Lloyd Handwerker together with Gil Reavi telll a story about sibling rivalries and starting a business

Lloyd Handwerker together with Gil Reavi tellla story about sibling rivalries and starting a business

Sibling rivalry can linger long past childhood. It's not pretty and, as you'll see in Famous Nathan by Lloyd Handwerker with Gil Reavill, it can bring down an empire.

Born in 1892 in Austria-occupied Poland, Nathan Handwerker was a go-getter, even as a boy: his family was poor and had many small mouths to feed so he, as the third-oldest son, begged his father to let him leave home to work. Eleven-year-old Handwerker found a series of jobs, but he settled on one in a bakery, reasoning that he would never go hungry there.

Living in Poland at the turn of the last century could be dangerous for a young Jewish man-gangs and military recruiters were on the hunt-so Handwerker began saving to move to America. He left the Netherlands in March 1912 and upon his arrival in New York a month later, he quickly found work. Remembering life back home, he found employment in restaurants and worked his way up, toiling seven days a week.

While at his part-time job in Coney Island, Handwerker noticed a counter location that would make a perfect place to start a business.

It took awhile for Nathan's (later, Nathan's Famous) to be successful; Handwerker initially charged too much for his hot dogs, but once he settled on a nickel apiece, two cents for a drink, business started to take off. Coney Island was the place to be for New Yorkers escaping the city; Nathan's was open year 'round and became famous for speed and spectacle of service. Handwerker was at the store every day, sometimes for 20 hours a day, but he still managed to marry and have three children-the younger two sons he hoped would take over the family business.

As they say, though, all good things must end. Nathan's began to struggle, partly because of good old-fashioned sibling rivalry.

As business biographies go, I thought Famous Nathan was one of the tastier.

Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of Nathan, narrates our travel from a competitive eating stage to the sleeping-pallet of an illiterate, dirt-poor immigrant who stumbled into his life's work to avoid starvation.

From the first page, this is an easy book to like: it's interesting, has a smooth timeline, and reads like a novel. If you're hungry for that, order up Famous Nathan.