Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs founder Jim Hearn, 71, a Palm Harbor, Fla., resident since 1982, died from a sudden illness on Tuesday.

Hungry Howie's is the nation's 11th largest pizza company. Hearn purchased the then-hamburger concept in Taylor, Mich., in 1973, and grew it to more than 200 Florida locations and 550 locations nationwide.

Barry Devine, director of Marketing for Hungry Howie's, said Hearn often delivered pizzas himself to residents in North Pinellas, Fla.

"His office was a pizzeria and his board of directors were his customers. Up until his final Friday rush, Jim would be found making pizzas and helping out with deliveries from one of several Hungry Howie's locations," Devine said.

Hungry Howie's official statement about Hearn's passing reads: "Jim was an acquaintance to some, a friend to most and family to many. A great number of us owe what we are today to his kindness and wisdom."

Hearn was raised in Dearborn, Mich., outside of Detroit. In 1982, he moved to Clearwater, Fla., and brought his Hungry Howie's concept south with him. In 1986, Hearn and others began their own food distribution company with warehouses in Michigan and Florida to serve the growing franchise network. Around the same time, Hearn created the Hungry Howie's signature Flavored Pizza Crust.

Hungry Howie's to exhibit at multiunit franchising conference

Hungry Howie's Pizza will attend the 2013 MultiUnit Franchising Conference in Las Vegas March 27 through March 29 at Caesars Palace.

"Hungry Howie's Pizza has a strong infrastructure in place and we anticipate a rapid growth campaign," said Jennifer M. Jackson, development director for Hungry Howie's Pizza. "For people who want to own a pizza franchise, the conference is a great opportunity to talk to our team about single and multistore operations. There are territories available to buy, which is something that's hard to find with other brands."

Hungry Howie's Pizza is among the more than 1,200 attendees expected at the event.

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