After 98 years of providing St. Louis with the finest kosher baked goods, Pratzel’s Bakery closed its doors. Open since 1912, the bakery was last operated by Ronnie Pratzel, a third generation owner. Members of his family were not interested in taking over, and a buyer could not be found.
As word traveled in the days leading up to closure, crowds lined up out the door eager to buy up Pratzel’s final batches of European baked goods. In addition, over 200 wholesale customers were left scrambling for a new kosher supplier.
The closure received media coverage from KSDK, St. Louis Magazine, Creve Coeur Patch, STLToday, The St. Louis Jewish Light and Fox2Now. George Mahe of St. Louis Magazine summed it up best when he said, “It’s a shame they survived the Great Depression, but couldn’t survive this one.”
Pratzel’s closed for good on January 30, 2011 with no buyers in the wings. Fans of Pratzel’s probably thought they had seen the last of the bakery. Falk Harrison wondered if enough interested parties actually knew that the bakery was for sale. Steve Hartman, Creative Director of Falk Harrison, decided to cast some attention on the plight of Pratzel’s with a tweet.
That tweet was an offer to St. Louis – a free year’s worth of social media services to anyone that purchased Pratzel’s. Falk Harrison was not hired by Ronnie Pratzel, or asked to do this by anyone. We set our own goals for this pro bono effort, which were two-fold:
• Generate as much publicity for Pratzel’s as possible – inform all St. Louisans with the interest and wherewithal to buy such a business that the bakery was for sale.
• Find a buyer to reopen the bakery.
Steve’s idea, hatched the morning after the bakery closed, was a simple one – make an offer to St. Louis and see if it takes.
A year’s worth of free social media services would cost Falk Harrison about $15,000, so the offer was no gimmick. Instead of waiting to see if the offer gained traction, we decided to fan the flames with a blog post, supported by further social media content creation via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
We started with a blog post that set the table for our efforts. The post was then tweeted out, and shared on Facebook and LinkedIn. We used our own social media platforms (@RizzoTees, @jonRfalk, @creativille, and @FalkHarrison). As people commented on the blog post or talked to us on social media, we quickly responded. We maintained a high degree of interaction right from the beginning.
Within hours of publishing the blog post, a local printing company came forward and wanted to sweeten the pot – $1,000 of free printing services. Ten minutes later, a local golf lifestyle magazine offered ten free one-page full color ads. We reached out to a local photographer and he agreed to offer free photography. Each time someone came forward with an offer, we updated the blog post and tweeted out the news. We began using the hashtag #SavePratzels on every such tweet, and others began using the hashtag as well.
At the same time, traditional media began taking notice. During day 2 of our campaign, Deb Peterson, prominent columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote an article about our efforts. Local culinary publication Sauce Magazine stepped forward with a blog post and a free ad (see below). This publicity generated additional offers. Each time, we would quickly verify the offer, update the blog post, and tweet it out. Twenty-four offers were accepted, and we had an incredible list of pro bono services ready to tempt prospective buyers.
After additional blog posts by Elasticity, St. Louis Social Media & Tech Report and St. Louis Egotist, and news articles in the Riverfront Times and the St. Louis Beacon, we culminated a week of outreach and publicity for Pratzel’s with an appearance on local radio. Mason and Remy from 93.7 The Bull interviewed Chris Reimer about our Pratzel’s initiative.
We also called Ronnie Pratzel to discuss our efforts. He was happy we were shining a light on the company, and he was very thankful to St. Louis for the outpouring of support. He really wanted his nearly 100 year-old family recipes to live on, and was hopeful that a suitable buyer would step forward.
Our first goal, a maximum amount of publicity for Pratzel’s and its plight, was easily met.
• Almost one million impressions for the terms “Pratzel’s” and “#SavePratzels” over a five day period
• Hundreds of retweets and “@” reply interactions
• Twenty four local businesses joined the cause, further tying together the St. Louis culinary and business community in this cause
• Prominent news articles written within days of the start of our campaign (see photo gallery below)
Our second goal was met about a month later. Ronnie Pratzel told us he was in negotiations with a very interested party. We held out hope. Jon Mills, a documentary filmmaker, had taken an interest in the bakery. After a few weeks of negotiations, he purchased key assets of the operation, renamed it Pratzel’s Eastgate Bakery, and will be opening shortly. Our #SavePratzels hashtag was retired and replaced with #PratzelsSaved. We announced the great news, generating thousands of additional impressions for the terms “Pratzel’s” and “#PratzelsSaved.”
Jon said of our social media campaign, “Your blog was a great summary of the history of the events leading up to the closure and your resulting campaign. A great research tool. Seeing the outpouring of interest proved to me that this was a beloved St. Louis brand, and not just something my twelve best friends liked. The lack of a kosher baker in St. Louis was a big problem, and I felt it was worth pursuing. Your campaign was a validation for me of the position Pratzel’s held in the community.”
Our VP of Social Media, Chris Reimer, spoke about our #SavePratzels campaign at Pecha Kucha 7 in St. Louis. While the audio is rather poor (turn it up!), you’ll get a little more insight as to why we took on this cause in the first place.
Chris then presented on engagement in social media at Get Digital 2, and Pratzel’s provided an excellent example.