Anne Beiler: A Twist of Faith
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PRETZELS OF PROSPERITY
Anne Beiler, Auntie Anne's® founder, began making pretzels in 1987 to support her husband Jonas' vision of opening a free family counseling center in their community. She had no idea where this business venture would take her.
Anne thought she would be singing with her sisters in the musical trio they had and be a wife and mother. Little did she know that in 1988 her world would change when Auntie Anne's Pretzels was born.
Growing up in a family of eight children, Anne was the baker and bread maker among them. When she was a teenager, she had a waitressing job that taught her about customer service. Later, she worked at a food stand at a farmers' market. It was there that she learned how to make pretzels the old-fashioned, Pennsylvania Dutch way – soft and doughy.
A friend told Anne about a vending stand for sale at another farmers' market in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. She and Jonas bought it and Auntie Anne's pretzels were born. However, the pretzels they sold during the first weeks of owning their stand tasted "horrible."
The Beilers decided to tweak the recipe and found success. Anne had no previous business experience and only a ninth grade education, but she had eight stand alone stores and her first Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels store in a mall after a year. The only advertising the company had was the rave reviews from their customers.
Though it was a very emotional process, after 18 years in April 2005, Anne and Jonas sold the business to one of their most dedicated employees who was faithful to the Auntie Anne's Pretzels since almost the beginning, Sam Beiler (Anne's second cousin).
Anne felt like God was calling her to step out in faith to see what else lie ahead of her. Many of her friends, family, and even employees didn't understand her decision to sell the business, but most were supportive.
Though she has retired from the pretzel business, Anne's legacy lives on. Auntie Anne's Pretzels is still a strong, vibrant, international company. System-wide sales for 2007 were about $309 million. Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Auntie Anne's has locations in 15 countries, which include the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. One of Anne’s philosophies stills holds true: You get to give to give again.
This year commemorates Auntie Anne's 20th anniversary, which the company officially celebrated on February 2, 2008, with a nationwide Free Pretzel Day. They are also launching What a Difference a Family Makes: A New Twist on Giving Back, a grant program that will reward 20 families who give back to their communities with grants up to $20,000 (which will be selected by the end of May 2008.)
GROWING UP IN AMISH COUNTRY
Anne started her life in her Amish hometown, of Gap, Pennsylvania which is in Lancaster County. Anne and Jonas were both born to Amish parents. Anne's family became slightly less conservative and joined the Mennonite church when she was three. Jonas made a similar conversion on his own at 16. They met at a Mennonite youth group and they married when she was 19 and Jonas, 21. They then joined an evangelical Christian church, became youth pastors and quickly started a family of their own.
In 1975, tragedy struck. Angela, the Beilers' second daughter, was killed in a farming accident. She was a toddler who ran behind a tractor that Anne's older sister was driving. Angela's death shattered the Beilers, plunging each parent into a private, fathomless grief.
Six months after the accident, Anne was still grieving the death of her daughter and went to her pastor for counsel. Unfortunately, he sexually abused her and told her not to tell anyone what he had done. She was shocked, but her background taught her to believe and trust her pastor and leadership. The relationship went on for six more years where Anne says she was controlled and manipulated. She became depressed and weighed 92 lbs.
At the end of the six years, she revealed her secret to her family. Through this process, she also found out that the pastor was also doing the same thing to her sisters and her best friend. Jonas complained to the church leadership and the pastor was investigated.
Anne’s account was verified and the pastor was dismissed. This helped Anne and Jonas talk more, but she couldn't seem to talk about her feelings. She was angry at God, herself, her husband, and the pastor. She dealt with her anger by putting her energies into the pretzel business. Though Jonas was a counselor and the Beilers were helping others, it was hard for Anne to come to terms with the fact that she was helping others but couldn't help herself.
FORGIVE AND FORGET
Anne says she battled depression for 23 years, starting at the time of the pastoral abuse in 1976 until 1999. Through all the years, she sensed God's presence and His plan for her life wasn't thwarted because of her brokenness. Through the ordeal, she thought if she would be silent and pray, then everything would be alright.
But things just got worse, and she didn't know why. Anne says it wasn't until she confessed to others what had happened and not just to God, that she started healing as she walked in forgiveness. She also went to a counselor who helped her sort out the issues and spoke God's truth into Anne’s life. It was a long "journey of sorrow" to find that God is faithful and that "...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." ()
HIS YOKE IS EASY
Anne is totally healed and free. Now she has a better understanding of God. Several years ago, she couldn't understand fully the process God had taken her through. Now, in hindsight, she is amazed at what God has done throughout her life and how His vision has seemed to come full circle.
God took Anne on a walk of faith and has surprised the Beilers in big ways, with major surprises along the way. She started Auntie Anne's Pretzels to help Jonas start the Family Resource and Counseling Center (FRCC) in Gap, Pennsylvania. Now, proceeds the Beilers earned from Auntie Anne's Pretzels is helping them build a facility for FRCC that will be an expanded counseling center with day care and elder care facilities, a library, church, gymnasium, and cafe.
Taking from what she learned about the healing and freedom in confession, Anne has organized a support group for women called Seven Women, Seven Weeks, Seven Stories. Each week, for an hour, Anne gathers with seven to ten local women and one takes a turn just "telling her story" and the others listen. Anne says the faith walk God has her on doesn't get old. It is fresh, exciting, amazing, and very fulfilling. He has taken her places she never knew existed.
"It's good to have plans and dreams, but don't be surprised if God brings you somewhere else," she says.
God redeemed Anne's life in so many ways. He used Anne's experience with Auntie Anne's Pretzels to restore everything that was stolen from her. She is helping others and wants to maximize her story for God's glory.
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