Bob Evans, who founded a retail sausage and family restaurant business and became one of the best-known Ohioans of the 20th century, died June 21, 2007. He was 89.
But Evans considered his success with year-round grazing his pinnacle achievement. “I was content having my farm. It’s all I ever really wanted.”
Best known for his chain of home-style restaurants and trademark sausage, Evans’ later years were devoted to supporting Appalachian farmers and wildlife conservation.
Starting with $1,000, three hogs, 40 pounds of black pepper, 50 pounds of sage and a few other ingredients, Mr. Evans started his sausage business from his farm in 1948. After rapid expansion, Bob Evans Farms was incorporated in 1953, and by 1957, Bob Evans Sausage was being delivered to nearly 1,800 locations. In 1963, Bob Evans Farms Inc. was listed on the NASDAQ with an original issue of 160,000 shares.
The company built a restaurant at the family farm to accommodate visitors, and by the early 1970s, there were restaurants across Ohio. Mr. Evans stayed on as a director and president of the company until his retirement Dec. 31, 1986.
The only person in Ohio honored three times by the National Wildlife Federation, Evans spent several decades preserving wildlife on his farm, Hidden Valley Ranch near Gallipolis, and on the company-owned Bob Evans Farm. He was named Ohio Wildlife Conservationist of the Year in 1980; and was inducted into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame and 4-H Hall of Fame.
Evans promoted progressive farming practices and the study of new grasses to allow year-round grazing in Ohio. By doing so, he believed farmers wouldn’t need to buy grain and silage for livestock in the winter and could help improve incomes in economically-challenged areas of Ohio.