Tombstone was founded in Medford, Wisconsin, United States, by Pep Simek, his brother, Ron Simek, and two other individuals in 1962. The name came from The Tombstone Tap, a tavern owned by the Simeks which was located across from a cemetery.
In 1986, the Tombstone Pizza Company became a wholly owned but "freestanding" division of Kraft Foods. The employees who worked for Tombstone at the time were allowed to keep their jobs, although Pep and Ron Simek stepped aside from their roles in the business.
On January 5, 2010, Kraft Foods announced it was selling its frozen pizza division to Switzerland-based Nestlé Foods as part of a plan to use the proceeds to purchase Cadbury, a maker of dairy milk chocolate. In addition to Tombstone, this included other pizza brands including DiGiorno, Jacks and California Pizza Kitchen (frozen pizza). The Kraft frozen pizza division is now part of Nestlé D.S.D. (direct store delivery).
"What do you want on your Tombstone?" was created by the Chicago office of advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, now part of the Interpublic Group of Companies'. The slogan was typically used in Western advertising campaigns: a typical television commercial would ostensibly appear to be a public execution, but when the supposed executioner would ask "what do you want on your tombstone?" (i.e. an epitaph), the accused would reply along the lines of "Pepperoni and cheese." A Tombstone pizza would then be summoned.
- Uebelherr, Jay (2013-02-20). "Joseph Simek was a founder of Tombstone Pizza". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
- "Tombstone Pizza co-founder Joseph Simek dies". Green Bay Press Gazette. 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
- History of Pep's Pizza and Originator Pep Simek
- Tombstone Pizza Corporation Company History
- Ramirez, Anthony (18 January 1991). "So Far, U.S. Industry Finds It's Business as Usual: Advertising; Culling Ideas That May Offend". The New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 15 September 2011.