Aiden Crofton and Brian Granger spent Labor Day weekend twisting the nights away – and the days as well.
“I was twisting pretzels constantly for 10 hours each day,” Crofton said Tuesday. “That’s 30 hours’ worth of pretzels.”
Crofton, owner of Crofton’s Pretzels, opened his new location Saturday morning and had a line out the door all three days. He and Granger, who will be the shop’s general manager, were overwhelmed at the traffic to the new shop, a 2,000-square-foot former auto shop at 1620 Market St., at the corner of17th Street. The pretzel shop's original location, at 6014 Oleander Drive, closed in March to allow the two to revamp the new space.
Normally, Crofton’s Pretzels will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but the two men are staying closed for a few days this week to reconfigure and streamline the customer flow in their shop. They will reopen Friday at 11 a.m. and will be looking for additional help to sustain operations in the future.
Originally from the pretzel stronghold of Philadelphia, Crofton moved to North Carolina in 2012 when he was stationed at Camp Lejeune. He served in a tank battalion before being assigned to a special operations unit in Sneads Ferry.
When his active-duty term ended, Crofton decided to follow a dream of entrepreneurship.
“I always wanted to build something from scratch,” he said, adding that even while in the Marines, he sketched out a few ideas for a food service business. “I decided what kind of business I wanted to create, and then engineered a product to fit my business model.”
Going for a nostalgia angle, he went with what he knew.
“In Philadelphia, the biggest nostalgia item is soft pretzels,” he said. “I wanted to make the product true to what I knew as a kid.”
So, true to tradition, Crofton’s makes salted and unsalted pretzels with a variety of mustards to enhance them, along with cinnamon-sugar pretzels. The shop also offers quite a few twists on the classics. Savory choices include cheese and pepperoni, cheddar jalapeno, spinach artichoke Parmesan, buffalo, pimiento bacon, loaded mashed potato, crab dip, dill pickle, garlic parm and mac and cheese. There’s also a vegan cheese-stuffed pretzel; Crofton notes that the basic salted, unsalted and cinnamon-sugar pretzels are naturally vegan.
“We also do pretzel-wrapped hot dogs, and have a variety of dips as well,” Crofton said.
For customers with a sweet tooth, choices are apple, cherry, blueberry and strawberry as well as Nutella marshmallow and cheesecake.
The list will evolve over time, Crofton promises.
Currently, the shop stocks “about 150” bottled craft sodas, but will add beer in October when the business obtains its beer and wine license. A wine list is further down the road with the future addition of glassware and dishwashing capability.