Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Inkwood Books - Tampa, FL

Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

With this entry, I can finally wrap-up a 2-part series.  Two sisters (biologically speaking), two bookstores, two different states, two 5-star bookstores.  The stores share the same name, Inkwood Books, and some of you may recall the entry about my visit to the Inkwood Books in Haddonfield, NJ.  I've now completed my Inkwood journey by visiting the original, owned by Stefani B., in Tampa.  With these two true sister bookstores you can flip a coin.  You'll meet two wonderful people and have a great bookstore experience in either.

Inkwood Books in Tampa has just recently moved in the last few months to its current location.  I had a great time talking to Stefani but I think she underestimates her business and bookstore talent.  This store is now located in an area that is showing some growth that will be very compatible with the bookstore.  It's a good location for foot traffic, a developing river walk area, new housing on the horizon, and Stefani's brother has a nice cafe right across the street.  All of this located in one of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods, a fun area to see.

The one-level store has an interior that is evolving and I'm very excited to see what Stefani does with the space within the next year or so.  Inkwood offers all new books and a small but good variety of sidelines which are doing well and are an important part of the business.  Much of the interior has been furnished, painted, and designed by small-business owners, something Stefani feels quite strongly about and I couldn't agree more.  The store has a fantastic space for events, always a great way to bring people into the store. 

Stefani is the 2nd owner of Inkwood Books and has been here for about 5 years.  In total, the bookstore business has been going for 26 years, a good sign.  I'm also happy to say that things for Stefani are going pretty good but they can always be better.

And that's where you come in Tampa.  It's time to step-up and patronize a great local business.   If you haven't discovered Inkwood Books yet, get with it.  Shop local, buy local, keep your money in the community to insure you can continue to enjoy places like Inkwood Books in Haddonfield, NJ or Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL.  Check these out and return again with a friend.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Origin, Dan Brown.  Let the debate between religion and science begin.  Some of Dan Brown's books can spark some interesting conversations and this is another one.  Edmond Kirsch is a futurist and is on the brink of revealing an earth-shattering discovery that will rock the religions of the world.  Where do we come from and where are we going?  A chain of events early in the book set in motion another page-turner from this author.  I don't know if this one is as good as his others but I found it entertaining and enjoyable.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Elizabeth Is Missing, Emma Healey.    

RECENTLY PURCHASED:   Panorama, Steve Kistulentz.  Stolen Beauty, Laurie Lico Albanese. 

If you happen to be on this side of the building, just follow the arrow to the entrance.  

And if you happen to be at this building, you're at the old location that is no longer open.  Look for the bookstore that you see at the top of this page.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  Enterprising readers will undoubtedly recognize the celebrity bending over a bookshelf.  Yes, that's my mom.  Some readers may also recognize The Indie Bob Spot graphic designer and logistics coordinator, Cheryl M.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance and into the children's section.  

A very user-friendly display of best-sellers near the front entrance.  

A couple of great places to sit and try out a book.  

A unique display of staff picks.  

Take a seat here and pretend you're back in 1962.  Very cool.  

Another attractive table display.  

I think the store has a great set-up and space for author events, located toward the back of the store.  

Another view of the events space.  Authors, when you do your event here at Inkwood, this will be your view (except for the empty chairs that will be filled with people!). 

Sooner or later that white wall will be hidden by bookshelves or an attractive mural.  

The store offers a variety of sidelines for all ages...

...including the young and the young in heart.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Great art work of the Inkwood logo.  

Overview of the store looking from the rear and event space toward the front entrance.  

A portion of the books of local interest.

Another view into the children's section.  

Take time to admire the great mural in the children's section.  

Anything that offers store incentives to customers is a must if you're a regular.  

With Stefani, the fine owner at Inkwood Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

321 Books - St. Petersburg, FL

321 Books, St. Petersburg, FL
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

If I were going to open a used bookstore (I'm not) or if I knew someone who was, I would put Tim R. on my cell phone speed dial.  Tim is the owner of 321 Books in St. Petersburg, in business for just over a year.  This guy is informed, knowledgeable, business-savvy, and on top of it all one friendly person to visit with about the store and the book business.  I cannot possibly recount everything he told me but it was enough to understand his book business is like nothing I've encountered.  The store is located in the Tyrone Square Mall, in a former GAP store, not a typical space for an independent bookstore.  But from my visit, I only saw the tip of the iceberg of this incredible operation.

The store is home to over 90,000 books but there will always be an emphasis for kids.  Tim is looking to give books away to kids and in their first year gave away 700,000, 300,000 short of his one million goal.  Schools and school librarians would be wise to contact 321 Books and Tim to ask about free books.  He acquires his inventory from several sources, including many charitable organizations.  The store buys 100,000 lbs of books a week, or 50 tons (you might want to reread that sentence).  There is a huge warehouse to store this inventory and Tim has enough to open 7-8 additional 321 stores, something that he is actively pursuing.  Those 90,000 books are only a fraction of the store's business.  The volume of books that come into the warehouse include books that are of value to collectors and others.  Those books are offered and sold online which is a big part of the business.

The store is very spacious, roomy, and light.  It does not have the feel of a used bookstore and you will love the prices, $3 for hardbacks and $1-2 for paperbacks.  They have lots of kid's events that include Disney characters, Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny to name just a few.  I didn't smell books at this store but I did smell popcorn (more indies should do this!).  Grab a .25 bag of popcorn, find a book to sample, and enjoy one of their over-stuffed chairs.

You might think a bookstore is a dinosaur in a conventional mall setting.  Not so here.  321 Books has more Facebook likes and reviews than all of the other mall's stores combined!  Congratulations 321 and Tim on your 1st year of business and a great start.

This bookstore is a rising star and I think there will soon be more to go along with it.  It's on the cusp of big things and is poised to shake up the industry.  Check this one out and you'll see what I mean.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Blue Heaven, C. J. Box.  I've read two books by this author and loved them both.  This one is the story of two kids who witness a murder in the backwoods of Idaho.  The murderers know the kids saw them and now the chase is on.  A mystery/thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Origin, Dan Brown.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Not purchased but gifted, In The Unlikely Event, Judy Blume.  A 321 Books t-shirt.  Thanks Tim.    

An attractive storefront.

Yes, you'll be going to the Tyrone Square Mall to visit this store.  Don't worry, it's a good thing for this indie.  

The store has two entrances.  This is the entrance that looks into the children's department.  

I love the book art in this display window.  

Wow!  Bring your gift cards to this bookstore.  

This is the view looking into the main entrance, a great view of the store's space.  

This doubles as a Christmas tree during the holiday season.  

Looking to the right of the main entrance.  

This store did a bike give-away.  What a great idea!

A super table display for kids.  Check out the prices on the paper bag in the center of the table.  

Game Of Thrones fans, here you go.  

This headless mannequin stands over another terrific book display.  

I wish more indies would offer their regular customers sale incentives.  I think the one they have here is great.  Get a t-shirt and you will instantly have $20 of store credit.  Wear your shirt to the store on one of their VIP days and you can get anything in the store for a dollar.  

Great seats to try out a book.  

Or you can get serious and stretch out and pretend to read a book.  

Skip the shopping basket, you're going to need the shopping cart.  

A great deal for kids.  

Lots of CDs and DVDs to pick from with more coming into the store all the time.  

These prices are why you'll need a shopping cart.  

Yes, you might as well get a bag too.  

The store always has promotions.  

YES!  Please, more of this indies.  Very low overhead and .25/bag.  

Lots of book aisles like this one.  

Words to live by and another great place to sit and read.  

Overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  

With Tim on the right, the fine owner at 321 Books.  See that shirt I'm wearing?  Pick from a variety of 321 shirts and you'll instantly get $20 of store credit.  Thanks for a great visit.