Tell City Pretzels Are Knotty and Nice

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Tell City Pretzels

When Brad Smith couldn’t find his favorite pretzel snack in his local grocery store, he took it a step further to guarantee the salty morsel would be available: He bought the company. Smith and his wife, Sandy, now own Tell City Pretzels, which has been a southwest Indiana staple for over 100 years.

Twist of Fate

“I ate the pretzels growing up, like a lot of people in southwest Indiana,” says Smith, who has a background in real estate and snack food distribution. “One day my wife went to the store to purchase them, and they weren’t there. The store manager said he didn’t think the company was in business anymore. My wife went on the Internet to see if she could find them online, and it took her to a website that said the company was for sale. I guess one thing led to another. About a year later, we owned the place.”

That was in 2009, but the famous pretzel actually originated in 1858, when master baker Casper Gloor emigrated from Switzerland to Tell City. He brought with him a secret recipe for a pretzel that became a favorite. The recipe was passed down to Gloor’s loyal baker Alex Kessler, who then passed it down to his sons. Smith inherited the recipe when he purchased the company and says he took steps to ensure the pretzels, which are still twisted by hand, would continue to be made the same way.

Tell City Pretzels

“For one thing, I already had a customer base. It wasn’t like selling Brad’s pretzels,” Smith says. “It was the Tell City pretzel, and we were careful to make sure it didn’t change. We had some people who had made the pretzel years ago come in and make sure that we were actually doing it right. It’s just so different from any other pretzel.

“The No. 1 thing that makes it so special is the crunch. It just has a unique texture and crunchiness to it. It’s harder and crunchier than any sourdough or Dutch pretzel. That’s really what sets it apart.”

If You Go...

Tell City Pretzels
1315 Washington St., Tell City, IN 47586
Hours: Factory store open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone: 812-548-4499

While the original recipe has remained unchanged, Smith has added nine new flavors to the company’s product roster, including the bestseller honey mustard and Smith’s favorite, cheddar.

“We get a lot of suggestions from our customers,” Smith says. “We’re trying a Sriracha pretzel now, and we’re also testing a caramel flavor and beer mustard. We’re even testing a bacon flavor.”

Tell City Pretzels

Tying the Knot

Since taking ownership, Smith has also expanded the brand to regional and national supermarket chains, including Rural King farm stores.

“I’m a pretzel snack eater, and I’m particularly fond of the Tell City pretzel, so I always wondered why [the brand] had not gained a wider acceptance [outside Indiana],” Smith says. “I really just saw the opportunity with it, and now we’re shipping a lot of pretzels outside the Midwest – places like Atlanta.”

Tell City Pretzels remains a favorite of locals and tourists alike. The factory store in Tell City – which sits an hour east of Evansville along the Ohio River Scenic Byway – welcomes hundreds of visitors each year for samples and to tour the factory.

Tell City Pretzels

“Anytime somebody comes into town, whether it’s on business or visiting relatives or just passing through, they stop in,” Smith says. “We have a lot of salespeople who come in to buy pretzels for an account they’re trying to get, and we get a lot of tourists who come over from the resort in French Lick or families on vacation at Holiday World.”

Smith says he believes it’s important to keep the Tell City brand going since it’s so significant to the town’s history.

“It’s really not my pretzel; I’m just carrying it on. There’s a great sense of pride for the town of Tell City to know there is a good product with its name on it, and then to also have that name carried throughout the Midwest and the country,” Smith says.


  1. Mark Baur

    June 3, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    I ate TC pretzels growing up when i was going to Franklin school i believe in the 60’s.They were so good.

  2. Norma Wanhainen Fraser

    June 3, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I loved Tell City Pretzels when I was a kid in the 60’s. I still love them. And even though I live in Florida now, I still stop by for pretzels when I’m in Tell City. And I also have them shipped to my home in Florida when I get the urge for one.

  3. Rod Buschkoetter

    June 3, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Always a leader. Congrats to both you and Sandy!

    Rod Buschkoetter
    TKE AZ1082

  4. Warren Evrard

    June 4, 2016 at 2:23 am

    We had to go from St. Paul to Newman for our swhop class..we always stopped in and bought the small bag of the crunched up pieces!! I still crunch mine up befopre I eat them!!!! Please keep making them

  5. Todd kessler

    June 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    This is a great company. My family owned it when it was kesslers famous tell city pretzels. My great grandfather was Alex who received the recipe. Glad to see it still going. Great German beer pretzels. Keep it up

  6. Bud Brenneman

    October 31, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Congrats Brad! Great seeing you last weekend! Good luck and much success to you! Cheers!!!

  7. Charles Davis

    February 25, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    I was born in Tell City into the family of Dr. William T. Hargis. My mother, Ruth (Hargis) Davis introduced me to the Kessler pretzels then made on 9th St. I’m delighted that these unique crunchy pretzels are still being made. They still taste the same as the first I ate back in the day. I plan to introduce them to my friends, some of whom came here from Switzerland.

  8. Marilou

    July 8, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Love honey mustard pretzels but we have to break them before eating, flavor is delicious but I fear cracking a tooth, guess we’ll keep a hammer handy!

  9. Ashley

    August 24, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    This is an excellent establishment with wonderful people and delicious pretzels.

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