Shop Tampa's New Old-World MarketplaceMarch 15, 2013
The Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida began as a modest idea. Businessman Blake Casper and sister Allison Casper Adams wanted to open a well-curated bookstore and work space where locals could gather. But when the two discovered a 24,000-square-foot historic building on Kennedy Avenue—originally built as a stable for the Plant Hotel in 1891—their plan grew to include a coffee bar, teashop, restaurant, boutique, and office space. “The idea was to create a place people felt really comfortable spending time in and exploring—a meeting place that created conversation,” Adams says.
Photos by Amy Pezzicara
Inspired by the easy elegance of England’s private clubs and libraries, as well as the dining halls at Oxford University, (Casper spent four years at the London School of Economics) Adams and Casper enlisted interior designer Mary Beth Courier and Atlanta architecture firm Smith Dalia to imbue the Oxford Exchange with that same timeless aesthetic. A commitment to detail and an emphasis on quality keep the look from feeling contrived. Herringbone patterned pine-and-white oak floors are oiled rather than polyurethaned. Coffered arched ceilings and a retractable glass-roof in the conservatory attached to the restaurant let in light. And brass railings, inlaid marble floors, and stuffed leather couches add comfort and class.
Although the Exchange’s interiors invite you to linger, its contents will keep you coming back. Local companies TeBella and Buddy Brew run the tea and coffee emporiums. And Adams combs Paris, London, and New York flea markets for the quirky collection of antiques, curiosities, art, and ephemera that spills from the boutique’s well-stocked shelves. Wander over to the bookstore, where titles are selected with purpose and organized into categories such as: Complicated Women, Wonder, America: Deeper Than People Give Us Credit For, and It's A Big World Out There. From the structure to the interior styling, this is a multispace shopping experience that we could get used to.