Jerry Starkman, who founded Mustard’s Last Stand hot dog haven near Northwestern’s football stadium, dead at 84
Over 53 years, the family-owned business has served up hot dogs to NU alums including David Schwimmer, Seth Meyers, Charlton Heston; actors William Petersen and Katie Holmes; Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior; and Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Jerry Starkman was nicknamed “Colonel Mustard” for founding Mustard’s Last Stand, a hot dog hut that has operated in the shadow of Northwestern University’s football stadium in Evanston for 53 years.
Mr. Starkman, 84, of Skokie, died Sunday at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge of complications of old age, according to his sons Lonnie Starkman and Steve Starkman.
Mustard’s Last Stand was a nurses’ barracks during World War II and then a private home, his family said. In the late 1960s, Mr. Starkman bought the building with plans to relocate his Evanston deep-dish pizza joint — The Inferno — to the hut at Central Street and Ashland Avenue.
He started selling hot dogs there as a side business, but Steve Starkman said, “The hot dogs took off.”
A customer came up with the name of the place in a contest, Lonnie Starkman said, and won free hot dogs for a year.
Mr. Starkman’s business mantra was good, consistent quality for a fair price, Steve Starkman said: “He wanted it so that a customer who walked in 30 or 40 years ago could have the same taste they had today.”
“We don’t ever change the product,” Lonnie Starkman said.
In 2006, Mustard’s was inducted into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame.
Over the years, the family-owned business has served up hot dogs, cheeseburgers and shakes to NU alums including David Schwimmer, Seth Meyers and Charlton Heston, actors William Petersen and Katie Holmes, former Cubs players Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Joe Girardi, former Bears coach Lovie Smith and Wildcats football coach Pat Fitzgerald.
On Twitter, Fitzgerald called Mr. Starkman “an Evanston institution.”
In 2016, when Meyers gave a commencement speech at Northwestern, the Evanston native said: “Basically, every 20 years or so, a major life event happens for me on Central Street — which is why I’m so looking forward to 2036, when I will finally start my dream job at Mustard’s Last Stand.”
Mustard’s hasn’t changed much over a half century. Its ketchup-red and mustard-yellow decor is accented by old framed magazines and photos of Northwestern sports figures and a sign declaring: “Col. Mustard Thanks You!’
On game days, Mustard’s sets up carts outside to cater to tailgaters.
Mr. Starkman was able to keep some employees for “15, 20, 30 and 40 years,” Lonnie Starkman said. “My dad always said that made him feel like a good boss.”
Young Jerry grew up in Chicago near Division Street and Western Avenue. He went to Roosevelt High School and, in his teens, held jobs including selling cars and, at Duk’s Red Hots at 636 N. Ashland Ave., peeling potatoes, according to his family.
In addition to his two sons, he is survived by his wife Kimberly, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A service is planned for 1 p.m. Thursday at Chicago Jewish Funerals in Skokie, with the funeral livestreamed at www.cjfinfo.com.
Mr. Starkman came up with the slogan on the company business card: “Ketchup to Mustard’s.”
And he never got tired of eating hot dogs, his sons said.