Tasty twist of fate
Matt, Comm ’03, Grad ’11, and Katie, Arts ’07, knew something was missing from Milwaukee’s well-known German heritage: authentic Bavarian pretzels.
The alumni couple fell in love with the staple while living in Munich for a year and decided to bring the tradition home. Today they own and operate Milwaukee Pretzel Co., a fast-growing bakery on the city’s north side with 10 employees, customized imported German equipment and their signature product — hand-rolled, hand-twisted pretzels that are vastly different from the ballpark variety, the Wessels point out.
“It’s a very artisan product,” Matt says. “It’s been touched by human hands, and each one looks a little different.”
What makes it a true Bavarian pretzel? “Our ingredients parallel what they use in southern Germany. Our process uses much of their time-honored techniques, and we use the same solution to coat our pretzels before baking to give a crispier, darker exterior and a denser, chewier interior,” Katie explains. “We’re obsessed with our product being authentic German.”
In their third year of operation business is good. Matt and Katie gave up their previous day jobs to work in the bakery full time, and they’ve tripled production annually. Milwaukee Pretzel Co. distributes independently and through brokers to some of Milwaukee’s busiest restaurants and taverns, including Mader’s German Restaurant, the Milwaukee Ale House, and Sprecher Brewery and its pubs and beer gardens.
The couple credit much of the success to their Marquette business education. “It’s everything — supply chain and logistics, pricing and costs, e-commerce, marketing, all of it,” Matt says. “Sometimes it feels like we’re in the longest M.B.A. capstone course ever.”
— Christopher Stolarski