May 22, 2011
Nathan's Famous owner expanded nationwide
Murray Handwerker, 89, who turned Nathan's Famous, the Coney Island hot dog stand founded by his father, into a national franchise, died May 14 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He suffered from dementia, said his son, Bill.
Handwerker was born in New York City on July 25, 1921, five years after his Polish-immigrant father, Nathan Handwerker, opened the hot dog stand.
The younger Handwerker later said he "grew up behind the griddle" at the stand that became a Coney Island landmark.
He earned a bachelor's degree in French in 1947 at New York University and served in the Army during World War II.
Returning home with a broader worldview, he made plans to expand the chain beyond a single stand.
By 1977, there were 43 company-owned restaurants and 10 franchises. The first outlet west of the Atlantic Seaboard opened on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City in 1975.
Handwerker was named president of Nathan's Famous in 1968 and sold the company to private investors in 1987.
In 1983, Handwerker wrote "Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Cookbook." He continued to regularly consume hot dogs until the end of his life.
He always ate his frankfurters the same way, his son said: "Au naturel."
—Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports
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