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Ben's Soft Pretzels keeps growing

Goshen-based Ben’s Soft Pretzels has announced three new franchise agreements and a new venture aimed at helping its growth plans.

The company has signed deals with franchisees who will open stores in Madison, Wisc., Chicago and Indianapolis, said co-founder Brian Krider.

And Krider said Ben’s is nearly ready to announce deals with up to 10 more franchisees by June. The Madison location will be in the West Towne Mall, the Indianapolis store will be housed within Circle Center Mall downtown, and the Chicago site will be located at the Ogilvy Train Station on Clinton Avenue.

Krider said the three stores will employ a combined 15 to 20 people.

Ben’s now has six company stores, including the mobile operation that sells pretzels at Notre Dame sporting events, and eight franchise stores.

“We are blessed beyond belief.”

Ben’s, which started with one stand at Concord Mall in 2008, told The Truth in December that it planned to open 20 new franchise stores this year. But Krider said they might fall a bit short of that goal because it has taken franchisees longer than expected to acquire real estate for the stores.

Krider said he could publicly confirm deals with another five franchise locations within two weeks, and then release another five franchise agreements by June 1. The locations will be in southern Michigan and northern Indiana, the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. area, and include more stores in Madison and Chicago.

In addition, Krider and his partners, Ben Miller and Scott Jones, have formed a separate company called Live Large Distribution Inc., which recently bought a new manufacturing and distribution facility north of Elkhart Municipal Airport, at 52864 Lillian Ave. They’ll use the building to make proprietary ingredients for franchisees, do-it-yourself pretzel kits that are sold in Martin’s Super Markets stores, and they’ll use it as a distribution point for commercial kitchen equipment for both franchisees and customers having nothing to do with pretzels.

They now make ingredients in space at the Concord Mall and expect to occupy the new facility by mid-May. Staffing it likely will create three to four full-time jobs, Krider said.

They will continue operating their Concord Mall stand.

“A lot of people give Concord Mall a bad rap but we’ve gotten phenomenal response from our customers out there,” Krider said.

In general, the trio couldn’t be more pleased with their growth.

“We are blessed beyond belief,” Krider said. “It’s been an awesome story.”

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