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    What Inspires Auntie Anne’s President Heather Neary

  • Passion, respect, integrity, diversity, and excellence define the culture at the class pretzel brand.

    Auntie Anne’s / Timothy L. Mateer
    "We’re a franchise-based business, and it’s important we understand how the decisions we make at corporate impact every single store," says Heather Neary.

    My first job was working for a little sub shop called Frank’s Place. The owner knew every guest and most of their orders, so I began to learn their orders, too. Those details helped him be successful as a business owner. And that’s a lesson I learned early on.

    I worked at a lot of different restaurants throughout my college years. One restaurant owner, Carole Ashby, had a slew of restaurants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and did a great job with casual dining before casual dining was a category. I learned a lot from her. She was incredibly demanding and expected a lot from us, but she also rewarded us when we did our job properly. I was able to make a ton of money as a 21-year-old college student. In fact, I always say I made more working three nights a week at her restaurants than I did at my first “real job” out of college.

    When I finally got my degree, I worked in the publishing world. It was a very cyclical job that didn’t appeal to me so I started over as a marketing assistant and really enjoyed the fast-paced, dynamic nature of marketing industry. Eventually I transitioned to Auntie Anne’s when I had the opportunity to move back to Pennsylvania in 2005, and it was a great match. I went from marketing managing to director of marketing to CMO and then to president. I got to try lots of new projects and new disciplines.

    I think people have an inherent passion and an emotional connection to food. It’s fun to to tap into that and harness the power of the brand. People have really fond memories of their first Auntie Anne’s Pretzel. There’s just a visceral connection to our product that is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a great industry to be in.

    Our company values are passion, respect, integrity, diversity, and excellence. Those aren’t just things that hang on a wall for me—that’s how I run the business. We’re a franchise-based business, and it’s important we understand how the decisions we make at corporate impact every single store. Making sure that’s always top of mind for me is important.


    What’s your favorite menu item at Auntie Anne’s?

    If I’m behaving, I get an Original Pretzel with marinara sauce. If I’m really going to enjoy something delicious, I love our Mini Pretzel Dogs.

     

    What’s your favorite type of food beyond Auntie Anne’s?

    I love global flavors. My husband and I eat all different kinds of cuisines. Lancaster County is actually a great foodie town. It has a lot of great restaurants that are run independently, as well as a lot of amazing chains.

     

    Who has inspired you as a leader?

    I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great female mentors in my career. Although Anne Beiler, the founder of Auntie Anne’s, left about two weeks after I joined, I stayed in touch with her over the years. Also, Carole Ashby; Candie Harris; and of course, Wendy Clark, who was at Coca-Cola and is now the CEO of DDB.

     

    What are some of your interests outside of the business?

    I run every day and at least 100 miles a month. I am training for a triathlon and an endurance relay race. My husband and I also play golf. I have two awesome kids, and I spend a lot of time with them. I don’t sit still a lot. I love the whole focus on fitness: work hard, play hard.