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Founder of popular Zorbaz restaurant chain dies

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Tom Hanson
Tom Hanson founded the first Zorbaz restaurant during the summer of 1969 in Detroit Lakes, Minn. He died at the age of 70 and is remembered as a community champion.
Courtesy Brian Basham | Forum News Service 2013

The founder of Minnesota's popular Zorbaz restaurant chain has died. Tom Hanson was 70. 

Hanson, a former teacher and debate coach, launched Zorbaz more than four decades ago in a vacated beachside candy shop in Detroit Lakes, Minn., reports the Detroit Lakes Online news site

"I called it Zorbaz at the Beach," Hanson told a reporter in 2013 — a reference to the movie "Zorba the Greek," which starred Anthony Quinn as "a man who was fun-loving, carefree, and would gulp life instead of sip it," he said. "That's what we wanted to be — a fun-loving, carefree business."

Hanson, who wasn't a smoker, died Friday after a nine-year battle with throat cancer, according to multiple media reports. 

"It's a tremendous loss for our community," Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk told the DL-Online.

As much as anyone, Brenk added, Hanson helped create the destination place that Detroit Lakes is today.

Zorbaz expanded to 11 locations  on or near lakes in Minnesota. All but three are open year-round.

While Hanson stepped back from actively running his restaurants in 2006, the company remains in family hands, according to the Detroit Lakes website.

KFGO reports that a celebration of Hanson's life is scheduled Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Detroit Lakes Country Club.