Lew Newmyer, a Washington restaurateur and entrepreneur who founded and brought Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria to more than a dozen locations in the capital area, died March 16 at a rehabilitation facility in Rockville, Md. He was 92.
The cause was renal failure,said his son Ron Newmyer.
Mr. Newmyer was also an amateur magician, cabinet maker, yo-yo champion, liquor salesman and the proprietor of Armand’s subway sandwich shops, a predecessor to the pizzeria chain. He was widely known as a showman, given to grandiose publicity stunts.
For years he had a standing offer of a free six-foot-long Italian cold-cut submarine sandwich to any four persons who could eat it in an hour. Few could, and those who could not were charged the regular $28 for the six-footer.
In 1975, Mr. Newmyer opened his first Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria at the corner of Veazey Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW near Tenley Circle. On a business trip to Chicago two years earlier, he had dined at two deep-dish pizzerias, Uno and Due. He liked what he tasted and wanted to bring the Chicago-style pizza to Washington. But the Windy City pizzerias would not share their recipes.
Mr. Newmyer took some uneaten Uno pizza with him, then returned to the restaurant after closing time on a cold January night. Armed with a flashlight, he “went through the garbage dumpster retrieving the labels off the flour, yeast and tomato packages,” his son recounted in an e-mail. From this caper came the the formula and ingredients for the pizzas at Armand’s in Washington.
He named the Washington establishments after his older brother, Mr. Newmyer said, because “Armand’s” sounded better than “Lew’s.”
Over the years, Armand’s pizzas would win several Best Pizza awards from Washingtonian magazine. At its peak, the chain included 14 pizzerias in the Washington area, four of which were family owned and 10 as franchises.
The original Armand’s Tenleytown restaurant closed in 2012. The family still operates an Armand’s in Silver Spring, Md., and five others are run as franchises.
Lewis M. Newmyer, who most recently lived in Silver Spring, was born in Washington on June 5, 1922. His middle name at birth was Mary, but as an adult he legally changed it to the initial M.
Mr. Newmyer’s grandfather, also named Lewis Newmyer, operated the well-known Marble Saloon at 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW during the 19th century. His father, Alvin Newmyer, was a lawyer and former president of the D.C. Bar Association.
The younger Mr. Newmyer graduated in 1940 from what then was Western High School.
As a high school student, he won a national yo-yo championship in 1937, then put away the yo-yo for more than a half century. In 1996, he won another national yo-yo championship in Chico, Calif.
“The last time I used a yo-yo was 1938 but then my grandkids got me doing it again this year,” Mr. Newmyer told the San Francisco Chronicle.
He was a Navy medic during World War II and graduated from the University of Virginia after the war. He attended law school at the University of Richmond, where he also practiced his trade as a magician.
In 1951, he won second prize for the most original magic trick in a national contest of magicians,according to the Richmond News Leader. The trick was inflating a balloon just by holding it in his hand, neither visibly blowing nor pumping air into it. Mr. Newmyer refused to explain how he did it.
Mr. Newmyer later returned to Washington, where he was a wholesale liquor salesman until 1969, when he opened the first Armand’s submarine sandwich shops, which he patterned after shops he had seen in Atlantic City.
He also ran a cabinet-making business in Kensington, Md., producing home furniture and inventing and making a revolving wine cabinet for his liquor-store customers.
He retired in 1992.
Mr. Newmyer’s marriage to Virginia McPherson ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 27 years, Sandy Shaffer Newmyer of Silver Spring; five children from his first marriage, Steve Newmyer of Potomac, Md., Ron Newmyer of Silver Spring, Wendy Everett of Sterling, Va., Linda Newmyer of Lake Mary, Fla., and Rick Newmyer of San Diego; and 11 grandchildren.
Mr. Newmyer was never a full-time magician, but over the years he did periodic magic shows. Children, he said, were the most difficult audiences to fool.
“When a magician points, the adult looks where he’s directed, but a child looks at the magician’s finger,” he told the Richmond News Leader.
The easiest audiences to fool, he said, were professional magicians.
“They’re always trying to outsmart the performer,” he said, “but he knows what they’re doing and adds a new twist.”