Bell Alley Pretzel saved; 'Now, I can do what I love'

72-year-old business had planned to close Sunday

READING, Pa. - Bell Alley Pretzels in Reading is so tucked away, you'd think it's a secret, but it's no secret how much the pretzels are beloved.

The shop off the 600 block of Laurel Street, which draws lines out the door, and has kept customers coming back for decades.

"I'm 71, so I'm going to say [I've been coming here] 70 years," said one customer.

But times have changed, and owner Shelly Coulter announced this week that she'd make her final pretzel on Sunday.

"No business," said Coulter, saying why she decided initially to close. "I think everybody forgot that I was here located until they found out I was going to close the business."

The oven inside Bell Alley Pretzel has been on nonstop since 1945. This week, it came closer than ever to shutting off for the first time. That is, until a couple of savvy businessmen decided to step in.

Tim Profit, the general manager of the Savage 61 car dealership in Muhlenberg Township, and his business partner, Ron Hartington, weren't close with Bell Alley, but they cooked up a deal to purchase half the business.

"The place has been the same since 1945," said Profit. "I don't know anything in my life that's the same since I was a kid. It's exactly the same way. It's amazing. I called Ron on the way over here. I said, 'There's a line. This community wants it. We'll take a run at this. What do you think?'"

"I said, 'Let's check it out. If we can save it, let's save it,'" Hartington said.

There's nothing half-baked about this deal; Coulter can't wait to whip up more dough.

"Now, I can do what I love," said Coulter. "I believe too many people change good things and you can never get it back, so as long as I can keep that going, I can keep Joe's name alive -- the owner who taught me."

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