LIBERTY CITY (CBSMiami) – It’s the end for a well-known Liberty City restaurant, closing its doors after over 50 years of business.
Jumbo’s will be serving up its last meal Wednesday for diners after 59 years.
The restaurant is going out with a bang, however, as people flocked to the Liberty City establishment—which is known for its shrimp as it is for its history—for its last day.
Many of Jumbo’s regular customers are sad to see it go—especially one couple who says they had their very first date at the restaurant.
“We have been together ever since and it’s been 41 years. We have five children and 10 grandchildren,” said Abraham “The Heat Man” Thomas. “It’s my heritage,” said Thomas. “If it hadn’t been for Jumbo’s I might not have had those five children and 10 grandchildren—so we had to come back and celebrate this transition.”
Bobby Flam, Jumbo’s owner, decided to close the restaurant so that he could retire and spend more time with his family.
“I’ve been running Jumbo’s 47 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Bobby Flam.
He told CBS4 what he hopes jumbo’s legacy will be.
“1955 through 2014….good food, good friends, fair prices, great shrimp, great chicken, great conch….love your neighbor,” said Flam.
Flam said he hasn’t made profit from Jumbo’s in the last 10 years and has been looking for someone to purchase the property.
His family has owned Jumbo’s since 1955. The diner was segregated, serving black customers from a window in the back of the restaurant.
When Flam took over the restaurant from his parents in the 1960s, the Illinois boy decided to integrate, becoming the first restaurant to hire black employees and integrate the dining room.
Flam paid a price for his decision.
“I had customers who stopped coming,” said Flam. “I had employees who didn’t want to work for me anymore. I made the transition and it was all for the better.”
The 24-hour diner managed to survive the 1980 race riots that destroyed many other white-owned businesses in Liberty City and Overtown.
In 2005, Jumbo’s was entered into the Congressional Record for its role integrating South Florida. Even now, there is an “Obama deal” on the menu: two cheeseburgers, fries and a drink for$ 5.99. Don’t let the price fool you–Jumbo’s food is among the best in the country.
The restaurant earned the prestigious James Beard Award in 2008 in the American classic restaurant category. The James Beard Award is like the Academy Awards in the culinary world.
“The group you see here, we have been doing this now for about 10 to 15 years—every morning,” said Lawrence Drayton. “We wanted to be here at the closing date.”
Flam spent the morning at his restaurant, shaking hands and talking to customers.
He said he has plans to turn Jumbo’s into a franchise, although he won’t be running them himself. The details are still being ironed out, but he said you’ll see the name Jumbo’s in lights again.