"Kapok Tree founder Richard B. Baumgardner…. buys the Hoyt orange grove and its already-famous kapok tree (in the 1950’s.) He and friend Jim Jones decide to build a restaurant there.
The 200-seat Kapok Tree Inn opens in 1958, with Richard’s designs executed by Jim Jones. It offers a choice of fried chicken, broiled steak, or baked ham, all served amidst fabulous antiques and tropical palms. Owner-operator Richard Baumgardner personally greets his arriving guests. Relying only on word-of-mouth advertising, the restaurant becomes a sensation. Dining rooms are added to increase seating, and shrimp is soon added to the menu. By the mid-1960’s, the New York Times and Holiday magazine name Baumgardner one of the world’s top ten restaurant operators. In 1964 Richard remarries, making a Kapok Tree waitress named June his new wife. In 1970, Kapok Tree Inns Corporation announces it will go public, and Richard suffers a stroke but survives.”