Exporting Philly: Aggressive growth is taking cheesesteaks, water ices and pretzels global

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Philadelphia's culinary staples are going global.

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City-born cheesesteak, water ice and pretzel chains are aggressively pushing into new markets, often with help from Philly-born franchisees and transplanted customers who want a taste of home.

Philly Pretzel Factory has 150 stores and plans to open 350 more and go international by 2020.

Rita's Italian Ice is already up to 600 stores in the U.S. and is expanding into the Middle East and Canada.

Cheesesteak-maker Tony Luke's has 22 stores, including in Bahrain, seven more in development and plans to grow to 360 locations within a decade.

Convenience-store chain Wawa skipped straight to Florida from its footprint in five mid-Atlantic states. It has more than 60 stores in Florida and has plans another 25 by the end of the year.