DETROIT, Mich. -

The founding owner and former CEO of Cracker Barrel, Dan Evins, died Saturday at the age of 76.

Evins died in Lebanon, Tenn. -- the same town where he opened his first restaurant in 1969.

He modeled the first eatery after the country stores of his youth in rural Tennessee.

"I first met Danny when I joined Cracker Barrel in 1995 and knew immediately what a rare individual he was," said Cracker Barrel Executive Chairman Michael A. Woodhouse.  "He will be missed deeply."

The original restaurant, which catered to travelers, offered southern hospitality, country cooking and a gift shop, all of which now define the 600-restaurant chain located in 42 states, according to the company.

Evins retired from his position in 2004 after helping Cracker Barrel become a national brand.