Wisconsin county finds there’s no money in mustard

Unless there’s a miracle, a big part of our condimental heritage could soon disappear.

Wisconsin’s Mustard Museum is in trouble, the Wisconsin State Journal reports today.

Barry Levenson, the owner of the Middleton museum, wants Dane County to take a $124,000 hit on a loan it made to lure the museum from Mount Horeb in 2009. Only 20 percent of it has been repaid and it’s due in three years. Levenson, apparently, doesn’t have the cash because, he has learned, you can’t make money with a Mustard Museum.

mustard_museum“It is doubtful selling 6,000 jars of mustard (all beyond their ‘best by’ dates), and the tins and pots we have acquired, would bring in very much money,” Levenson tells the paper. “They are valuable only as the collection of the museum, and it is unlikely anyone would want to buy it.”

“It wasn’t the best backed loan,” county supervisor David Ripp says. “Jars of old mustard — I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t pay much for them. They’re only valuable as a museum.”

Levenson says he came up with the idea of a mustard museum after his Boston Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets, giving up his gig as an assistant attorney general in Wisconsin.

He didn’t charge admission to visit the museum.

  • wjc

    “condimental heritage” – that one made me laugh, Bob! Nasal irrigation now required for the coffee you caused me to snort.

  • Ben
  • Jeff

    The mustard museum has a mail order of over 500 mustards https://store.mustardmuseum.com/category/buy-mustards. Growing up near Cleveland it was either Bertman’s Ball Park mustard or Stadium mustard. I’ve ordered both online. (I don’t want to start a war but I prefer Bertman’s over Stadium). If I think of it I bring a bottle of Bertman’s when I go to Target Field. If you look for it at TF they have Koops Dusseldorf which is ok, but nothing like Bertman’s.

    • Ben

      I love this comment, the whole thing.

    • Back in the day, the mustard was the only reason to even go to a ballgame. Mustard cheats in the nightly condiment race, though.

    • frightwig

      I suppose this is how Levinson really hoped to make money, selling gourmet mustards online or in his gift shop, but apparently there aren’t enough connoisseurs who have found him.

      What made Dane County think it was worth such a large loan to lure the museum away from Mount Horeb? Had the museum/store been doing really well before?

      And what is it about Levinson’s favorite baseball team losing the World Series that made him want to give up his profession and devote his life to collecting and selling mustards?

    • Al

      I kind of admire your very strong opinions on mustard. I’d never really thought of my own mustard preference before.

      • Jeff

        It is interesting that there are so many different kinds of mustard while there’s only one ketchup – Heinz.

        • Al

          Makes sense, I suppose, given the different countries/heritages that all have their own mustards. Ketchup is ketchup is ketchup is [an abomination against humankind is] ketchup.

        • Gary F

          Stay on topic Jeff, we don’t want this getting into a Ketchup-Catsup battle.

        • Shots fired!

        • Gary F

          The sign at Chris and Rob’s Chicago hot dog joint says

          “The establishment is “NC17″ No catsup or ketchup for anyone over 17”

          • Jeff

            Come to think of it I only use it on French fries and doctoring up baked beans – B&M: the only baked beans.

        • Carolie

          Not true… Hunts has a ketchup as well

          • Gary F

            Not with my bride.

        • RBHolb

          At the risk of being That Guy, I would like to point out that tomato is only one of many flavors of catsup. Catsup is a traditional table sauce adapted by the British from a condiment served in Malaysia.

          Fans of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America may recall seeing a recipe for walnut catsup.

          • Gary F

            Thank you.

          • Rob

            banana ketchup in Jamaica, mon!

      • Jerry

        Inglehoffer stone ground mustard is where it is at.

        • Al

          Well, of course.

      • Gary F

        Mustard rocks! Its the low/no calorie condiment!

        I’ve never thought of an excursion to the mustard museum though.

        • It made a frightening number of lists for “best daytrips” in various publications.

          I’ve thought about doing a week of road trips around these parts to the various museums. I hear there’s a sandpaper museum up north somewhere.

          • Gary F

            Wet/dry, the 3M purple and green paper, sheets, belts, sponges, discs………

            Should I get a hotel room and stay the night?

          • Green? That’s 80 grit. Purple is 120 grit.

            I hate myself for knowing that, by the way.

          • Gary F

            Purple is a whole line of premium belt sander belts, as opposed to the maroon belt sander belts.

            Yes, purple and green are different grits in flat paper type.

            I have connections with some folks at 3M and years ago I went to the company store. I spent about a hundred bucks, I have flat sandpaper for life(I should have bought more belts), packing tape for at least a couple more years, a real boss packing tape gun, double sided foam doo hickies, and misc stuff. My wife poo-poo’ed the large purchase, I even told her it was on sale, she didn’t get it.

            I forgot to purchase sanding sponges and ear plugs. Kinda overwhelmed by the whole experience.

          • Jerry

            With all that sandpaper you picked up, I hope you stocked up on protective goggles and face masks as well.

          • My best friend is anyone who can get into the 3M employee store.

          • Gary F

            Plenty of safety glasses, I’m a shooter too. I even have safety glasses with bifocals ON TOP for overhead remodeling work and pistol shooting.

          • Rob

            you’re a shooter? that’s news here on News Cut.

          • Rob

            A sandpaper geek! Who’d a thunk?

          • Rob

            which color is true grit?

          • Thomas Mercier

            It sounds a little tedious and I wouldn’t be surprised if you get rubbed the wrong way there.

          • rallysocks
    • Gary F

      That’s good stuff. I don’t see it much or at all anymore. It used to be called Cleveland Stadium Mustard I think. They probably didnt want to pay royalties when Jacob’s field became Jacob’s field.

  • Jerry

    It’s a shame the museum didn’t cut the mustard.

  • That picture at the top shows a Red & White brand mustard. I don’t know if that was a national thing or just New England. But when he came home from the war, my dad was a salesman for Red & White, eventually starting his own grocery store.

    If these mustard containers could talk.

  • RBHolb

    “Levenson says he came up with the idea of a mustard museum after his Boston Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the New York Mets, giving up his gig as an assistant attorney general in Wisconsin.” There is a sentence that begs for more explanation.

    • Click the link.

      • RBHolb

        It makes sense in its way, I suppose. The Red Sox-Mustard Museum is just not a connection I would have made on my own.

  • Zachary

    There is nice little moment in the movie “2010” where John Lithgow’s character and some Russian astronaut (who I can’t be bothered to look up) are sitting around discussing hot dogs and mustard. There is an exchange where Lithgow (from Huston) things the best hot dog is an AstroDog, but the Russian says you can’t get a good dog from a domed stadium, thus the dogs from opening day at Yankee Stadium are superior. They both agree on the mustard though:
    “Yellow or Brown?”
    “Brown – all the way.”

  • Rob

    For true mustard nirvana, check out the mustard seed mix from the New Scenic Cafe near Duluth. Scrumpdillyicious on anything you choose to spread it on!

  • Mo

    I’d be interested in seeing this place for the same reasons I enjoyed London’s Museum of Brands. The history of commercial branding and packaging can tell us a lot about ourselves, if properly organized.