KAREN LEVY, CNN • Updated 11th August 2018
(CNN) — Peter Buck, who co-founded the sandwich chain Subway, has died. He was 90.
His daughter, Tess Buck, said her father died Saturday of natural causes.
Buck’s daughter said he was only with his wife of 61 years, Elaine, on Friday, the night before his death. He and Elaine Buck were married until last September, she said.
The New York City restaurant met at a nightclub in the early 1960s, with Buck behind the bar and Vernon Adler, now a Subway vice president, working behind the counter, according to Adler’s own account of the start of the Subway chain. Buck had started the nightclub called The Studio Club with Adler to spread the gospel of free love.
“The Joint was crowded one night when Buck called out, ‘Anyone want a sandwich?’ and they did, and after a few months, he had more than 200 of them sold. After that he knew that he had found his niche,” Adler told CNN.
The two got divorced but continued business together until Adler started his own operation, Village West, which later became Subways.
Buck’s daughter said it wasn’t until after Adler died, around a decade ago, that Buck finally paid Adler some debt.
Adler described Buck as fiercely loyal. When he was under hospice care, Buck sent a friend to spend the night.
“I got some new coffee maker, and I woke up at 3:00 in the morning,” Adler said. “And this guy comes in with the machine and he put a coffee maker on top and coffee beans in there.”
Buck also paid for some friends to stay at his new home.
“When his home went into foreclosure he put his home up as collateral, and the bank said, ‘No way,’ and he was forced to make the move,” said his daughter.
Subway was founded in 1965 at Adler’s home in Torrance, California. Before long, it was hit by competition from McDonald’s and other competitors. Buck was instrumental in maintaining Subway’s air of hipness and in sharing the recipe for the beloved Sub sandwich.
Buck and Adler continue to be allies, his daughter said.
“He’s in the senior lounge of San Diego where it’s open to the public,” she said. “My father has got close friends still in the neighborhood and he tells his friends it’s open to the public.”