BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — The businessman who founded the national restaurant chain Jason's Deli more than 40 years ago in Texas has died.

A Jason's Deli statement says Joe Tortorice Jr., founder and chairman of the board, died Saturday at age 70. A company spokeswoman says Tortorice had battled cancer.

The Beaumont-based company says Tortorice was the grandson of Italian immigrants and it was his father's investment in a little sandwich shop that inspired him to open his own restaurant. From a single location that opened in Beaumont in 1976, Jason's Deli now has almost 300 locations across the U.S.

Tratorice's oldest son, Jay Tortorice, who inspired the company's name, said in the statement he'll remember his father for being "a dedicated family man, business mentor and inspiration to all who knew him."

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