Welcome to our new Faces of Lititz blog series! Here we’ll tell the stories of the hard-working folks behind your favorite shops.In this issue, we’ll meet the faces behind America’s first commercial pretzel bakery, Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.
The story of America’s first commercial pretzel bakery began in 1861, and we’re still writing chapters today!
All those years ago, Julius Sturgis purchased the property at 219 East Main Street in Lititz, moved his family in, and added an addition to make room for his pretzel business. As the years rolled on the business grew, leading to a Berks County factory. Today the business continues to thrive, with that very first location still operating in Lititz, and still operated by members of the same family.
Visitors flock to the historic site from around the world, not just for a taste of the pretzels, but to learn how to do the signature pretzel twist. Guided tours teach visitors how the pretzels are made and show them the historic tools first used in their production. Heading up operations are Tim Snyder, an owner since 2006, a member of the original Sturgis family through marriage, and the Lititz mayor. While Mayor Snyder is often at the shop, the face you’ll likely see when you visit is that of General Manager, Kurt Van Gilder (pictured above).
Kurt leads a team of Lititz locals who kindly welcome visitors and share the story of Julius Sturgis. He tells us that Little Cheesers pretzels and Cinnamon Sticks pretzels are their best sellers, though his personal favorite is the Sourdough Bits N Pieces.
Kurt, a former educator, is an enthusiastic supporter of downtown Lititz. His favorite spots to frequent are Savory Gourmet and Sweet Legacy, and we often spot him at the Lititz Farmers Market (anyone else noticing a food theme?). When he’s not in town, Kurt can be found at home with his dogs and his spouse or in Mt. Gretna at their cottage.
For a more in-depth telling of the Julius Sturgis history and to book your tour, head here.