Here's How Blimpie Got Its Name

Best known for their Blimpie Best cold-cut combo, the use of freshly baked bread, and piling ample veggies onto budget-friendly sandwiches, the Blimpie franchise has been around for more than 50 years, per their official website, thereby making it the oldest submarine sandwich chain in the U.S. The company got its start in 1964 by three friends in Hoboken, New Jersey named Tony Conza, Peter DeCarlo, and Angelo Baldassare, and things quickly took off from there (via Rewind & Capture). 

The original store was an immediate success and, that same year, their first franchise opened in western New York. By 1993, Blimpie boasted 670 locations, was publicly traded on NASDAQ, and their tagline, "Simply Blimpie for fresh-sliced subs," was widely recognized (via Mental Floss). Blimpie had approximately 2,000 locations during its high point, although today, there are only about 300 locations remaining.

So, what caused the company to falter? Besides some questionable business decisions, new sandwich chains with new concepts began to pop up and eat away at Blimpie's business. Hot toasted sandwiches became a thing and chains like Quiznos and Potbelly gained in popularity. And, of course, when Subway entered the sandwich game, they eventually took the lead in the franchise category. The real interesting part of their story is also how they got their name.

How a blimp came to represent this chain's sandwiches

While the term "blimp" doesn't typically conjure up images of food you would want to eat, the founders of the Blimpie chain felt like it "visually represented the shape and large size" of their sandwiches (via Mental Floss). As The New York Times tells it, one of the co-founders Tony Conza didn't want to incorporate the word "sub" into the name or menu because he felt that the name "implied a greasy spoon." And while the term hoagie was acceptable, the team felt that nobody outside of the Philadelphia area knew what one was. 

So, Conza took the next logical step and pulled out the dictionary! "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," he told ABC. "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," he explained. The rationale clearly worked because that very first day they launched the Hoboken store, the doors opened at 10 a.m. and didn't close until midnight with a steady line of traffic (via — and even years later, they still have their devotees.