NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The birth of the Penguin Pretzel Factory began as many things do: from a need and a simple prayer for change.
Suzy Agostino of New Port Richey says five years ago, her husband was traveling a lot for work, they had four children, and the family didn't spend much time together. Something needed to change, Agostino said, and one night before bed, she tearfully said a prayer for direction.
The next morning, she woke up and, out of nowhere, she decided that she needed to make some soft pretzels. "I spent the next, literally, six months making pretzels," she said. "They all thought I was crazy!"
"I actually thought she was going through something," laughed Suzy's husband, Nick Agostino.
After hours of pretzel-making and recipe-trying and her family taste-testing every variation Suzy had come up with, she finally found "the one," the perfect combination of a mall pretzel and a New York street pretzel, and that's when Suzy put her prayer and her pretzel-making together. "That's when I remembered the prayer," she said. And then she told her husband it was time to start selling.
So, Nick Agostino pitched the family's new pretzel to Busch Gardens and Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, along with Bay Area restaurants, and it was a hit.
They had orders coming in, so many that it eventually broke Suzy's oven.
So, Nick sold his business to open up the Penguin Pretzel Factory along Old County Road 54 in New Port Richey, and it has become a a place where their four children have learned the family business and where their friends have come to work as well.
What began as just pretzels for wholesale turned into a bustling business full of pretzels stuffed with spinach and cheese, pretzel sandwiches and pretzel nuggets, pretzel breads either plain or dripping with butter and garlic, pretzels with Nutella or cinnamon or beer cheese and homemade dips, and coming soon, salads with pretzel croutons. They will even make custom pretzel shapes, if you order ahead for a special occasion.
The list has become virtually endless based on whatever creativity Suzy Agostino dreams up, but for Suzy and her family, pretzels are what her dreams were made of. "Now instead of me traveling...we're together," Nick said.
On National Pretzel Day, by the way, the Penguin Pretzel Factory is offering free pretzels to anyone who stops by.