I first met Pat Long, proprietor of the Auntie Anne’s pretzel store inside the entrance of the Walmart Store in Morgantown in May 2015.

As we sat at one of the tables, I could not help but notice the cheerful lady behind the counter talking and laughing with employees. Upon leaving the store, I stopped and mentioned to the lady that it looked like she was having so much fun that I hoped she paid the owner to work there. Her reply was, “I am the owner!” I knew right away I had encountered a different type of person and asked if I could talk with her about writing a column for the “Tri County Record” about her. She obliged and the column appeared in the paper in June 2015.

Now, over three years later, I have learned another talent Pat has - writing a book about her customers. However, the biggest asset Pat has is a wonderful heart, which you will see later.

“As The Pretzel Rolls” was never meant to be a novel. It reminds me more of a Readers’ Digest selection of condensed stories (a half page to a couple of pages) of happenings while dealing with customers. This book would be great to carry while waiting for your name to be called for your appointment in the doctor’s office.

I would like to condense just two stories in the book to give you a flavor of things that occur in the pretzel store. A shy looking lady walks into the store. When asked what she would like to order, she has to close her eyes and mumble to obtain the right answer from Him. The seemingly three way conversation goes between Pat, the customer and Him. The lady buys a pretzel, three cheese dips and a Sprite (especially for God). After paying, and preparing to exit the store, the customer says, “I’m going to eat half of the pretzel. God is getting a little pudgy lately.” (pages 9-11).

One of my other favorite stories was about a 94-year-old lady who came into the store to buy two pretzels after getting out of the hospital after a two-week stay for a broken back. Because of her age and her health, it seemed like her shopping would be a monumental task for her. With Pat’s encouragement, one of her crew members sat down at a table and helped her make up a grocery list. The customer sat and continued to eat her pretzels while all of her shopping was done for her (pages 54-55).

Barb frequently gives me a hard time when I’m reading a book because I don’t like to finish it right away. For instance, while reading a mystery I often will set the book aside before reading the last chapter, saving it for later. In the case of “As The Pretzel Rolls”, the last four pages are under the heading of “A True Christmas Blessing.” This section is about Charley, the man who is a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, who is situated outside the front of the Walmart store. Charley’s story was placed just at the right place by Pat, in closing the book. His story is definitely the dessert of this fun read – it is the crème de la crème! Boy, am I glad I had put the book down for a few weeks before I read his story. It was like delicately placing the cherry on top of the whipped cream of an ice cream sundae. Better yet, it’s like completing the last couple of steps in making crème brulee. 

When reviewing a book written by someone I know, I try to be hypercritical to show my non-partiality as well as to advise you. First, some of the stories are told using some colorful language, sort of like dunking your pretzel into a spicy dip. However, all that language comes from the customers, not the author. Second, I thought the 82 page book, which can be purchased on Amazon (as well as other online sites), was a bit pricey. But, after being away from the book for a while and reading the last story, I would certainly recommend purchasing it.

Finally, in the preface (page vii), Pat Long states, “I really enjoy my customers and love to make them smile.” This could not be more evident once you get to know Pat and read her book. Not only is she kind to nice people but she “plays along” with somewhat troubled customers. What our world needs is more business people like Pat and more good people like her in general!

Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.

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