New Jersey founder of Blimpie celebrates 50 years

Michelle Charlesworth spoke with the New Jersey founder
March 30, 2014 3:50:47 PM PDT
Five decades ago, a man with a big dream got his small start in New Jersey.

It's been 50 years since the very first Blimpie sub sandwich shop opened in Hoboken.

And now, Blimpie restaurants are all over.

I got to spend some time with the chain's founder and New Jersey's own Tony Conza.

It was 1964, 50 years ago, that Blimpie opened store number one in Hoboken, New Jersey at Washington and 7th.

"Of course we had a little problem, no one had any money, no money," said Conza.

Tony started the business with two friends. They borrowed $2500 from other friends to get up and running.

First they needed a name.

"So one night we took a dictionary, started flipping through the pages, the A's and the B's, and we got to the word blimp," Tony said. "Blimp is an airship, looks like the sandwich, put an i-e on the end of it and that was the big market research. The minute that we opened our first location, people just lined up."

People loved it! Never mind that the young business owners were shuffling bills. Within three months, they opened two more stores.

"I guess I was always an entrepreneur at heart. People think that the way entrepreneurs start is by getting an idea and then they start a business. That's usually not what happens. What happens is an entrepreneur decides they want to be in business first, and then the idea comes," Conza said.

That's what the rock stars will tell you. Tony says he always had the passion for those sandwiches, until one day he admits he lost it. Once his passion was back, the business took off.

"From 200 to 2,000 stores in eight years, and we had a public company and our stock skyrocketed," said Tony.

This college dropout from Jersey City sold the Blimpie company about ten years ago. And the rest is financial fame history.

Thursday at 11 a.m., Blimpie will celebrate its 50th Birthday by rolling out a huge 50-foot sub outside one of the original Blimpie stores in Jersey City at 558-560 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, N.J.

The national chain is also offering customers nationwide Blimpie Best subs for 50 cents, the price in 1964 when Blimpie was born.

"I'm thrilled to celebrate Blimpie's 50th birthday with the people of the Tri-State who loved my sub sandwich from the start and helped catapult Blimpie to become one of America's favorite brands," says Conza. "I was a kid from Hoboken with an idea that became my dream come true. I am proud and extremely thankful for all the people who love Blimpie and keep coming back time and time again for more."