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Bob Evans, 89, founder of restaurant chain

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bob Evans, whose quest for quality sausage to serve the truckers in his 12-stool, 24-hour-a-day steakhouse in southeast Ohio led to the creation of a restaurant chain that bears his name, died yesterday at Cleveland Clinic, Bob Evans Farms Inc. announced. He was 89 and had pneumonia.

Mr. Evans complained that he could not get good sausage for the restaurant he started after World War II in Gallipolis .

Starting with $1,000, a couple of hogs, 40 pounds of black pepper, 50 pounds of sage, and ingredients he kept secret , he started making his own, relying on the hog's best parts as opposed to the scraps commonly used in sausage.

He began selling it at the restaurant and mom-and-pop stores, and peddled tubs of it out of the back of his pickup truck.

It marked the beginning of what is now a restaurant chain with sales of $1.6 billion, with 590 restaurants in 18 states.

The company also operates 108 Mimi's Cafe casual restaurants in 19 states, mostly in the West. Its sausage and other products are sold in grocery stores.

"You might say the truck drivers did my research for me," he said.

"They would tell me that this was the best sausage they ever had, and then buy 10-pound tubs to take home."

Evans formed Bob Evans Farms in 1953 with five friends and relatives. The chain emphasizes farm-fresh food, cleanliness, and service in a homey atmosphere.

"People like to deal with farmers. They like to buy stuff from the farm. They think it's fresher," Evans said in a 2003 interview.

"In their mind, it's better and they're willing to pay more for it."