Founder of specialty food retailer Hickory Farms dies at 96

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TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio businessman who started specialty food company Hickory Farms that sells sausage sticks and cheese trays has died. Richard Ransom was 96.

The Toledo-area-based company says Ransom died Monday.

Ransom started selling cheeses at home shows and fairs in 1951 and soon began Hickory Farms, adding sausage, crackers and mustards to its product line.

Hickory Farms opened its first retail store outside Toledo in 1959. It grew steadily and once had 600 stores, mainly in shopping malls in the United States and Canada.

Sales dropped steadily during the 1990s in its year-round stores, and the company has focused on catalog and Internet sales.

Ransom sold the company in 1980. He went on to start an adoption agency for children with special needs.

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