Along the gulf coast of Florida sits the beautiful city of Tampa. Full of booming businesses and exciting recreation, the stunning area has something to offer everyone. The balmy weather and ideal location make it a great place to explore.
Tampa is also a city that’s full of rich history. Settled in 1823, it’s seen nearly two centuries of impactful and memorable events. With a long past full of organized crime and wartime conflict, the city has seen more than a little death and tragedy.
Over time, historic districts have been created and preserved all over the city. These districts hold much of the authentic architecture of the original Tampa building scape. They are also the settings of many of the city’s most interesting and mysterious legends and stories. One of these stories is that of The Old Tampa Book Company.
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History of The Old Tampa Book Company
The Old Tampa Book Company sold books from the small storefront on Tampa Street in one of the city’s historic districts for many years. The old musky smell of worn pages brought in countless customers looking for their next perfect read. However, the space wasn’t always a well-stocked source of pre-owned literature for bookworms.
The store used to house the Richard Bennett Tailor shop. Oddly, late in 1989, the space was abandoned. The tailor shop owners left everything inside and vanished without a trace. Textiles, sewing machines, and tailoring equipment filled the abandoned space.
Fortunately, the shop was rescued by new tenants. The couple made a deal with the landlords at Merrill Lynch to clean out the space. For their work, they were awarded a three-month forgiveness of their rent payment. These new lease holders were David and Ellen Brown. This unique opportunity gave them the chance to start their business and The Old Tampa Book Company was born.
David and Ellen Brown
David and Ellen Brown moved to Tampa from Rochester, New York in 1992. Originally, they came to the area for a slower pace and a change of scenery. David was also offered a corporate job at a friend’s firm in the area, making the decision to relocate a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, David wasn’t happy with his new employment opportunity. He decided that starting a business would be a more rewarding venture. His passion, combined with his wife’s experience and business sense, made entrepreneurship possible.
David was an ardent book lover. From childhood, he would hang out at the library across from his home soaking up lines of texts from all genres. This prompted David to begin collecting books into adulthood. By the time he moved to Tampa, he had amassed a collection of over 4,000 books.
Ellen was formerly an art curator and her organizational skills helped them establish the business. Together with a business partner, they opened their doors with David’s large and diverse collection of books. The tables and chairs left over from the tailor shop helped them to create a perfect, cozy environment for shoppers to browse and skim through their diverse selections.
Together, the couple ran the store for over twenty years. Unfortunately, Ellen’s health began to suffer and they longed to be closer to their family in New England. David and Ellen arrived at the decision that selling their store and moving back up north was the best decision for their family.
A Transition to New Ownership
Fortunately, they didn’t have to look far for new owners for The Old Tampa Book Company. Carrie Carnes was their loyal employee, running the store’s online sales, for almost five years. During this time, she learned all of the ins and outs of operating the book shop.
Carrie and her husband Matt Saxon purchased the store and took over the operations. With the Browns as her mentors, she was able to make a seamless transition into running the shop. The over 40,000 books on the store’s shelves and the 20,000 more in storage were a massive undertaking. At the time she acquired it, the inventory was valued at $650,000.
Thinking outside the box, Carrie used the opportunity to put her own twist on things. The quiet book store became a setting for open mic events. She boosted the shop’s social media presence and began holding almost daily sidewalk sales on the busy street. Carrie planned to grow the store and host various events like author chats and music nights.
However, Carrie may have gotten more than she bargained for when she purchased the quaint shop. It seems that the vast inventory of books wasn’t the only thing she inherited. Some spooky and mysterious happenings have occurred within the walls of The Old Tampa Book Company.
Even though Carrie has spent countless hours in the store amongst the shelves of books, she’s still not comfortable alone there after dark. The eerie feeling she gets from the books and the 1,200 square foot space just can’t be ignored.
Carrie says, “Sometimes I think [the books] might contain the energy of their previous owners.” With the sheer number of pre-owned books, that’s surely a powerful feeling to be felt in the small shop. The couple has shut down the shop for the night several times, only to return in the morning to a different scene.
They are subtle changes but the mystery surrounding them just can’t be ignored. After turning off all of the lights and music for the night, they have come to open the store the next day and found the chandelier glowing or classical music playing. The chairs originally left over from the abandoned tailor shop have moved about the small store on their own with neither Carrie nor Matt touching them.
One night, back when the Brown’s owned the store, the couple arrived there in a panic after the store’s alarm was set off. Mysteriously, nothing was missing from inside the store. However, a pool of blood and a pair of scissors were found on the floor.
The couple chalked it up to a failed burglary that ended in a struggle. But neither of them were there to defend the shop, so who stopped the potential theft? Did the criminal simply get cut on the glass from the window he broke to get in? Either way, what happened that night would remain a mystery.
A Sad Closure
According to The Old Tampa Book Company’s twitter handle, they closed their doors in December of 2017 due to an unexplained maintenance issue. With no timeline for reopening, the store remains closed until this day.
The historical district of Tampa remains active, however. Just across the street from the former location of The Old Tampa Book Company, patrons flow in and out of bustling restaurants. In fact, the historic area is home to many spirits and countless mysterious sightings.
Just a couple of miles away sits the building that housed the Florida Brewing Company. During the grand opening, one of the brewery’s first customers died inside. With free beer flowing, inevitably, a violent brawl started. The man hit his head and is said to still drunkenly haunt the building to this day. Those inside the building on East 5th Avenue can still hear his mumbling.
The Cuban Club is also just a few miles northeast in Historic Ybor. Here, many ghosts have been spotted due to the number of deaths that have occurred over the years. A boy playing with a ball and a mysterious lady has been seen floating down the stairs. Unexplained sounds have been heard and shadows have been spotted in the building that dates back to 1917.
An adventure in Tampa is not for the faint of heart. It seems that ghosts and spirits lurk around every corner. The historical areas are full of opportunities for a supernatural experience under the towering palms.