On Monday, Nov. 27, Tommy Long did something he never (well, rarely) does.
The agent with Howard Hanna Krall Real Estate, Lebanon, placed a “for sale” sign on a restaurant property he had not yet listed.
He happened to be in the area, so why not? His commercial listings tended to move much slower than his residential ones, so he didn’t expect any real interest till he posted the listing in the next day or so.
But this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill commercial listing.
The Pretzel Hut, an iconic northern Lancaster County eatery with a popular petting zoo, is on the market for $850,000. And all it took was a cellphone photo of the “for sale” sign to spread the word on the Lebanon, PA Happenings Facebook page, Long told LebTown.
“The reaction has been overwhelming,” he said. “This has been an exciting couple of days for sure.” Even before he posted the listing, Long’s phone was “blowing up” with texts and calls.
As of noon Dec. 1, two Facebook posts on The Pretzel Hut’s being for sale (the other is on the Howard Hanna Krall Real Estate page) have been shared more than 600 times combined. The 2,277-square-foot restaurant sits on 5 wooded acres.
Ready to retire
Tom Rabold, 56, who owns the business with his wife, Angie, 56, told LebTown they hope the buyer of the turnkey establishment keeps the same type of business – especially retaining the petting zoo.
Long said the petting zoo includes chickens, goats, “an angry little goose,” peacocks who look cool when they spread their feathers, pigs, rabbits, and turkeys.
“We had it 21 years,” Rabold said of The Pretzel Hut. “We bought it when we were 35.” And while he has another job, Angie Rabold is ready to retire.
They want to get their lives back, he said.
Rabold also made clear that if The Pretzel Hut, now closed for the winter, doesn’t get sold in the next few months it will reopen in March. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, subs, wraps, steak sandwiches, salads, appetizers, broasted chicken, full dinners, sundaes and other ice cream creations – and soft pretzels.
There’s some disparity over when The Pretzel Hut first appeared. Tax rolls say 1967 but Long and Rabold are pretty sure it was 1958 because kids born in the early 1950s remember it as small children.
The establishment was seasonal until the Rabolds bought it in 2002. They ran it all year except for some weeks around the holidays. But after COVID-19, the couple moved to a seasonal schedule, from March to October/November, Rabold said.
“We are going to miss the customers,” he said; many of them have become friends.
The Pretzel Hut draws tourists, too. The petting zoo is one reason why. (He noted that the business combined his wife’s two passions: cooking and animals).
One time, tourists from New York came and had never seen farm animals before, Rabold said. They were so excited they returned with their whole family.
Other restaurateurs interested
Some of the interest in the property comes from owners of similar establishments in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, Tommy Long said.
The animals in the petting zoo will need quite a bit of attention and care, he said, but the petting zoo is immensely popular.
One of his 3-year-old twins loves animals, Long said. He wouldn’t drive 20 minutes for a burger and fries but would travel 20 minutes for a burger, fries, the petting zoo and then maybe ice cream for dessert.
Going to The Pretzel Hut, he said, “is an experience.”
The business is at 2224 Furnace Hills Pike, Elizabeth Township, near the Lebanon County border. There are 45 seats inside, 20 picnic tables outside, and 45 to 50 parking spaces.
Long’s listing noted that Furnace Hills Pike is Route 501, a main artery connecting Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
“The property is in turnkey condition, and has been owned and operated by people who deeply understand the importance of high-quality products, proper care and maintenance, efficiency, cleanliness, organization and employee loyalty,” he wrote. “At any given time the restaurant is packed with patrons. … This is a rare opportunity to move right into an established restaurant in a bustling area and get to work immediately.”
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