VisitingNewEngland small business partnership
Profile of an American Small Business Owner Success Story: Suzanne
Foley, of Port City Pretzels in Portsmouth, N.H.
Suzanne Foley, owner of Port City Pretzels in Portsmouth. Photo source:
City Pretzels Facebook fan page
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 3/7/2018.
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These things are known to be true...
Those over 50-years-old who have lost their jobs can absolutely find
new, meaningful career
success. Just look at
actress Betty White who achieved stardom at 51 when portraying Sue Ann
Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Now is a better time than any other in history for women to
successfully own small businesses. Just look at J.K. Rowling, founder
of the Harry Potter empire who once lived in poverty.
There's still room to put a twist on a time-tested product and co-exist
as a small business with big brand names selling the same goods.
Wicked Whoopies in Gardiner, Maine did just that, going from owner Amy
Bouchard's kitchen hobby to a national sensation when it comes
to whoopie pies.
Overwhelming tragedy can be followed by personal
happiness in life. Just look at country star
Luke Bryan, who lost two siblings before becoming a country music star.
Nice people can
finish first. Just look at humble rock/pop star Ed Sheeran
reaching out to others with random acts of kindness too numerous to
Take all of the above and then look at Portsmouth, N.H.
resident Suzanne Foley.
A career-long corporate business employee, Foley, 57, all of a sudden
found herself unemployed in 2015. In a short amount of time she also
suffered through many overwhelming personal traumas, losing her dad and
sister tragically pass away on her father's funeral day. Foley also
lost her dog during this time. Going through emotional distress while
finding her work life relegated to attending mandatory unemployment
meetings, Foley never lost faith, thank goodness.
After one unemployment meeting, Foley wrote a letter centering in on
what she wanted to do in life. She then had that "Aha Moment" and
decided to put that "twist" on a time-tested product by starting a
pretzel business. The Foley family had loved snacking on pretzels
through the generations, and this gave Foley food for thought.
mother-in-law, the late Eileen Foley, the longest serving mayor in
Portsmouth serving eight terms (her mother, Mary C. Dondero was the first women mayor in New Hampshire and first east of the Mississippi) possessed a beloved family pretzel recipe that Suzanne
further researched, tweaked and eventually perfected through trial and
error. After several months, Foley started Port City Pretzels -- now
affectionately known as "The People's Pretzel" -- in
Portsmouth in November of 2015.
In a remarkably short amount of time, Foley's business went from a 500
facility to a 900 sq. ft. space to the current 3,500 sq ft. Heritage
Ave. pretzel manufacturing location, which is optimally compliant with
Food and Drug Administration food business requirements. It all
represented a stunning "180" from the demoralizing nature of
unemployment. The local SCORE chapter --the nation's largest network of
volunteer, expert business mentors -- has greatly helped Foley start up
her new business, to this very day. Foley soon found unexpected
almost read like something out of a storybook, or one of those
improbable feel good movies of the year -- only this was real.
"Someone must be watching from up above," said
Foley. "I still can't believe all this is happening, but I love it. I
am so grateful."
The first 10 businesses who all said "Yes" to selling Suzanne's
pretzels has quickly grown to 200 brick and mortar stores in New
Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut,
Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Washington, D.C.
Boxes of pretzels ready to be shipped from Port City Pretzels in
New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts possess the most stores selling
Port City Pretzels. Locally famous businesses selling Port City
Pretzels include MacKinnon's Market (Portsmouth and various locations),
Wentworth By the Sea Hotel and Spa in Newcastle, N.H., the New
Hampshire State Liquor Stores on Route 95 in Hampton (north and south
bound), Zeb's General Store in North Conway, N.H., the Kittery Trading
Post in Kittery, Maine, Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine,
Cardullo's in Harvard Square (Cambridge, Mass.), Wilson Farm in
Lexington, Mass., Volante Farms in Needham, Mass., and DeLuca's Market
in Boston. For a complete
list of where to buy Port City Pretzels, click here.
The pretzels -- Tasty Ranch Dill, Cinnamon Sugar and Feisty Hot (all
come in three different-sized bags) -- are addictive and delicious and
clearly far beyond the norm in this food category with full-bodied
flavors, and an appealing, significant crunch. This writer brought back
three bags (two regular size and one large size) for three people and
the pretzels were gone within five days! They are, without a doubt, the
best pretzels I have ever tasted.
Tasty Ranch Dill Pretzels from Port City Pretzels.
"Why do they taste so good?" asked Foley, already knowing the answer.
"They are made with love, even as we get more automated. This is what I
Port City Pretzels has been featured locally on WMUR-TV Channel 9 in
Manchester's New Hampshire Chronicle,
Foster's Daily Democrat, SeacoastOnline, the Portsmouth Herald, To Market Online Magazine and Taste of the Seacoast, as well as
SmartBrief and the Specialty Food Association, in New York City,
N.Y. The New
England Made Giftware and Specialty Food Show.
recognized Port City Pretzels as the "Best New Product Winner" in 2016.
"Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful," said Foley. "It is very
hard for me to accept that this is all happening, but I have and feel
great. I guess losing my (corporate job) was the best thing that ever
happened. You can feel very clouded in such a job. Many
do not like their jobs, so I do feel blessed that I am doing what I
love... You couldn't pay me enough to go back (to the corporate world)."
Foley employs under 10 people and uses a $45K Tridyne processing
machine (named Barbara as an ode to a friend who helped Foley in the
early going with the business) to keep up with the demand of pretzels
from the consumer.
"Yes, I went through a lot, but never stopped believing," said Foley in
her kind and authentic way. "You need to have faith."
Port City Pretzels manufacturing facility.
"We have come a long way since hand-scooping pretzels into a bag," said
Foley, a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native who has a bachelors degree from
Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, N.H.. "I have gone from making
something at home to a completely different world."
Foley also sticks to what she knows best when making the pretzels.
"I know gluten-free and salt-free are popular, but not right now for
us," said Foley. We have a good product!"
With all the success, Foley remains grounded and able to handle
different kind of pressures. She receives lots of support, especially
from her two daughters, Brynn (who works for Major League Baseball) and
Eileen (a mental health counselor).
"I am comfortable and have kept things in check, "said Foley. "There's
lots of support and I have
brilliant people advising me. That helps a lot!"
Foley also takes on a very practical approach to business by always
looking for a good bargain and keeping a good sense of humor.
"I need to buy a forklift and found one in Connecticut," said Foley.
"It was on Craig's List. I buy a lot of things on Craig's List. But how
do I bring that forklift back to Portsmouth? Yes, I guess there is
stress, but it is not that bad!"
A growing dedicated fan base serves as a prime catalyst, ultimately, to
Foley's successful business. She never forgets those
precious moments of all that is good and most important in life.
"I do get overwhelmed, at times, but in a good way," said Foley. "At a
show, I saw six deep (rows) of people in line waiting to buy pretzels.
I started to cry. I believe in the goodness of things, and I will never
Port City Pretzels Web site: http://www.portcitypretzels.com Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/portcitypretzels/.
Twitter address: http://www.twitter.com/portcitypretzel.
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