of the community than the typical franchise.
“We look forward to participating with the community in many events, and we appreciate the business that they’ve already given us,” Villa said.
The Philly Pretzel Factory is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For updates, check out the Philly Pretzel Factory on Facebook and Instagram (@phillypretzelfactory).