At only 23 Brittany Garbutt created Pretzel, opening the first pretty-in-pink store in Northbridge in 2017. Now, three years on, Pretzel has five stores in WA, two in VIC, with a third on the way.
We asked her: What’s the secret to Pretzel’s appeal? What was it like starting out as a local, young, entrepreneur? Why did she develop Pretzel stores as the now iconic pink and neon outfitted containers?
What’s your favourite menu item?
My favourite is the cinnamon glazed! Because I love the taste, and because you just can’t get that flavour anywhere else.
But my favourite savoury pretzel is anything with our Smokey Chipotle sauce. My go to is a Cheese & Garlic pretzel with the chipotle sauce. I can’t handle spice, but I’ll sit and cry through the whole thing because I love the taste so much.
How did you learn to bake soft pretzels?
It takes six months to be able to make the dough, roll and bake it to my standards. It kind of has to become second nature to develop the muscle memory for it.
When did you discover your passion for pretzels?
I used to work for a family in Whitfords City who taught me how to make their style of pretzel. They closed shop to move on and retire when I was eighteen, but for five years I couldn’t find any other pretzel in Perth that compared. So I decided to bake them myself!
What does a day in the business look like for you?
Every day is different, especially as we’re opening a lot of new stores. Some days I’ll be in Melbourne checking up on the new stores, most times I’m here in Perth dealing with emails, seeing my staff members, overseeing the Instagram… I end up working about 19 hours a day doing 100 jobs at once. I love Pretzel. You have to love your work to keep up with it.
Why did you pick Northbridge as your first location?
Growing up in the Northern suburbs, going to Northbridge was always just so much fun to me. A lot of my business decisions are made on pure genuine feelings of joy. I love Northbridge, and I thought it’d be fun to come back to that space that I love.
I did my research. I sat around in the Perth Cultural Centre watching who was going by, wondering if the people who come through would want a pretzel. Northbridge is very eclectic from hour to hour,
Opening Whitfords was like a homecoming. Coming back to where I first learned.
How did you come to decide to expand Pretzel to Melbourne?
Well, with help from our customers and the pretzel lovers here in Perth, we developed a strong brand, a bit of a fun cult following. I felt like I wanted to spread more joy. We do super fun things and have fun food, I wanted to see others have fun too.
So, I figured we’d open a store in Melbourne. If anyone was going to lovingly accept my completely pink palace like Perth has, it’d be Melbourne.
How are you and your teams faring in growing from a one local location, to three local locations, to expanding nationally?
I’ve got my business partner in Melbourne, Chloe. She started working with me in Perth, but moved to oversee the Melbourne teams and stores.
It hasn’t been easy by any means, but having Chloe and the tech to do business online has helped.
What has your experience been like, being a young entrepreneur?
I used to work in the stores, 19 hours a day 7 days a week for an entire year in Northbridge. I had to make sure every pretzel was perfect.
If you meet the right people, they’re encouraging, and they will be over-the top nice to help. I haven’t found many people who aren’t as nice, but I do find that it takes a lot of proving: so, you have earn the right to be as young as I am and be taken seriously. Most people are very supportive of me being a young entrepreneur
Tell us about the iconic Pretzel style, where you operate out of shipping containers, with the bright pink and neon aesthetic?
First, it was out of necessity. I wanted our Northbridge store to be exactly where it is now, but there’s no building there. So, I figured we’ll use a sea container as the building.
I spent my life savings on the sea container. If something did go wrong, I could at least resell the container. Whereas if you do a commercial fit out in a store… you pretty much lose all your money.
As for the pink, why not? I love pink, I love neon, I try out anything that I think is fun and cool, because, why be boring? Why should we try being normal?
I pride myself on being over the top for the sake of being over the top, and having fun with the pink and the neon.
Particularly before we came onto the scene, pretzels weren’t very well understood. To were usually thought of as those tiny little crunchy things in bags, or remember bad train station dough. So we invite people in with the fun branding and aesthetic, and then give them a pretzel that’ll get them hooked.
How have we (Perth customers) supported Pretzel, the teams, and you?
Y’all are the best, honestly. It feels like my staff, our Pretzel fans, and I are all mutually proud to have something Perth born and based grow to expand to Melbourne. It feels like we’re all part of a big team.
The cutest thing anyone’s ever said to us was “The one thing that Perth has given to Melbourne.”
I try and support Perth as Perth supports me too. We hire local kids and people, and try and put down real roots in the communities we’re in. After all, without Perth and your support, there’d be no ‘us’.
It’s also real fun to be opening our new stores and hearing “finally there’s one in my neighbourhood!”, it’s nice to know that people want you close!