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25-year employee takes over as franchisee of Pretzelmaker in Columbia Mall

Susan Zettler began working at Pretzelmaker spring 1997. It only took around six months for her to be promoted to manager when the previous manager left to run another store location in Fargo. Susan then spent more than 20 years managing the store.

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(From left to right) Paul Zettler, Susan Zettler and their daughter Kristen outside of the Pretzelmaker kiosk at the end of their first day of ownership.
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GRAND FORKS — Paul Berry and his wife Jane, former franchisee of Pretzelmaker in Columbia Mall, credit one employee as the reason the business was able to continue operating for so long.

“Susan would work when she was sick, she would work when kids wouldn't show up and there were many times where she probably might work 14 days in a row, and from open to close,” Paul Berry said. “She made that store work.”

Susan Zettler began working at Pretzelmaker spring 1997. It only took around six months for her to be promoted to manager when the previous manager left to run another store location in Fargo. Susan then spent more than 20 years managing the store.

Susan’s husband Paul said she does not give herself enough credit for how hard she worked at the store as a manager. It got to the point where she was making more money than he did at his job.

“This was my 25th year teaching for Grand Forks Public Schools, so I started teaching roughly at the same time that she started working at Pretzelmaker,” Paul Zettler said. “She was making more money than I was until I got my master's degree. I'd been teaching for 15 years, I got my master's degree and that's when I finally caught up to her, so Paul and Jane were very generous to her in that position.”

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Columbia Mall has changed drastically in that time. Susan said the mall now sits at no more than 50% capacity with only two anchor stores.

“It was pretty poppin’ in here,” Susan Zettler said. “Stores were full. We had all the anchor stores open. During Christmas, they would plow the field across from the mall where Sears originally was, and that's where all the cars would park out there. With the traffic in here, you couldn't even walk through. There (were) so many people everywhere. Now, it’s not really a ghost town, but it’s pretty empty.”

So, what makes someone work at the same place for more than 20 years? Susan attributes it to a work culture that always made her feel welcome and appreciated.

“Paul and Jane treated us very well,” Susan Zettler said. “I (don’t) really like to jump from job to job. I kind of like to stick where I am. Before I worked for Pretzelmaker, I worked for a bingo place for five years, and then I pretty much came over here probably a year later after that.”

Paul and Jane Berry decided it was time to retire this year. They have been running the store from afar for years, as they live just outside of Deadwood, South Dakota. Paul was born and raised in Deadwood, and Jane is from Lead, South Dakota.

READ MORE ABOUT LOCAL BUSINESS
It’s not the first time DEDCO has stepped in to try to save a local necessity in Drayton. In 2012, DEDCO completed a similar project to draw a restaurant back to the town.

Paul Zettler would help with maintenance on the business, and their children have also been involved with or worked at the store before.

“Being in business today, and even in the past, you have employees, and when you live eight hours away, it can be a real challenge,” Paul Berry said. “And put it in a nutshell, their family just did so well. They were so honest and hard working.”

Paul Berry credits the Zettler family as the main reason Pretzelmaker has been able to survive all these years with owners operating it from a state away, as well as through thick and thin in the Columbia Mall.

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“It just goes to show you how lucky we were to find an employee that was honest and would show up to work,” Paul Berry said. “I mean, we had no idea what's going on there, really, (but) we did because Susan was there.”

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESS
Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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