Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Murray Handwerker of Nathan's Famous hot dogs dies at 89

Murray Handwerker of Nathan's Famous hot dogs dies at 89

 Murray Handwerker, who helped grow Nathan's Famous from his father's Coney Island hot dog stand into a national franchise, died Saturday at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 89.

Handwerker had suffered from dementia and died in his sleep, said his son, Bill.

Handwerker's father, Nathan, opened the Coney Island stand in 1916, four years after emigrating from Poland. Murray was born on July 25, 1921, and spent so much time in the restaurant that he said he came to regard the frankfurter bun boxes as his playpen.

He worked in nearly every aspect of the business, from stacking pallets of hot dogs to manning the grill. As a teenager, Murray Handwerker told his son, he sometimes worked at the grill so long his body had trouble recovering.

"His fingers started flapping like he was using the pincher when he came home from the store," Bill Handwerker said.

Seeing the appeal Nathan's had, Handwerker returned from the Army during World War II with a broader world view and new ideas on expanding the business.

He offered franchises. He led the company to go public. And he put its hot dogs on supermarket shelves across the country.

Handwerker sold the company to private investors in 1987.

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