Philly Pretzel owner Mark Cooper is a pro at twisting pretzels. The shop located in Serenity Plaza offers a variety of pretzels and dipping sauces. (Photo by Sarah Unger.)

By Sarah Unger

Ewing Philly Pretzel Factory Owner Mark Cooper can twist perfect pretzels in three seconds apiece. And soon as he’s removed a tray full, piping hot, from their six-minute bake in the oven, Cooper boxes and bags the soft, aromatic treats for customers heading to meetings, soccer or softball games, parties, or as carry-along afternoon snacks.

Cooper, a Cherry Hill resident, said the daylong mixing and baking routine can begin as early as 4:30 a.m. if he and wife Karen have a special order to cater. Most days, though, their 6:30 a.m. arrival provides enough time to twist and bake the risen dough for their first customers at 7 a.m. Cooper also does brisk business with many area schools, including Ewing High and Fisher Middle School. In addition, he said, that lots of people stop in to pick up pretzels on their way to the office.

Some customers will even buy and ship pretzels to relatives who have moved and miss the regional favorite.

“They’ll spend four times more on the shipping than on the pretzels,” he said.

Soccer season of fall 2007 provided Cooper the ideal setting to cultivate business as he and Karen strolled the soccer sidelines behind Serenity Plaza, handing coupons to potential customers. Today, Cooper repays the early, enthusiastic support by sponsoring several recreational soccer and softball teams in town. He said he gives away a ton of gift cards to community organizations.

“We’ve had a lot of people come into the store and say, ‘Thank you for helping out with such-and-such,’” he said.

The store is located in the newly built section of Serenity Plaza, and Cooper credits the plaza’s management with keeping surroundings looking spiffy. He also considers the focus on food at the shopping plaza as a benefit to all of the tenants.

“You’ve got Italian, you’ve got Hungarian, Japanese, Chinese,” he said, not to mention bagels and water ice. Pretzels are pretty simple, even more so than bagels.

“It’s just flour, water, yeast and a little bit of whey and a few minor ingredients,” Cooper said. But he said there are also the sweet and spicy dips customers crave and the many shapes and varieties to choose.

Besides day-to-day retail, the Pretzel Factory hosts children’s birthday parties, during which guests take a tour and make their own pretzels. The Coopers also get creative for customers, shaping pretzels into everything from hearts, flowers, and shamrocks to names and numbers for birthday parties.

Open 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, Philly Pretzel Factory can be reached at (609)771-8550. For more information, go online to phillypretzelfactory.com.