May 11, 2006

‘Blondie’ Cartoonist to Open Sandwich Chain

By Robert Green

CLEARWATER, Florida (Reuters) - The oversized sandwiches lovingly constructed by Dagwood Bumstead in the "Blondie" comic strip will soon be on real-life menus thanks to cartoonist Dean Young, the character's alter-ego.

Young said on Thursday the first of his Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes should open this summer in Clearwater and then spread across the United States and internationally.

"This is a dream come true for me," Young, 66, said at a news conference. He said he has been collecting sandwich recipes for over 20 years.

Young's father, Chic Young, created "Blondie" in 1930 and he took over the strip when his father died in 1973. It has more than 250 million readers in 2,300 newspapers in 55 countries.

One of Dagwood's passions has been eating, especially the multi-layered sandwiches of cold-cuts and leftovers he often has before going to bed.

Those Dagwood sandwiches will be the featured item at the new restaurants. The 1-1/2-pound (0.68-kg) Dagwood includes ham, salami, pepperoni, mortadella, cappicola, cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, red pepper and a secret Italian spread on three slices of bread topped with an olive skewer.

For those with smaller appetites, the menu includes roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, chicken curry and Cuban sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads, desserts, beer and wine.

The restaurants will be decorated with pictures of "Blondie" characters and a giant plasma screen will show comic strips.

Sandwiches are the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, according to Dagwood co-founder Lamar Berry.

"This is an opportunity to become the leader of this category," said Berry, who was an executive with Popeyes Fried Chicken.

Dagwood's will face strong competition from sandwich chains like Subway, Quiznos and Blimpie, local restaurants and the deli counters of grocery stores.

Berry said he hoped the chain could have 250 shops in operation after two years and 1,000 within three years.

The company plans to expand by selling 90 area franchises. The owners of those territories will then sell individual store franchises.

The headquarters will be in Clearwater, where Young lives and has his studio. He will continue producing "Blondie" with the help of his daughter Dana Coston, who he is grooming to take over the strip.

This is not the first time that the "Blondie" characters have been used commercially. A series of 28 "Blondie" movies were made starting in the 1930s and there also were Blondie radio and television shows and even a Blondie slot machine used in many casinos.

When Chic Young started the strip, Dagwood was a rich playboy and one of Blondie's boyfriends. To make the strip more relevant to readers who were affected by the Depression, Young had Dagwood's parents disown him after he married Blondie in 1933, forcing him to get a job.