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Nathan's Famous: The First 100 Years of America's Favorite Frankfurter Company Paperback – May 10, 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 ratings

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About the Author

William Handwerker is the grandson of Nathan Handwerker, founder of America’s favorite frankfurter company and the iconic Coney Island, New York institution. Working alongside his grandfather and father, Murray, for 30 years, William penned Nathan’s Famous 100 Years to commemorate the enormous entrepreneurial spirit of his grandfather’s legacy and the business history of one of America’s most loved foods--the Nathan’s Famous frankfurter. He worked as a teenager at the Coney Island and Oceanside restaurants during summers, weekends, and holidays. After graduating from Ithaca College, William joined his family’s company fulltime in 1976. During his tenure, William spearheaded operational improvements, and promotional and marketing campaigns, including judging the early years of the Nathan’s Famous Hotdog Eating Contests. William, who rose to Senior Vice President of Corporate Foodservice, departed the company in 1996. William has been interviewed by The Food Channel, the History Channel, and numerous national and New York media.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Over the course of almost thirty years, I observed the company from many vantage points, as I worked in different restaurant locations and management positions, from opening the Coney Island front counter as a young adult to marketing, purchasing, and finally to corporate food service for the company. My ringside seat provided me with insights into how and why the company experienced spurts of growth while simultaneously surviving shifting winds during inevitable setbacks. Working in the family business presents an entirely unique set of obstacles and challenges.

Behind the scenes, I heard earfuls of beneficial strategic discussions and witnessed occasional disagreements among family members and management. But through a common desire to build a legacy, and our love for one another, we found ways to overcome the nonsense and set aside the family drama to move toward the common goal.

Having grown up during a time when our family, its business, and Coney Island itself were in constant transformation, I am positioned to present my firsthand observations and perspectives of exactly what transpired. Throughout the forthcoming pages, I reflect on the company’s rickety ride through intermittent tenuous success, its glorious heyday, and all the ups and downs in between, against a backdrop of ever-shifting economic, cultural, regulatory, and political issues thrown our way.

My sources include personal memories and conversations I had with my grandparents and parents, who never tired of discussing the early years and different business situations or marketing campaigns, as well as how we might expand the Nathan’s concept. More recently, I conducted interviews with longtime employees, friends, and acquaintances integral to the company’s development. I dug up and sifted through countless documents, correspondences, personal pictures, and media accounts about various family and business milestones to ensure the information herein is accurate.

Another crucial resource includes the hours of interviews my cousin David Sternshein conducted with our grandfather, Nathan, just months before his death in 1974 at age eighty-one---may his memory be a blessing. Those tapes reveal a spirited, tough businessman who was determined not to allow his family to suffer the kind of deprivation or degradation he experienced while growing up poor in “the old country.”

These lessons from a hardnosed immigrant taught me more than I could ever learn from textbooks or academic settings. I am a product of my years with Nathan’s Famous. I am even more confident that the lessons I learned from my grandfather and father, and from working within the family business, could be extremely valuable and meaningful to anyone starting a new company or looking to expand an existing one.

All of these experiences have enabled me to take a step back and contemplate the history and legacy of my family and our little frankfurter business. The story of Nathan’s Famous (and our family) has many twists and turns. My account may sometimes feel like a Coney Island ride---often a wicked fast rollercoaster, sometimes the thrilling Steeplechase, or a revolving carousel with floating wooden steeds and music of the calliope playing. The ride will be worthwhile and provide many practical benefits, as well as a great account of Nathan’s Famous.

If you’ve never been to Coney Island, this book is bound to serve as a sensory smorgasbord, bringing you the scents, sounds, and most of all, the flavors surrounding Surf and Stillwell Avenues just off the Boardwalk through the unique lens of the Nathan’s Famous story.

Preserving this legacy of hard work, spirit of entrepreneurship, and perseverance comprises the first purpose of this book. I am proud to be part of the heritage that continues to give pleasure to those who stop by the original location and the many Nathan’s restaurants around the world, as well as those who purchase Nathan’s products to prepare them in their own homes.

Second, this book culls the lessons from my grandfather, who built something out of nothing with the sheer force of grit, self-sacrifice, and determination; from my father, Murray, who had the passion and vision to expand the company’s menu and its geographic reach around the world; and from various mentors who helped my father and me to achieve those goals. Our hard work should inspire readers who have the passion, grit, and willingness to roll up their sleeves and open their own proverbial hot dog stands.

A word to the wise: when you order your first frankfurter, take a bite without slathering anything on it, to enjoy what the best frank in the world tastes like. To quote my father, “The best way to take your first bite of a Nathan’s hot dog is to have it au natural. Then put on either mustard, ketchup, or whatever toppings as you like.” The memory should last with you forever!


Product details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan James Publishing (May 10, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1630479349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1630479343
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,488,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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