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Gumby’s Pizza was founded by Chance Hippler and Jeff O’Brien. Gumby’s began in Gainesville Florida in the Fall of 1985. Chance and Jeff decided to drop out of the University of Florida and take a shot at opening a pizza business. Since “Gumby” was Jeff’s nickname in college, they tracked down the creator of the character and, in what would become a legendary deal for a TV character, somehow secured the national rights to use Gumby and Pokey for 120 years. The first location was at 15 SW 2nd Street. Although they had no clue what they were doing, through hard work and some breaks, that first location became very successful. In 1986, they decided to expand to other college towns. The second location was at FSU in Tallahassee. Nine months later, Gumby’s Pizza opened at the University of Georgia in Athens. The next couple of years saw Gumby’s Pizza tackle the Big Ten and ACC Conferences with locations at Ohio State University and UNC-Chapel Hill. By 1990, sales had exceeded $5,000,000.00 per year.
The 1990’s saw Gumby’s Pizza open locations in Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and North Carolina. The chain expanded it’s menu during this period to include it’s world famous pokey stix and pepperoni rolls, and buffalo wings.
Gumby’s Pizza would gain national fame when, in the early morning of June 14, 1991, a student at Florida State University, broke into the Florida state capitol building, barricaded himself in a wing of the building, and made a list of demands to police. With SWAT teams and snipers surrounding the capitol, the standoff lasted for hours. Although his list of 10 demands included a CNN news crew, a case of beer, 666 doughnuts, and a police scanner, number one on his list was a Gumby’s Pizza 20” veggie with extra jalapeno. Over 1,000 of those pizzas were ordered within days throughout the Gumby’s Pizza chain.
The 2000’s began with new locations within current states as well as expansion into Pennsylvania, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Texas. The company began selling franchises throughout the country along with opening locations in non-traditional venues. Gumby’s was repeatedly on the Pizza Today Top 100 chains in the country throughout this period. With so many stores scattered across the country and Chance being a pilot, Gumby’s purchased a corporate plane to travel to all the locations. These trips produced many adventures including almost running out of gas over North Carolina, meeting Ted Turner and Jane Fonda in the middle of the night at a remote airport, and almost making a landing at a closed airstrip with no lights!
In 2001, their flagship store in Gainesville moved to its current location where today is the highest grossing restaurant in the chain. Gumby’s Pizza would feed countless college athletes over the years along with the rich and famous including country music stars Brook’s & Dunn, Sister Hazel, Dave Matthews Band , Emmitt Smith, and MC Hammer.
Chance and Jeff still reside in Gainesville and are avid Gator fans and boosters. The company
hopes to enter the frozen pizza market as well as continue expanding throughout the country
through franchising and joint ventures. On October 26th, 2010, they celebrated the 25th
Anniversary of Gumby’s Pizza.They still enjoy the passion and drive they had as kids in their
first restaurant. Since opening the first location in Gainesville, total sales from Gumby’s Pizza
locations have exceeded $1.6 Billion dollars.