Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haslam’s Bookstore

I love my town. St. Pete really is a gem and unlike anything else in Florida. We have a touch of Southern charm, but in general are pretty open minded (well some of us, the Mayor is a throwback, but you can’t win them all.) We have a thriving art scene, a lot of opportunities to become a culinary Mecca, and baseball. People here are like a melting pot of Americana with LA glam paired with Midwest conformity, Southern slowness balanced by NYC’s excited energy, and beach bum laziness coupled with aggressive optimism. Match all that up with great weather and you have my town.

Riding down Central Ave I felt very nostalgic with locally owned shops lining the street parading everything from antiques, to modern home décor, a dance studio next to a tattoo shop and a plethora of restaurants. Nestled before the overpass is Haslam’s, established in 1933, is the answer to all the chain bookstores. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid Amazon shopper and love to spend time perusing the stacks at Borders and Barnes and Noble, but this is the place where I shop and also where I find those treasures that I never knew were so dear.

I can spend hours in Haslam’s checking out both the old and used sections, trying to see if I can “feel” any of the ghosts that are said to haunt the stacks, and being sucked into a book I never knew I needed until now. I keep going back because it is also one of the best ways to spend a rainy afternoon, and to keep on the cheap (free) side of things.

Things to know before going to Haslam’s:

  1. They have a shop cat so don’t be surprised to find him sitting on top of the monitor as you checkout or strolling around the aisles.
  2. They have an extensive Florida authors section and frequently host readings, so you may stumble into famous Florida writer and not even know it.
  3. The further you travel into the store, the more there is to see. I can count 7 areas partitioned off like a house where new and used books intermingle.
  4. Check out the Jack Kerouac books to see if they are in the right order. It is said that occasionally dead Jack revisits the store that he so loved to browse in when he was breathing and switches up the books putting his more at eye-level so he can get more sales. It also is suggested that you may feel a cold chill when you finger his tomes as he encourages you to purchase.
  5. There are also said to be a ghostly concentration in the spiritual section with a substantially cooler feeling and sometimes perfumey smells. I am a big skeptic, but I noticed it is significantly cooler, but that could be due to an air vent.
  6. Plan to spend some time there, if you are a book lover. I went there once with my neighbor and within 10 minutes he was ready to leave. This told me that he wasn’t very interested in books, didn’t like the quaint quality of the store and was by other evidence having nothing to do with the store, an ass. I don’t hang out with him anymore.

With all of that said, Haslam’s is definitely a gem that you should maybe check out if you are ever in St. Pete. I say maybe because if you aren’t a book lover, you will be bored. But that is what the baseball games are for.


I also love to travel. Tell me about a great place in your town that you would recommend to visitors like me and you may be the lucky one to win a book to read on your next trip. The winner will be picked randomly (literally out of a hat), but the book will be to your choosing: Night in Bombay by Louis Bromfield, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles or Fun Lover’s Guide to Surprising Amsterdam by Tom Vincent. Tell a friend to check my blog out and if they comment (giving you credit) then you get extra chances to win. We’ll do the drawing on the first of February.

*Sorry we have to keep it U.S. for now.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I adore used bookstores, and I can spend hours in them before I even think 10-15 minutes have passed. Haslam's sounds like a great place. I have a friend who's writing her thesis on Kerouac - I'll have to tell her about the ghost.

As for places to visit, well, I live in Washington, DC, tourist mecca, so there are tons of places to visit -- I haven't even hit all of them yet! My top obvious pick is the National Gallery & sculpture garden, though Julia's Kitchen at the Museum of American History is way up there, too! Off the beaten path? I love walking around the neighborhoods in this city -- there's so much to see if you just take your time.

As for my "real" hometown, Houston, check out the Orange Show or the Beer Can House for some fabulous folk art. They're hidden treasures.