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Jerry Starkman, Mustard’s Last Stand foundernear Northwestern’s football stadium in Evanston, dead at 84

Jerry Starkman was nicknamed “Colonel Mustard” for founding Mustard’s Last Stand, a hot dog hut that’s 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 nurse’s 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.

Mustard’s Last Stand has operated since 1969 in the shadow of Northwestern University’s football stadium, now called Ryan Field.

Maureen O’Donnell / Sun Times

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, William Petersen, Seth Meyers and Charlton Heston, Katie Holmes, Cubs players Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Joe Girardi, former Bears coach Lovie Smith and Wildcats football coach Patrick Fitzgerald.

On game days, it sets up carts outside to cater to tailgaters.

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!’

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, sold cars and peeled potatoes at Duk’s Red Hots at 636 N. Ashland Ave., 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 at 1 pm Thursday at Chicago Jewish Funerals in Skokie, with the funeral live-streamed 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.

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