LEBANON, Tenn. – Dan Evins, the man who founded the first Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which became well known for its comfort food, gift shops and inviting diners to ease back in a welcoming rocking chair outside every location, died Jan. 14 at the age of 76.

Evins opened the first location in 1969 and the chain has grown to include 608 locations across 42 states. He stepped down from his position as CEO in 2001 and served as chairman until 2004 before retiring as chairman emeritus and a member of the Cracker Barrel Founders Board.

“How Danny thought about his guests and his business from the beginning is captured in ‘Pleasing People,' our mission statement," said Sandra Cochran, the company’s current president and CEO. Executive Chairman Michael Woodhouse added: “Danny was the keeper of this special brand for so many, many years, and he left us with a strong culture that values quality and honesty. He will be missed deeply."