When you hear that the founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels wrote a memoir in 2008 called Twist of Faith, your instinct was probably to roll your eyes just there, but it turns out this was a life worth memoiring. Anne Beiler was raised about as far as possible from the culture of the malls where her stores flourish: in the Amish community. Yes, there’s a real Anne, and with 30 nieces and nephews, she’s not only an aunt but a participant in what you might call “extreme aunting.”
In the Amish tradition, she dropped out of school in eighth grade, got married at 18 …
… and started popping out tiny li’l buckleheads shortly thereafter. She was well on the path to traditional Amish wife-and-motherhood until one of her young daughters was killed in a tractor accident, which — if any comfort can be found in such a situation — is at least an extremely Amish way to go.
Because people in some religious communities don’t so much as change their underwear without consulting their church leader, Beiler sought help with her grief from her pastor … who proceeded to rape her and manipulate her into a six-year coercive sexual relationship. When Beiler finally broke her silence, she blew the lid off a jar of theological deceit that was way more full than she ever guessed. It turned out the pastor had been doing the same thing to basically every woman she knew, including all of her sisters. Together, they ran him out of town on a rail, which is probably something you can still do in Amish country.
That’s actually why she bought her first pretzel shop in 1988. Her husband wanted to open a counseling center where women could seek free help that was guaranteed not to end in sexual torture, but the Amish are not known for their vast wealth, so she bought a local pretzel shop that happened to go on the market at a deep discount to fund the venture. Sure, she didn’t have a clue how to make pretzels, but she committed herself so hard to learning the fine art of pretzel-making (and, you know, business) that within a year, the middle-school dropout was running eight different locations of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. She was gonna fund those women’s counseling, dammit, even if it meant succumbing to the evils of electricity.
Don’t worry; none of this has dampened her faith in the slightest. In fact, she recently did a stint on the board of directors for the Museum of the Bible with that Hobby Lobby guy who stole all those artifacts. She doesn’t appear to have been directly connected with that incident but don’t sleep on her. This is one ruthless bitch who’s seen some shit, and we would all be so lucky to have her as our scary Jesus auntie.
Top image: Auntie Anne’s