A year after the country watched him win his own franchise on a reality show, Eleazar Puente is finally opening the doors to his own Auntie Anne's shop

A Woodburn resident, whose experience on a reality show landed him his own franchise, is finally opening the doors to his own store.

Eleazar Puente went on A&E’s “Be the Boss” last year to compete against another store manager of an Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop. The two competed for a job at the corporate headquarters but the real prize, which Puente won, was to open his own COURTESY OF ELEAZAR PUENTE - Woodburn resident Eleazar Puente and his wife Andrea stand in front of Eleazar's own Auntie Anne's store at Lloyd Center in Portland, which opened last week.

Puente realized that dream last week, when he opened his own store at Lloyd Center in Portland. Although the store opened Wednesday, the ribbon cutting was Friday, complete with four hours of free pretzel giveaways.

“I’ve been a manager since 2006, and finally got the opportunity to be on the TV show, and boom goes the dynamite, as they say,” he said.

Puente is grateful to the massive support system he has had to establish the fitting name of his company: Be the Boss, LLC.

“The support from my family and the company has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “A team with Auntie Anne’s is always there to help, whether it’s about construction or financial issues, and for moral support, my family is there, from babysitting to picking the kids up from school.”

Wife Andrea is working as chief financial officer in addition to taking care of the couple’s two daughters, MaKylee and Brooklynn, who are 5 and 2.

It has been a tough year for the family. Not only has Puente been in transition with his company, but in May, their 56-day-old son, Bennett, who was born prematurely in March, passed away. The family’s struggles to pay medical bills triggered generous support from the community, particularly those at Woodburn Foursquare Church.

“That kind of helped me to take a step back and be thankful for what I have, that every day I wake up always feeling blessed,” Puente said. “No matter what I’ve gone through, I still have a job, I still have my family. The one word I can say about my life is ‘blessed.’”

After the tragedy last spring, Puente got back on his feet and found his future store in September, officially taking over Nov. 8. Having been the manager of the Auntie Anne’s at Woodburn Premium Outlets, where he started working in 2003, he had been worried he wouldn’t be able to find his own store close enough to home.

“I will continue to be a Woodburnite,” he said. “I will be commuting. I’m really fortunate it’s here.”

Puente has learned the ins and outs of being a store owner, from the permits, leasing, equipment installation and hiring process.

He has hired 13 employees and, from that group, will select a manager.

“The owners promote from within, that’s something very traditional because they know the system,” Puente said. “Until I appoint a manager, I’ve started everybody on the same level to get a feel for who has the potential to take on more responsibility.”

That means that not only will Puente be doing the operations of the store, but he’ll be working alongside his employees.

“I’ll be putting on the gloves and rolling up my sleeves,” he chuckled. “It’s a lot more stressful (owning a store). I’m worrying about all the behind-the-scenes stuff. A manager’s work is about the product and tills; now it’s not just that, but also permits and licenses and following guidelines.”

But he wouldn’t change it for anything.

“I’m glad it’s finally here,” Puente said. “It’s an exciting feeling to look where I was and now to be in the position I’m in. My dream was to be a business owner, but I never thought it would come this quickly.”

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