Dip In

Posh Pretzels, Tarrytown:  AnnMarie D’Erasmo

AnnMarie D’Erasmo, founder of Posh Pretzels, spent a decade perfecting her gourmet pretzel skills, which began by offering them as gifts, before transforming her hobby into a full time career in confectionsposh pretzels. Nothing makes you melt like her hand-dipped desserts. Peanut butter is an ingenious cross between a pretzel and a Reese’s that’s twice as tempting. Edible gold leaf made a cameo at the “Oscars” in 2015, a magnum opus chocolate covered pretzel that made its way into the $160,000 celebrity swag bags. Chocolate-covered graham crackers and marshmallows take s’mores where there’s no going back. Break a piece of her salty sweet chocolate-caramel or dark chocolate coconut pretzel to bite into wholesome chewy perfection.

Single mother AnnMarie always dreamed of opening a chocolate pretzel retail store in the town in which she is raising her two children. Now, thanks in part to the support and a small business loan from Community Capital New York, AnnMarie’s Posh Pretzels opened at 7 North Broadway in Tarrytown. Community Capital provided guidance on the lease arrangement, insurance, financing options, marketing and the encouragement every start-up entrepreneur needs to “get to opening day.”

Now with a chocolate-covered pretzel to please every palate, and boxed sets sold at Bergdorf’s, she continues to move forward—with great taste—in a Legally Blonde pink emporium.

How did you get into the chocolate  business?

I kept tinkering with chocolate covered fruit as gifts for neighbors and teachers, pretzels soon followed. Everyone loved the presentation as well as their taste, and requests for more came very quickly.

How did you get your business off the ground?

Primarily out of my house. I made them for friends, friends of friends, then began contacting event planners and various retailers. By the time I was in my retail location, my website was live and my name out there. I grew up in Westchester, and have been in Tarrytown for 16 years. I always liked this store with its domed awning. When it became available, it was an electric moment. I painted the walls my signature pink—my favorite color. Tarrytown is a very eclectic, walking community, with a lot of events and parades, and dining. My location is down the street from Abigail Kirsch (a popular banquet hall) and the Music Hall. Brides and mothers of sweet 16s come in to sample, taste and order. My pretzels are popular with bar and bat mitzvahs because they can color coordinate with party themes.

The location is perfect. Even when the door is locked after hours and I’m in the back dipping and decorating, people know to knock if they see the light on. Customers stop by regularly saying “I need a fix.” Regulars purchase their favorites by the pound.

We’re also becoming a place to pick up something to bring to the homes of those sitting shiva and to funerals, as well as award ceremonies and children’s birthday parties. But our M&M chocolate covered pretzels are just as popular with adults! Recipients call me to say how much they enjoyed them. Customers appreciate that we ship for them anywhere in the US.

How did your business evolve?

I felt instinctively that my online business needed the support of a retail location. It’s a very visual product, and people like to try and taste. The local paper, The River Journal, did a really nice article on Posh Pretzels, and The Journal News did a color spread on the same page as their review of 50 Shades of Gray during opening weekend, and it got noticed. The two articles brought people in from all over the county.

I utilized my small business loan from Community Capital to kick start inventory. The Community Capital staff has been beyond helpful and extremely supportive in guiding me through the start up process. It’s nice to know they’re a phone call away.

What’s the best advice you got along the way?

We were flooded for two weeks about a month after opening, from December to almost Valentine’s Day, with three weeks of frozen pipes. Receiving support from Holly (Perlowitz, Community Capital’s Business Development Manager) was truly beneficial. After weeks of setbacks, orders for bridal showers, weddings and graduations are back on track.

My favorite advice came from my 13-year old daughter Alexandra, the mastermind behind the Posh Pretzels logo: “The Poshabilities are endless,” which I’m going to paint on the back wall and add to my boxed packaging, and “Just one? Imposhable” and “Imposhable to resist,” will be added to the website. When our family discussed opening the retail store prior to signing the lease, it was Alexandra who said “Just do it! You love making pretzels and people love eating them!”

What did you wish you knew?

That you could sell pretzels for a living. It wasn’t until I approached Stew Leonards and they ordered hundreds of platters within days that I realized, gee, if they’re interested there is definitely a business here.

What advice would you offer?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t let it bring you down if it doesn’t happen immediately. If you have the drive and the passion everything will fall into place when it’s supposed to, no matter how exhausted you become. I make phone calls every day. My goal is at least one phone call each day and if it doesn’t work out on that particular day, at the very least, I’ve put Posh Pretzels on their radar.

Getting into the Oscar swag bags was a simple call to the company sponsoring the bags. I made 80 six-piece boxes with gold and silver leaf chocolate-covered pretzels and embellished each bow with beautiful crystal broaches. Twenty of the boxes were gifted to the nominees who didn’t win the Oscar for best actor, actress or supporting actor, as well as the host. The remaining boxes were used for media. Seeing Posh Pretzels make appearances in the press was quite fun.

Most surprising thing you’ve learned?

Two things. First, I’m a tough cookie and can take on more than I ever imagined. I’m not afraid of hard work and can visualize the big picture. I can get the job done without sparing a single detail. Second, pink is for everyone. Boys and girls walk out of Posh after school carrying hot pink bags without giving it a second thought. Breast Cancer awareness brought about boys’ teams frequently adding and wearing pink to their uniforms so they’re used to the color.

We have 20 flavors and I enjoy experimenting. Key Lime graham crackers and toffee caramel marshmallows were big surprises. A customer wrote a Yelp review stating “I hate chocolate covered pretzels,” (eesh). He went on to say that his Mom only bought chocolate covered pretzels as the household treat. So he grew up feeling deprived of other sweets and went right off them. Unknowingly, his wife purchased an assortment for him for Valentine’s Day. He wrote in his Yelp review that he had been transformed. That he was going to call his therapist and tell her he didn’t need to see her anymore. “Then I came across the marshmallows and I would take the hubcaps off people’s cars just to pay for an everyday fix.” I got an order for 50 Toffee Caramel Marshmellows for an engagement party based on that wonderful Yelp review.

What’s next?

Beverages. Though not coffee. To continue to turn retail visits into larger on-line orders, build an even larger corporate clientele, and eventually open a chain of stores. I’m looking forward to developing a popcorn/pretzel/nut/caramel concoction for Saturday nights for summer foot traffic.

Posh Pretzels, 7 North Broadway, Tarrytown, M-Thurs 11-6 pm, Fri and Sat 11-7 pm, Sunday 11-4 pm. Hours will be extended during the summer. http://poshpretzels.com/