Mimi Kersun

Mimi Kersun, an active 70-something with a cherubic smile, has 50 years of memories to share since she and her husband Mickey moved to San Jose in 1965 for him to open a McDonald’s restaurant.

Kersun_02The newlyweds settled briefly on San Bernado Drive and soon bought their Montclair Drive home in 1968 where they raised four children. In 1984 the Kersuns moved to Beauclerc, but from 1985 until 2013, Kersun’s true home-away-from-home was her treasure chest of a boutique, the greatly missed Mimi’s of San Marco.

Mimi’s was a small European-style shop on San Marco Square where Taverna recently expanded. Café Carmon, a local favorite which closed in 2000, was Mimi’s bustling neighbor. Diners often followed their decadent desserts with a stop next door to shop at Mimi’s. Donnelly Rembert, former executive director of Hubbard House, hospital executive and college professor, was an eight-year employee and friend of Kersun’s. She describes the shop as one-of-a-kind and Kersun as a businesswoman whose ideas were far ahead of her time.

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“I shopped at Mimi’s for years. After my 2005 retirement I worked part-time for her: the most enjoyable work ever. We loved our customers. Everyone learned so much from Mimi about antiques and cooking. She brought a new level of class and sophistication to San Marco,” Rembert said. “…and after the corner Pic-n-Save closed in the nineties, Mimi’s was the only place to go to buy something quickly. She stocked ordinary kitchen items to help the neighborhood. Mimi is completely unpretentious and hysterically funny. She loves funny, original gifts and thought displaying costly antiques next to hand towels imprinted with jokes was just more interesting…shoppers loved it!”

Kersun_05The cooking classes for all ages and guest chefs Kersun featured during her first 20 years set her apart from other retailers and established her as a culinary expert, newspaper columnist, radio/television personality and restaurant reviewer. She and Mickey traveled to U.S. cities and abroad for classes from famed chefs including James Beard and Jacques Pepin, who invited Kersun to assist him when he taped his first PBS series in Jacksonville in 1981. She’s a graduate of the Dieppe Cooking School in France.

Kersun deeply appreciates those years and people she met even more since closing Mimi’s in February 2013. She especially misses the two generations of neighborhood children she watched grow up, who often popped into her shop for help selecting gifts for their parents and the long-time customers she helped shop for loved ones.

Kersun stayed open during Christmas for last minute gifts and has many memories, particularly of the 1989 pre-Christmas snow in Jacksonville. Mimi’s was one of the few shops open. She remembers whole families out walking, marveling at and playing in the snow on the square. They kept coming in to warm up and trade stories of power outages or seeing snow for the first time.

“Before I opened my shop and cooking school in San Marco I taught cooking classes and sold kitchen items in a small house on Fleetwood Road in Lakewood behind Lubi’s and my husband’s office. When Mickey relocated I decided to buy Judy Brown’s antique rug and pine furniture shop in San Marco with the encouragement of my friends, interior designers Ward Lariscy and Rudy York,” Kersun said. “I did things you never do in a retail boutique, actually just the opposite, but it worked…I crammed beautiful things everywhere. The front windows were overflowing. If something made me smile or laugh, I wanted it for my customers. I unpacked containers right in front where everyone could see the items and they loved it…it was like Christmas,” she said.

Kersun offered daytime and evening cooking classes that felt like friends gathering to relax, cook and enjoy dinner together. She specialized in Asian cooking (her favorite), and taught every ethnic style including French cooking, desserts, anything with chocolate and couples classes taught by she and Mickey. Kersun invited guest chefs, caterers and county home extension instructors who added even more to her cooking school.

Kersun’s daughter Allison, now living in Atlanta, often helped at Mimi’s. Her son Michael ran a successful flower shop a few doors down called Everything Grows. Allison says they often ran back and forth between the two popular shops to help Michael. Michael relocated to Chicago and Sam, their son who lives in Lakewood, works with his father. Their eldest daughter, Michelle, is deceased.

The Kersuns enjoy a quieter life now with family, friends and their Petit Basset Gryphon dog, Frankie who’s so adorable he’s usually the center of attention. They cook or read together and cultivate their vegetable, flower and herb gardens. Mimi follows food and fashion industry news, and watches all the cooking shows. It makes her day when she runs into former customer friends, their children or grandchildren who always say how much they miss her. Mickey, a former NFL Philadelphia Eagle prior to his marriage, sold his McDonald’s restaurants and continues to work at his Northside business, Stylor’s, a private label and haircare product company.

The key to their long happy 52-year marriage, according to Mimi, has been doing most things together, except food preparation: there are two islands and two sets of knives in the Kersun kitchen!

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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