Pretzel CEO has a TV twist

Undercover Boss: Philadelphia Pretzel CEO Dan DiZio.
Undercover Boss: Philadelphia Pretzel CEO Dan DiZio.
Posted: April 23, 2012

When Dan DiZio sold pretzels on Roosevelt Boulevard and dreamed of opening his own pretzel bakery, he didn’t know what the word “franchise” meant, or that having one store could ever happen.

But now with 120 locations nationwide, the CEO and co-founder of the Philly Pretzel Factory will be on “Undercover Boss” Friday night (8 p.m., CBS 3). DiZio, 40, said he thinks every CEO should go undercover at his business and see how his employees work.

“I was sleeping on bags of flour when we first opened up, but I became a corporate guy,” DiZio said. “I said, I’m never gonna lose my roots in the pretzel business, but to get caught up in boardrooms and meetings you really do lose touch. I forget how hard it was to go to work at 3 in the morning to make pretzels,” DiZio said.

DiZio and his East Stroudsburg University roommate, Len Lehman, opened their first store at Frankford & Cottman in Mayfair on May 2, 1998. Their corporate office is nearby, and DiZio stops in the flagship location for a pretzel every day. He prefers cream cheese to mustard, but also enjoys his company’s super-hot mustard. Who are the weirdos who prefer yellow to spicy mustard, we asked. There aren’t many people who use yellow mustard in this area, DiZio said, adding that yellow mustard increases as you get farther from Philadelphia.

Speaking of, his farthest store north is Clifton Park, N.Y. He has a store in Pittsburgh and as far south as North Carolina. Most of them are franchises, for which he has created a system and standards. In celebration of National Pretzel Day Thursday, DiZio says all Philly Pretzel Factory locations will offer one free pretzel to anybody who stops by, and the first 100 visitors to each store will get free pretzels throughout May.

Catching up w/Jenna

Jenna Wolfe of NBC’s “Today Weekend” looked forward to catching up with old friends in town over the weekend. The former PHL17 sports reporter was here Friday doing interviews promoting Comcast Cares Day which she participated in Saturday by helping clean up Frankford High. She was shown doing so on “Today.” Don’t miss our video interview with the very funny Wolfe on PhillyGossip.com.

Out and about

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor brunched on a breakfast taco at the Fitzwater Cafe (7th & Fitzwater) Friday. An advance security detail checked the place out, and we’re told two guards ate with O’Connor and her assistant.

Sigourney Weaver strolled around the Philadelphia Science Festival Carnival Saturday afternoon on Logan Circle. The actress is in town shooting USA miniseries “Political Animals,” in which she stars as a former first lady, now divorced, who becomes secretary of State. Local shooting takes place until June.

Actress Tèa Leoni and her daughter Madelaine (one of her two children with her “X-Files” ex David Duchovny, now of “Californication,”) shopped along Rittenhouse Row Friday and picked up elephant and seahorse pendants from the Rare Wonder line at Lagos (18th & Walnut).

“Kids in the Hall” comedian Kevin McDonald made a surprise performance Saturday night with the Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge). McDonald was in town teaching a workshop with Philly Improv and decided to participate in its 11 p.m. show Sketch Up or Shut Up.

West Philly native comedian David Brenner was in town last week and enjoyed lunch Thursday outside Devon on Rittenhouse Square. Brenner has lived in Las Vegas for many years.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Sean Weatherspoon of the Atlanta Falcons partied with a group of seven drinking Ciroc Peach and Crown Royal cocktails as well as Moet Rose champagne Saturday night at the Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Atlantic City. The ballers took photos with fans and danced a bit.

Movie matters

“Mancation,” the romantic comedy which “Wonder Years” star Danica McKellar and former N’SYNC singer Joey Fatone shot in the area last year, was just sold to Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Grindstone Home Entertainment division. The film, produced by Double Windsor Films, also features veteran character actor Mike Starr, and stars Matt Kawczynski, Jake Matthews, and Stephen Medvidick. It was directed by Frank Vain, written by Alexander Grant and produced by Derek Lindeman, John Guarnere, Anne Qualtieri and Tommy Avallone. For info, visit MancationMovie.com.

Daily News assistant city editor David Lee Preston will lead a discussion following the 7:30 screening Tuesday night of “In Darkness” at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. Preston’s late mother, Halina Wind, and nine others, survived the Holocaust by hiding in Polish sewers for 14 months. Preston will shed light on the real people and real events that occurred in the sewers of Lvov, Poland, which was the topic of the Oscar-nominated foreign film. n

Read Dan’s latest at PhillyGossip.com, email DGross@phillynews.com, call 215-854-5963, follow him on Twitter @PhillyGossip. For recent columns: philly.com/dangross

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