The Collins family sits in their home in Lawrence with jars of the 3 Monkeys Mustard created by Dan Collins. Pictured are his wife Harper, sons Hutch, Jack and Ford and mustard creator, Dan. (Staff photo by Alexandra Yearly.)
The Collins family sits in their home in Lawrence with jars of the 3 Monkeys Mustard created by Dan Collins. Pictured are his wife Harper, sons Hutch, Jack and Ford and mustard creator, Dan. (Staff photo by Alexandra Yearly.)

Dan Collins plays many roles: husband, father of three and full-time accounts manager. But to the Lawrence community, Collins is probably best-known as the “main monkey” creator of 3 Monkeys Mustard, a sweet and spicy homemade mustard that has taken the mustard world by storm.

About 10 years ago, Collins tweaked an old family mustard recipe to create cheap holiday gifts for friends and family. Once Collins’ gift jar count reached about 400 jars in a year, he decided to turn it into a profit. He made the decision in January 2010, and now, 3 Monkeys Mustard is on the shelves of 15 stores in five states.

Collins said the flavor of the mustard is sweet, with a spicy kick that will open the sinuses. It can be used as a topping, dip, mix, smear or anything else imaginable.

“Really, I’m surprised how versatile it is,” Collins said of the mustard’s uses, which he said can compliment seafood, vegetables and even chocolate recipes.

In 2011, Collins’ mustard was recognized by the National Mustard Museum as one of eight “GR8 Best Selling” mustards in its collection of more than 5,300 mustard varieties.

“It’s been an interesting process,” said Collins, who has been contacted by customers in places like Israel, Canada and Brazil for mustard. “It’s really been a collective effort: friends, neighbors, so many people behind me and so many people helping me along the way.”

The mustard itself is a family-oriented product. Its name, 3 Monkeys, was inspired by Collins’ three energetic sons, now ages 7, 9 and 11. Collins personally makes the mustard in the commercial kitchen of Lawrenceville’s Chambers Walk restaurant. Wife Harper completes the jars with labels and shrink bands to ready them for store shelves.

As the demand for 3 Monkeys Mustard increases, Collins said he has already contacted a contract packager to eventually take over the production process. With a growing family and full-time job, Collins said it is no longer practical to produce all of the mustard himself. Collins said that on an average “light” weekend, he makes about 10 cases of 12 jars—which adds up to more than 63 pounds of mustard.

However, Collins’ labor is worthwhile for customers like Lawrence resident George Telegadis, who first tried 3 Monkeys Mustard when Collins brought it to a local barbeque.

“Generally mustard is an addition that you never really think about,” Telegadis said. “It was the first time I’ve ever tasted a mustard that reinvented the flavor of whatever I was eating. It’s a changing perspective on mustard.”

Telegadis said that he and his family love the condiment and refer to Collins as “Dan the Mustard Man.” Telegadis said he often makes an extra grocery store trip just to visit one of the five local markets that carries the product.

Locally, 3 Monkeys Mustard is only sold at Captain Paul’s Firehouse Dogs (Lawrence), Pennington Quality Market (Pennington), Whole Foods Market (Princeton), Terhune Orchards (Princeton) and Whole Earth Center (Princeton). Collins said Chambers Walk occasionally features the mustard in lunch specials when he leaves a few jars behind in the kitchen. The spread is also sold in certain stores in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

At any local store, one 8.5 oz. jar sells for $6.50, a price that Collins said is expensive for a mustard.

“It’s one thing to have friends and family tell you, ‘It’s a good product. Oh, I really like it’ when they’ve received it as a gift,” Collins said. “And then it’s another thing to have a complete stranger try it and … ask how much it is and say, ‘$6.50 for a mustard? Well, it’s pretty good. OK, I’ll take it.’”

Lawrence resident Stephanie Stio is a friend of Collins, but she never received a free gift jar before they hit shelves. However, she doesn’t mind paying the price for each jar. Not that her family gives her a choice.

“It is the favorite mustard in the house,” Stio said. “As soon as we tried it, we were hooked. It’s got a little bit of spicy flair to it that you don’t get with any typical mustard.”

Collins’ recipe, which includes butter, is certainly not typical. In fact, the National Mustard Museum calls 3 Monkeys Mustard a “mustard dessert” that is great on apple pie. Collins’ personal favorite preparation includes Italian sausage, peppers, onions, a grill and a nice cold beer.

Collins said he is looking to produce more 3 Monkeys flavors soon. He is currently brainstorming a honey variety as well as a few other flavors that use the original 3 Monkeys Mustard as a base. Collins hopes to introduce two or three new varieties by the beginning of the summer.

Of course, that is if his schedule allows it.

“The real challenge may become keeping all my worlds separate,” Collins said. “There’s the day job, and then there’s family. Family comes first. And then when there’s time, I do the mustard.”

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