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Mike Augspurger Columns
Sunday, November 4, 2001
Sterzing's chips are

Mike Augspurger Mike Augspurger

Sterzing potato chips could become as American as apple pie, if Burlington native Paul Thie has anything to do with it.

First Lt. Thie, a 1994 Burlington High School graduate, has been in the U.S. Army for 3 1/2 years. Thie, 25, will be promoted to captain next month.

He currently is with the 1st Infantry Division as a member of Task Force 1-34 Armor in Kuwait. As executive officer of the company, he is responsible for the maintenance and logistics for 14 tanks and 80 soldiers, and also serve as a tank commander on one of the main tanks that weighs 70 tons and has a 120mm main gun.

His parents, Charles and Pam Thie, recently sent him a box of Sterzings. The Burlington-based company also sent him a box, spokesman Craig Smith said.

It took about two weeks for the chips to arrive and they were in pretty good condition, Thie wrote. In less than an hour, the group to munched the eight large bags full of chips.

"Sterzings have always been my favorite and the soldiers in my company loved the chips and would like more!" he wrote.

When Thie was in Bosnia from 1999 to 2000, his parents sent him Sterzings.

"The soldiers and locals over there loved them also," he said.

Thie and his group have been in Kuwait since August and will return in December. Temperatures reached 141 degrees in August, but now the daily high is around 90, he said.

"The soldiers in our company are proud to be here and enjoy their jobs," he wrote.

The Sterzing's chip recipe is the same today as on the day Barney "B.J." Sterzing cooked up his first batch: potatoes, oil, and salt. And while equipment today is more sophisticated and demand is way, way up, the process is essentially the same one B.J. Sterzing devised more than 60 years ago

As a young entrepreneur, Sterzing hit upon the idea for his hard-to-resist chips in the early 1930s, when he owned and operated a candy company at South Main and Valley streets, where a public parking lot stands today.

He was looking for a product his customers could enjoy during the hot, humid Iowa summers that rendered his chocolate candies more suitable for fondue than anything else. The chips were so well-received that during World War II, when chocolate was scarce since most of it went to U.S. servicemen overseas, the chips became Sterzing's primary product

ABC Supply now in area

Vogel Wholesale on Broadway Street in West Burlington has closed, but will be replaced by ABC Supply Co., based in Beloit, Wis.

Earl Stoller is the manager of the wholesale building supply firm that will carry many of the same items as Vogel, in addition to other items.

Eventually, ABC plans to move its facilities to 2530 Mount Pleasant, West Burlington.

For information, call (319) 753-3088.

Cheezborger, chezzborger

Bill Charuchas, one of the hawkers at the Billy Goat Tavern who belted out "cheezborger, cheezborger" with the owner for nearly four decades, has died. He was 75.

Charuchas spent 37 years at the Michigan Avenue icon in Chicago, flipping burgers, flirting with women and shouting, "Try the double cheese! It's the best!" He died Oct. 23 of a gall bladder infection in his former hometown in Greece, tavern owner Sam Sianis said.

Charuchas and late owner William "Billy Goat" Sianis, Sam Sianis' uncle, amused lunchtime crowds that often included movie stars and politicians, former President George Bush among them. They belted out, "Cheezborger, cheezborger! No fries, cheeps!"

That line was popularized in the 1970s by a skit on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The skit starred onetime Chicagoan John Belushi, who was familiar with the tavern. The Billy Goat, which is a short walk from the Tribune and Sun-Times buildings, was also immortalized by mentions in the columns of the late Mike Royko, a regular there.

Charuchas emigrated from Greece in 1954 and worked 10 years at a hamburger stand across the street from the Billy Goat. He moved to the tavern in 1964, The Associated Press reported last week.

Sam Sianis estimated Charuchas served more than 3 million customers at the Billy Goat, often working six or seven days a week.

He doled out free bags of potato chips to children, danced with customers in line and opened thousands of conversations with, "Where from?"

"He enjoyed being here all those hours -- not only because he was a good worker, but because he liked the people," Sianis said. "He had a lot of fun."

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