Marquette graduates open flourishing Milwaukee Pretzel Company

MILWAUKEE — A local small business rode the Bucks’ playoff success as it grows here in Milwaukee, and around the country.

Inspired by time spent in Germany, Marquette University graduates Matt and Katie Wessel founded Milwaukee Pretzel Company. It’s grown from their home kitchen to a facility supplying Fiserv Forum and producing thousands of pretzels a day.

The Wessels first thought of making pretzels for a living was born while returning from a Beer Garden in Munich.

“On the way back, we were eating a pretzel,” Matt Wessel said. “(We) sort of jokingly said to each other, ‘We should totally sell these back in Milwaukee.’”

Katie Wessel always had a passion for cooking and baking and began experimenting with Bavarian style recipes in the home kitchen.

“Whenever I was stressed or wanted to do something to relax, I would always cook,” Katie said. “So doing this was a natural transition for me. It was something I loved to do so much and had done it for so long as a hobby that it was easy… ish… for me to kind of figure out how to do this.”

Bavarian style pretzels are dense, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. A bath in food grade lye prior to baking gives them their distinct darker color and tangy finish. Much of the machines used in the baking process, the Wessels imported from Germany.

Milwaukee Pretzel got a big break a few years ago when they began a relationship with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“They took a chance on us,” said Matt. “That first season they gave us one stand, and then after the response they saw, they asked us if we could do the entire arena.”

He also knows the promise of Fiserv Forum was that the new arena would benefit not only basketball fans and team owners, but the local economy.

“For them to bring in a small business, a local product, without asking a lot back in terms of a sponsorship agreement, things like that, just shows their commitment to providing good local food at a good price for their fans,” said Matt.

For Katie, who grew up in Southeast Wisconsin, the meaning is even deeper than that.

“We’d always see the Bucks on TV and if we were lucky we’d get to go to a game,” she said. “We’d see people eating soft pretzels, so to go there now and see people eating our pretzels, is pretty pretty exciting for us.”

Milwaukee Pretzels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They’re available in local bars and restaurants, including those in the Bucks’ Deer District.

You can buy them online here with 5% of online sales going to support March of Dimes.

Vince Vitrano, TMJ4

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