It was October 27, 1986 and Barry Levenson, an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin, sat in front of his TV watching his beloved Boston Red Sox succumb to defeat in the World Series of Baseball. Barry was at a dead end in life after that game and didn’t really know where to turn. He headed out of his home, gazed around at his empty suburban neighborhood and turned to his car. Feeling his keys in his pocket, he unlocked his vehicle, got in, started the ignition and headed to an all night grocery store in search for the meaning of life. He roamed through the store in utter despair not knowing where to turn. He meandered through the aisles feeling anesthetized to all that existed before him. But out of nowhere a powerful force took over Barry as he turned into the condiment aisle. Suddenly his sadness began to mitigate as he passed the olives, mayo, ketchup, and pickles. There was an magnetic force pulling him to the end of the aisle. Everything turned to slow motion as he approached the mustard section. As stood before the yellow jars, he heard it, the deep thunderous voice. “If you collect us, they will come.” That was it! Barry was hit with a jolt of energy and suddenly he felt rejuvenated. He looked at his watch, 2:38am. His life had just changed. He had been reborn.
That night Barry bought about a dozen jars of mustard and began his pursuit to create the world’s largest mustard museum. For five straight years he tried to balance his passion for mustard with his role as Assistant Attorney General but he finally gave up. He couldn’t do both and it was mustard that had his heart. Barry then left his job as AAG and poured every ounce of himself into the mustard seed. A year later, on April 6, 1992 Barry’s sweat, tears, and hard work finally paid off when he opened the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum to the public.
Barry’s museum is now home to over 4,100 mustards and counting. He has traveled all over the world for his mustards and now has a collection covering all the 50 states and over 60 countries. If that is not intense I am not sure what is.
Meeting Barry was a proud moment for my friend Anne Mielke and I. There is not a doubt in my mind that Anne nor I will ever again top off a hot dog with mustard without thinking about Barry and the moment we had with him. I highly recommend if you are ever anywhere near Madison, Wisconsin you take a drive out to Mount Horeb, through the infamous Troll Way and pay Barry a visit. You won’t be disappointed.