One Sunday morning in 2002, as Levi King found himself staring at the pile of ashes that used to be his business, he realized he was at a crossroads.

“I thought, I can rebuild or go do something else,” he says. But he didn’t have to think about it for long. “This is what I love,” he told himself. “I’m going to do it all again.”

And he and his wife, Joanna, did do it all over again … and then some. Today, King Corporation owns six JoJo’s Pretzel Shops – with the newest one opening in downtown Goshen in late 2013 – as well as other businesses operating around Elkhart County.

It was nearly three decades ago, while Levi and Joanna were still dating, that they first dabbled in pretzels together. Levi had grown up in Lancaster, Pa., “where pretzels are everywhere,” Joanna says. When he started getting cravings for pretzels far from home, they got a recipe from his grandmother and started experimenting. Eventually, they were impressed enough with their creations that they saw the beginnings of a business.

So, with $5,000 in start-up money, Levi and Joanna rented a space in the Davis Mercantile Shops, picking a 10’ x 10’ space that gave them just enough room to roll out and cook pretzels and sell lemonade. As they started the business, she continued to work in a fabric store and he held onto his job with an excavating business.  After all, when you’re selling pretzels for 75¢ each, you don’t make a lot of money in a hurry.

“I remember some times when we only made $10 all day,” Joanna adds.

Eventually, business picked up, and within a couple of years, the then-newlyweds expanded, quit their “day jobs” and went into their own business full time. Since then, they’ve bought and sold businesses and become deeply involved in their community.

They’ve also learned a lot of lessons along the way, which they tend to offer up eagerly. Here are a few:

  • “If you throw away a bad pretzel, it won’t kill you. But if you serve a bad pretzel, it could kill you.”
  • “Don’t forget the customer has choices.”
  •  “Do your homework.”
  • “Be open to opportunities, and seize them.”
  • “The customer is your best advertiser.”
  •  “Learn how to learn. Continue to learn.”
  • “Nothing trumps passion.”
  • “Be willing to do whatever it takes.”

And, of course, don’t let anything – even a fire that “wouldn’t stop burning” – get in your way. “Don’t lose sight of your vision,” Joanna says. “Hold onto the vision forever.”

Levi King - Returning from the Ashes

Owner, King Corporation

Elkhart County, IN Entrepreneurs​

"Be open to opportunities, and seize them."