JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville restaurant will close its doors forever next week after serving customers for more than four decades. Owners of the Yum Yum Tree on St. Augustine Road say they made the difficult decision to close due to financial strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the owners’ other obligations as 6th-grade teachers.
A sign outside the Yum Yum Tree advertises its famous chicken salad, but if you take a closer look at the front door, you’ll see a posting letting customers know the doors will close permanently after 43 years in business.
“Our final three days are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,” said Stacie Dern, co-owner of the Yum Yum Tree. “I’ve been here since I was 7, so I kind of grew up in the restaurant.”
Dern’s parents moved to Jacksonville from New Hampshire and opened up the Yum Yum Tree in 1977. Dern is heating up the last pies she’ll ever cook in the restaurant’s kitchen. “I’m on a roller coaster,” Dern said. “I cried this morning, and then I’m laughing. It’s hard.”
Customer Stan Mazza has been coming to the Yum Yum Tree nearly as long as it’s been open. “I’m really heartbroken,” he said. “I’m going to miss it. It’s been an integral part of the community. It’s been fun coming here and seeing the same faces for 35, 40 years.”
Mazza told First Coast News he hopes to hang onto the memories through some of the Yum Yum Trees most memorable dishes. “I’m hoping to find the recipes. That’s why I’m up here today,” Mazza said. “She wouldn’t give me the recipe for the coconut crème pie. She said she wouldn’t give me the recipe for the salad dressing, but she said she would give me the recipe for the chicken salad.”
Dern says regulars are offering tributes in person and online. “All these people made these wonderful comments on our Facebook page,” Dern said. “People are coming in and saying goodbye, and that’s what I wanted. It just makes it feel like we made an impact even though we’re just one small family business.”
The Yum Yum Tree will have an open house and sell all items inside the restaurant on Saturday, Nov. 28, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Dern is also trying to find a vendor to sell the restaurant’s signature salad dressing and pies.
As part of preserving the memory of the Yum Yum Tree, Dern agreed to give the top-secret chicken salad recipe to First Coast News and loyal customers. The recipe is listed below.
Use whole breast, bone-in, and skin-on boiled chicken breast in seasoned chicken broth. Chop while it’s still hot. Add salt and pepper, and then let it cool. Add mayonnaise and chopped celery. If you don’t let it cool, the chicken will soak up the mayonnaise and ruin the flavor and texture.