BROOMALL–Three years ago, Marques Chandler, of West Philadelphia, was out of a job and looking for work. At the time, his cousin was working at the Philly Pretzel Factory's Broomall location and referred him to a job.
"Marques' cousin was working for us for about two months and introduced me to Marques...he and I just kind of hit it off from jump street since then," recalled Co-owner of the Broomall Philly Pretzel Factory Gary Nolan. "You could immediately tell he had great people skills.
Chandler said it initially just started out as any other job and was looking for a second job in the meantime, hoping to save money to send his two young daughters off to college some day. He started off at $8/hour, worked hard–getting to the store at 4 a.m. to start baking the pretzels for the day and working about 50-60 hours a week. He received a bonus six months later working himself up to $12/hour.
"I started getting good and then I started getting raises," shared Chandler. "Three years later it turned into my career. It became something I love to do."
Chandler eventually worked himself all the way up the ladder to assistant manager at the Broomall location. But he still held onto his dream to own his own business someday and considered changing jobs with benefits.
His Claim To Fame...And a Dream Come True
Last Friday CBS' hit reality TV show Undercover Boss aired Dan Dizio, the CEO of Philly Pretzel Factory, going undercover and visiting several of the company's locations, including the Broomall store, to meet with employees and to see what's working and what's not out in the field.
When DiZio went undercover at the Broomall location as a trainee, he shadowed assistant manager and baker Chandler.
"I've never seen Dan [DiZio], and I didn't even really know his name," laughed Chandler about his initial meeting with DiZio, who had bleached his hair blonde for the show. "I just treated him like a regular trainee."
At the end of the show, DiZio offers Chandler to become a franchise partner, where he would operate his own store–benefits included.
"It's the opportunity that I've been wanting–it's definitely exciting," said Chandler over a phone interview with Marple Newtown Patch Thursday, who still seemed shocked and overwhelmed by it all.
"I mean, it's crazy! Everybody was so surprised. My mom was watching it (she's already watched the show six times) with me (that was my second time watching the episode) the other day and she turns over to me and asks, 'Are you crying?' And I said, 'Yeah.' I just...really appreciate the opportunity."
But others, who have worked with Chandler over the years, don't find it too surprising.
"Marques is a great guy and a great employee. I'm extremely proud of our store in Broomall from where it was and where we've taken it," said Nolan. "And Marques was an intricate part of that process. He was a big part of making that store successful."
Soon after the show aired last week, Chandler has already started a fan-base. Since then, he's already signed his first autograph for a customer who asked to sign her pretzel bag and have taken numerous photos with customers.
"I guess you do feel kind of feel like a celebrity after that," shared Chandler. "But these customers are customers who have been coming to the store every day and they're like my friends. I appreciate them. They're loyal to the store and that's why we've been great for the past few years."
It also helped boost the store's sales. According to Nolan, last week was the highest sales week ever recorded for the store since they opened.
The Next Chapter
Chandler will officially begin at his new location, which has been determined to be in Elkton, MD, May 15. Though he has his hands full relocating and training, Chandler said that it's only a 45-minute drive from where he is now and assured he will visit often, including the Broomall site and Nolan.
"I really appreciate Gary for his support. I told him, I would love to stay in Broomall because that's where it all started. But this opportunity is just too incredible to give up. I'll definitely be back in Broomall though. It's really, really, really been like a family over there."
Though Nolan is sad to see Chandler go, he knows it's for the best. Nolan has already started the process of hiring another assistant manager in replace of Chandler.
"Obviously, it's going to be tough replacing Marques. The next assistant manager will have some big shoes to fill," said Nolan.