Clearwater, FL

Remembering The Kapok Tree Restaurant That Operated In Clearwater From 1958 to 1991, a Legendary Historic Memory


During its heyday, from the 60s through the 80s, the Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater was one of the most over-the-top restaurants in the country. The restaurant became so popular that it went public in the 1970s.
Kapok tree in full bloom on grounds of St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg Florida. 14 February, 2013.Photo byXrzt/Wikimedia Commons

Did you have the experience of dining at the historic Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater when it was still in existence? At its peak, the Kapok Tree Inn had 12 dining rooms. Though the food was great, it wasn’t the only force that drove people to the Inn back then. The dining ambiance and overall experience were worth it. 

People came from miles around over the years just to dine at the restaurant. The 200-seat Kapok Tree Inn opened on the property in 1958 and immediately became a hit with both locals and tourists. The joint offered fried chicken, broiled steak, and baked ham served in a setting of fabulous antics and tropical palms with the backdrop of the famous kapok tree and its offspring. 

Named after a kapok tree sapling that was brought over from India. The land was later purchased by Richard B. Baumgardner, who creatively transformed the place into an ambitious destination restaurant, which opened in 1958.

The restaurant grew and became so popular that it went public in the 1970s. A few more other locations opened in Florida and Maryland but the one in Clearwater remained the most extravagant of them all. It featured a world-renown garden, Renaissance-inspired architecture, impressive waterfalls, beautiful chandeliers, and twelve different themed dining rooms.

By the 1960's the New York Times and Holiday magazine named the owner of the Kapok Tree, Richard B. Baumgardner, as one of the top ten restaurant operators in the world. In 1988, the Chicago Sun-Times called the Clearwater Kapok Tree Inn the number 15 restaurant in the country, with sales of $10 million.

Despite its popularity and massive success, the Kapok Tree Inn shut down for good in 1991, but its elements have been preserved and can still be seen at the Sam Ash Music Store, 923 McMullen Booth Rd, Clearwater, FL 33759.

Though we like to read about restaurants where we can walk in and enjoy a good meal, at times we go back in time to remember and cherish the ones in our past where we had good food and amazing experiences. 

The Kapok tree Inn was a place where diners from all walks of life had great moments. Folks that loved the joint miss it a lot. 

Author’s Note: This article is solely for information purposes. The embedded links and information shared in the article are attributed to

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