THE STORY BEHIND A STORE OF STORIES

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ten minutes from my house is one of Florida's largest independent book stores. Haslam's may not look super spectacular from the outside, but isn't there a rule about not judging a book by its cover?
Walk through the door and that smell hits you. Nope, not the coffee brewing in the cafe like at Borders and Barnes & Noble (and yes, I do love those stores too). I'm talking about the smell of books. The potpourri of used books, new books, old and worn covers and pages. 30,000 square feet of stories.

They have books in glass cases--the very old, rare, or expensive. You might even see a cat napping on top of the shelves, or a ghost strolling the aisles. Would you expect any less from a store that's been in business since 1933?

John and Mary Haslam opened their used book and magazine store during the depression.

Three generations have kept it going, and growing. It may have changed a bit over the decades, but when I visit I can sense the history of the store and feel all the love that kept it in business: the Haslam family, the loyal customers, the many tourists, the authors, and the readers. As I thumb through pages and gawk at the endless assortment of literature, time almost stands still, or at least rewinds a smidge. Even during the depression people knew books were important. Over seventy years later we're in a recession but books are STILL important.

Superstores may have changed the book retail industry. E-readers and the internet may be changing the world of publishing, but we adjust. The world adapts accordingly. Sadly, many mom-and-pop stores have gone out of business, but I LOVE that Haslam's has persevered.

A great story exists behind this store of stories, and I hope Haslam's continues for many more decades. Because sometimes--even though I do love me some coffee--I don't want the smell of brand new books and a cafe in a big chain store. I want to smell history, and remember that most heartwarming stories start with a dream and evolve with a lot of love and support.

Just like Haslam's.

Do you support independent bookstores in your area? I'd love to hear about others that have survived the changing times.

Haslam's is located at 2025 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, FL

39 comments:

MeganRebekah said...

I'm not sure Ocala has independent bookstores. I see a used bookstore on the way to work, but I haven't been in yet. And we do have a couple Christian bookstores that I like. But definitely nothing as cool as Haslams!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

"I want to smell history" What a wonderful thought that is. I am drawn to old things of many sorts, because it seems I can feel the history. May Haslam's stay rooted.

Wendy Ramer said...

First of all, I wish I'd known about Haslam's back in January when I was actually in St. Pete for a family event. (I have cousin's there - in Seminole.) Second, I definitely support ind. bookstores, or I would if I could find one!

Matthew Rush said...

Wow, this sounds like an awesome bookstore. Considering the location I would have guessed at Hunter Thompson as the ghost before Jack Kerouac, but either one would be pretty cool!

The local independent is called Humpus Bumpus Books, which is a cool bookstore with a cooler name. It has a small used book section which is great and we always go there before B&N or Borders. There is nothing wrong with the super chains, I just like to support independents.

Thanks for sharing Karen.

Tess said...

Hooray for indies! They are such a lifeblood of our nation's history. I adore these old pics here ... can you just imagine sitting in one of those rockers back in the day? Classic.

Cleverly Inked said...

Funny that you post this today..I am on my way today to find new bookstores. Love that smell!

Jessica Nelson said...

Okay, that's it. Our next meeting is THERE! :-) Looks awesome!

I'd like to support indies, but I don't ever go to bookstores with the kiddos. I think there a few Christian ones in Ocala, but nothing like that!

Jessie Oliveros said...

I don't know of any, but I'd like to find one now!

Natalie said...

Oh, that looks like a fun store! We only have 2 independents where I live and they are both pretty small and kind of far from where I live. I still try to visit them at least as often as I go to Borders of B&N. And yes, taking the kids to an indie is out of the question. They are okay in the big stores, but 3 kids in a tiny bookstore is a bad idea.

KrysteyBelle said...

Must. Make. Pilgrimage.

Not as cool as it sounds. I'm only about an hour away. =)

Christopher said...

I would love that store. I managed a used bookstore called Hooked on Books for a few years of my life. I have always considered it the best job I ever had.

Summer said...

There's a great one here with a sister store in the next county--they often have first editions that you can get for pennies, practically, cuz they don't know what they have! And when I was in college, there was an even awesome-er one in the downtown sector. I love indie bookstores far more than the chains. In fact, I only go to the chains if I can't find what I'm looking for at the indies, and now that I have a Kindle, I won't even need to be doing that.

Taryn Tyler said...

There are several independent bookstores around here that I visit whenever I can. I usually only go to the bigger stores when I'm looking for something that was just released. I've always preferred used books to new ones. Its fun to wonder about all the other people who read it before you. If it was given to them as a present or if they laughed and cried in the same places as you did.

Simon C. Larter said...

Ah, this makes me sad that Philly has no large independent bookstores. The few left are all small and niche-based. Now I have another reason to be jealous of you, besides your writing room. *sigh*

Jessilyn said...

wow. I love that story I wish I could find one like that here when I lived in texas there was one right down the street from my house I loved the smell and the books that's were I really fell head over heels in love with books.

Aubrie said...

There's a few independent bookstores in NH and they have neat little poetry readings and guest author talks. I love independent bookstores.

Elana Johnson said...

Ah, yes. The smell of history. There's nothing like it. The old bookstore by us is built in a really old house with all these staircases and tiny rooms. It's fun to go wander through, and realize what your house would be like if you could own all the books you wanted. Pretty cool. :)

Laura Marcella said...

I love independent books stores. Sadly there aren't any in my area anymore. When I travel, I always make a point to stop in every independent bookstore I see!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Ah, you bring back memories. Back in my checkered past, I used to own an independent bookstore. Not as large as Haslam's - but with regular customers not unlike CHEERS. I served cokes not beer though.

But life changes, and my path took me elsewhere. Thanks for your lovely blog. It takes effort, and I appreciate your labor. Roland

Jen said...

How awesome! I love bookstores that are so big and have the smell of tons of books!!! I have a corner bookshop called Blue Willow Bookshop it's super cute and they are the nicest people ever!! I think us as writers and then book store owners are always nice, I guess writing stories or spending our days reading them must make life blissful versus everyone else...

Jen said...

I also wanted to say that I was shocked to find out that I wasn't following you!!! I am ashamed *blushes* but I have since corrected the problem :)

Steve Graham said...

I drive by Haslams almost every day, and it makes me smile everytime. Especially in this area so rich in history but seems to be leaning more toward the notion of "out with the old and in with the new and pretentious". Instead of investing money into what made this area so beautiful, big money out of town investors come and take over, throwing up massive buildings of condos, most of which have failed miserably, and at the expense of the little independant "mom and pop" stores. It's nice to see this book store has been left alone as a staple of the area. As Karen said, it is not the prettiest building to look at, but that doesn't matter.

I'm not as much of a reader as most of you, though I really enjoy it when I do have time. I'm a DJ so this topic does hit very close to home as all my independant record stores have sadly disappeared as well as most of the online ones. I do embrace the new technology and the digital era of music, but I really miss the days of walking in to Neptune Records with my mates on a Saturday afternoon and spending hours digging for and listening to our little vinyl pieces of heaven, yup real records!
Whether looking for the hard to find classics, picking through the $1 bin, or the owner bringing a stack of the latest releases for us to check out, I'll always miss those days, and I really hope the same doesnt happen to book stores.

Yes it's nice to have basically any book or piece of music you want at your finger tips from the comfort of your couch or wherever you surf. Still, nothing beats tracking down that obscure record or stumbling across a classic book at your local independant store.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, how I wish there was a bookstore just like that one near me. It sounds wonderful! :-)

Voidwalker said...

When you put it like that, it makes me want to stop in to an independant book store and give em a shot, but alas, I rarely set foot in stores like that. It's more of a selection issue in most cases, but I'm not opposed to them

Toby Speed said...

We used to have the most wonderful indie bookstore here on L.I., The Corner Bookshop, that one woman operated for many years. I still miss it, and I'd gotten used to going into Borders and ordering books through Amazon until last week, when I visited my daughter in Berkeley. There are tons of real bookstores in Berkeley! I went into every one I passed, and bought books in a couple of them. It renewed my love of bookstores.

Fond memories of going to Oscar's in Huntington with my dad when I was a kid...

I've just started following your blog, Karen. I love the energy of your writing. Thanks so much for sharing it!

Bish Denham said...

I wish we HAD an independent bookstore! I would surely patronize it. It's the library for me. I hope Haslam's stays open for many more generations to come!

Tahereh said...

omg the minute you described THAT smell, i knew exactly what you were talking about. i wish there were more independent bookstores in my area.

you rock for supporting them.

great post!

Melissa said...

Sadly, there are no independent book stores close to where I live, only the big name stores. But I am a huge B&N fan!

Sarah Skilton said...

Great post; wish I could visit Haslam's. I have a few indie bookstores near me. My favorite is Skylight Books in Los Feliz.

It's not very big, yet they seem to have everything! There are personal recommendations everywhere, and the organization of topics is intuitive yet unlike any other bookstore I've been to. Definitely has that personal touch.

Amie Boudreau said...

wish we had one here. When I lived in New Orleans I loved to peruse the used book stores you could find in the French Quarter.. smell of history indeed. I collect antique books as well so I really look at places like this as a goldmine!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I love hearing about these places. When I was teaching college writing, I always had my books stocked at the independent book store in town. Although this particular store also smelled like incense much of the time ;)

Sandy Shin said...

This is such a lovely and nostalgic post! I love the smell of books in a bookstore, and it's just something you can't find ordering books online.

Wendy Sparrow said...

We just had our big and wonderful "Elliot Bay Bookstore" close up and move in Seattle. That area will never be the same. I loved the wooden planks in that store. It's so sad to see a part of history drop out like that.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Oh god, I just love book stores. All kinds. I would live in one if I could. There is a great indie book store in my hood that, in addition to its great stock, highlights Brooklyn authors. Again, I could live in that place.

B.J. Anderson said...

What I wouldn't give for a bookstore in my area. Sigh. We have an itty bitty one, and I try to buy as many books there as I can, but most have to be ordered. I would love to go through stacks and stacks and just find something that makes me smile and buy it on the spot. This looks like a great store!!

Dominique said...

There's a small bookstore in my area, and I definitely buy books there if they have what I'm looking for. I think it's good to support local business, and I like the idea of small bookstores, so I want to help this one stick around.

Carol Anne Strange said...

A fabulous post, Karen, and you're very lucky to have such a wonderfully big independent book store on your doorstep. Independents here are so sadly few and far between. We like to travel to Hay-on-Wye though, which is the UK's most famous book town, with some 40 fabulous book stores all in walking distance. Bliss! Bright wishes, dear one. xx

Georgina said...

I love independent book stores. One of my favourite ones in Vancouver just closed, and like Halsam's, it had been around since before the depression. There is a used bookstore down the street from our place that was recently put up for sale. He was selling it for 20K cash. And I thought to myself, "How could we come up with 20K?" The new owner isn't quite as enigmatic as the old eccentric guy who ran it before. But it's still a treat to visit on a Sunday afternoon. You never know what you will find! - G

Kellyansapansa said...

Oh, I wish we had a store like this in my home town!

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