Authentically Auntie Anne’s

For the first brand remodel in the pretzel-making chain’s history, Auntie Anne's Sean Keyes and his team rolled out a handcrafted aesthetic

Auntie Anne’s, a mall mainstay, has been rolling out its made-from-scratch, hand-rolled, fresh-from-the-oven pretzels since original owner Anne Beiler began offering them at farmer’s markets in Pennsylvania in the late 1980s. Tapping into the now-famous pretzel’s brand’s artisanal approach was the guiding principal for Sean Keyes, Auntie Anne’s associate vice president of design and construction, when he conceived the first store remodel in the company’s history, launched in 2014.

French Gray Beadboard, like the hickory planks, contributes to the brand’s sense of authenticity. There’s the feeling that perhaps someone installed the board by hand.

“We wanted to create a more authentic, warmer-looking store to give guests the feel of a handmade product,” Keyes says. “Our pretzels are freshly baked out of the oven every day. Freshness is guaranteed in every single store.”

The new look incorporates elements meant to evoke the feeling of a home kitchen or local bakery, including warm woods, copper tones, a nostalgic blue color—in the lighting, the mixer, and a slightly off-center light box featuring the brand’s pretzel logo on the front counter—and natural materials that look like they could have been handcrafted. Keyes worked to source everything from a number of the brand’s established vendors, including DuPont, which supplied the Corian countertops, and Garden State Tile, which provided the subway-style tiling on the walls. He also set up new relationships with beadboard vendor Beirson Corp. and hickory-style wood supplier Patton Group to keep the brand relevant.

As of press time, 85 locations across the US had the new look. The first remodel occurred at the brand’s original mall location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but so far the redesign has primarily been implemented at new locations. However, Keyes and his team have plans to continue remodeling existing Auntie Anne’s locations in 48 states and 30 countries.

So far, the feedback on the new look has been positive—from guests, franchisees, and particularly landlords. “Our landlords like the idea that we are introducing something new to their malls, a different design,” Keyes says. “That we are evolving the brand is very important to them, as they want to have relevant brands in their malls.”