Thursday, June 13, 2024

From Belize to Bavaria: Global entrepreneurs open homemade pretzel shop in Leavenworth

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LEAVENWORTH – When Beth and Kevin Spiegel opened Bites –Leavenworth, a new, fresh-made pretzel shop on Commercial Street, they did so with a March Madness-style dip tournament. 

People could come in and get a free pretzel sample, so long as they tried and voted on wild dip flavors, such as corned-beef dip, white chocolate raspberry dip, or the tournament champion, dill pickle dip. 

“It was just a really fun way for us to get our product out there, get people in the door, and really understand what people were looking for,” said Beth.

While the shop may have a wide variety of dips, the actual menu is quite simple. Variety is offered through the shape of the pretzel: twist, knot, or bites. On occasion, the shop will offer pretzel-based specialty items such as bread pudding, bagel or stuffed hot dog. 

Bites menu is intentionally simple in order to perfect the product. Yet, the wild swings in the dip department are a way for the Spiegels to offer a glimpse into their adventurous personalities.

Fifteen years ago, the Spiegels and their one-year-old son moved from Chicago to Belize, nearly sight unseen. The exception was Beth, who had a week of experience visiting the country. 

The couple decided to buy a friend’s pizzeria in Belmopan, the country’s capital, despite only having backgrounds in marketing development and online advertising. Yet, the swing paid off, and the pizzeria became a success.

“It gave us access and experience to people we would never, ever interact with, because it's such a small community and we were a successful business there,” said Beth.

Over the years, the Spiegels made unlikely friends with foreign diplomats and high-ranking businessmen who frequented the joint.

“[We’d think,] did we just hang out with this guy? Did I just insult someone that was hand appointed by the Queen of England? Every night we'd go home like, did that really just happen? It was just a lot of fun and change,” said Beth.

The pizza place offered a crash-course in business with the added challenge of operating in a developing country. The Spiegels learned how to repurpose ingredients in order to maximize an order, and maintain enough inventory in case of a supply chain issue.

“If a hurricane comes, no cheese, because the boat has to turn around…I had to maintain two months' supply, because it would be that long before we got cheese again,” said Kevin.

While Spiegel’s may not have to worry about hurricanes affecting the supply chain anymore, they still maintain two customer service principles they learned in Belize: only put items on the menu if they are always available, and always be open during listed operating hours.

The pizzeria gave the Spiegels the entrepreneurial bug, prompting Beth to start an IT outsourcing company, and Kevin to start a specialty meats business. However, the couple considered moving back to the states as their son neared the third grade, wanting to provide him with an American education.

Seven years later, the couple sold all three businesses to Belizeans and started looking at places to live in the U.S.

“We knew when we were moving back, we had to go someplace that was completely different. We couldn't go someplace that we had already been, because we knew we would regret or miss Belize,” said Beth.

In 2016, the Spiegels moved to Leavenworth, once again, sight unseen, based on the suggestion of Beth’s Lake Stevens-based brother and a quick Google search.

“We thought, why not? That place looks different enough for us that it might just work out,” said Beth. “I remember when we got out of the car…I was just like, what did we just do? Where did we just move?”

It didn’t take long for the Spiegels to call Leavenworth home, nor did it take long before they felt the entrepreneurial itch. The couple kept a whiteboard of business ideas over the years, hopeful that a hard to find downtown retail space would finally become available. The time gave the couple the chance to realize that Kevin’s pretzel recipe, which he had been perfecting for the family’s lunches over the years, could be a viable Leavenworth business.

“Were kind of tossing around like hey, could a pretzel business alone work here, especially if they're handmade, fresh every day, different styles, different shapes, dips, et cetera.? Because no one was doing that,” said Beth. 

The space became available in December, and Bites had its soft opening by March. In addition to its bites, the shop has a coffee bar, cold drinks and slushies available. Bites is currently working on obtaining a wholesale license, with a plan to provide fresh pretzel products to businesses throughout Wenatchee Valley.

Bites – Leavenworth is located at 905 Commercial Street in downtown Leavenworth, and will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting May 11.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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