Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Mogul Dies at Age 89

Murray Handwerker, the son of the Nathan, the man who opened the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island, died on Saturday in Florida at the age of 89.

Son Murray Helped Dad Nathan Expand

Nathan Handwerker opened his hot dog stand in the middle of a bustling Coney Island back   in 1916, but it wasn’t until his son Murray returned from a military tour overseas during World War II that Nathan’s began to gain regional, and then national recognition.

Visionary Entrepreneur

At first Murray helped his parents open additional locations in Times Square and on Long Island, but with the advent of the 1970’s and Murray taking over as chairman did Nathan’s really begin to expand in a big way. At that time Murray took the company public and began to sell dozens of franchises all across the United States.

“He was a visionary entrepreneur,” said Murray’s son Bill Handwerker. “He had such a passion for Nathan’s and Coney Island and what they represented.”

Murray was also responsible for bringing the Nathan’s brand into supermarkets, making the hot dog into a hot item with excellent brand recognition.

Left His Heart in Coney Island

Original Nathan's in Coney Island

But to Murray, his heart was always back at the original Nathan’s on Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. He often reminisced about his happy childhood spent there, devouring his parents’ tasty dogs.

“My playpen was the box they delivered the rolls in,” he said in an interview in 1986.

In 1987 Handwerker sold the company, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to visit the flagship store.

“That place meant so much to him” his son Bill explained.

As a hot dog historian Murray also wrote “Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Cookbook,” which has 150 recipes for hot dogs.

What was Murray’s favorite hot dog flavor?

“He liked his dogs au naturel,” his son said.


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