Hungry Howie's founder Jim Hearn dies at 72

First Hungry Howie’s opened in Taylor, Michigan in 1973

Published On: Mar 20 2013 04:40:56 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 20 2013 04:53:56 PM EDT

The founder of Hungry Howie’s, Jim Hearn, died Tuesday in his current home state of Florida.

Hearn was 72.

Steve Jackson, the company's president, wrote in a statement that Hearn died of an undisclosed illness after a remission from cancer.

In 1973, Hearn opened the first Hungry Howie’s in Taylor, Michigan.

He converted the then 1,000 square foot hamburger shop in into a successful carry-out and delivery pizzeria.

Jackson delivered pizzas for Hearn and the two became partners in 1976.

The pair turned the business into a franchise opportunity in 1982, and within three years 65 franchises opened.

Hearn later moved to Tampa to become a sub-franchisee where he also operated more than 200 locations in Florida.

Hungry Howie’s now has more than 550 pizza stores in 20 states.

"Everyone within the Hungry Howie's Pizza organization, from our employees at our headquarters in Michigan to our franchise owners and employees at our stores in Florida and across the country, adored Jim," Jackson said in the statement. "He was a leader and a visionary, and we all learned so much from him. He will be deeply missed, but his legacy will carry on."

Hearn is survived by his wife Ginny and two daughters.