Joe Hammana, who grew his Water Street pizza and subs shop to three locations, died last weekend in Southern California, after months of fighting back from a heart attack.
Hammana, a Lebanese immigrant who started his first Joe's Pizza and Subs in 1986, added locations at UCSC and on Pacific Avenue.
"I'm sure his employees are shaken up," said Chris Zephro, a friend, who led a costumed zombie march to Joes' downtown location in October. "He was like a father to them."
Zephro, 42, has been eating at Joe's since he was 18 and was friendly with the owner and his family, including sons Robby, who manages the three locations and Samir, who own's on Morrissey.
Samir said that the family is planning a memorial in Southern California, but has been too busy to focus on what to do in Santa Cruz. They haven't even had time to do a proper obituary, he said.
Hammana was a big sponsor of children's sports teams.
"You could always get a meal at a fair price and the food always tasted good," said Police Chief Kevin Vogel. "Joe's Pizza and Subs was an institution for me and my staff for many years. We will miss him."
More to come when the family has time to compile his life story.
Joe's won a serious competition in 2003 to gain a UCSC location in the Quarry.
According to this article in UCSC's Currents website, Hammana won because of his ability to cater to a wide variety of student needs, including that for fast food and for healthy, vegan food.
"Anyone who comes in here, he's hooked," Hammana told the UCSC publication. He joked that students may miss their parents' love while away at college, but if they eat at Joe's, they won't miss their parents' cooking.