Bolstering the title of Tampa's only independent book store, Inkwood Books is a South Tampa gem set in the shadow of the South Howard chaos.
Owners Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner bought the property on the corner of Platt and Armenia 21-years ago, knowing only that it was a busy intersection and a home to a dream they shared. Today, the duo quietly run one of the most community oriented local businesses, overshadowed by a corporate grocery giant.
"People kind of thought we were crazy when we bought this property, but now we don't look too foolish," Reiner said. "Almost everyday we get people introducing themselves and they've never been here before. The Greenwise Publix across the street has actually been a good thing for our property value too."
216 South Armenia Avenue
Before Inkwood: Prior to owning the bookstore, Jimenez was a successful lawyer working for the University of South Florida. Reiner was a nurse and a student wrapping up a Master's degree in public health. When the Hyde Park Book Shop, her employer at the time, closed down, Reiner saw a chance to move into the future with a partner.
Forming a frienship: "We met 25 years ago after I read about the book store she worked in closing. At the end of the article she was quoted as saying that it was her dream to have a book store of her own but she would have to have a partner. I walked into that bookstore on a weekend where I had decided to leave my previous job and I had already decided I wanted to have my own small business where I would be my own boss. I called her up and said we should talk about being partners and now we complete each other's sentences," Jimenez said.
Balance: "We feed off each other," Reiner says. "She pushes me in directions that I probably wouldn't go and vice versa. Our customers have been great and we have real relationships. We've seen kids grow up and now they bring their kids. You get to know people in a really personal way because you know their interests and what they like to read."
Events: Inkwood often hosts book signings and author readings that attract a crowd of community members to the tiny store. They have held events for authors ranging from Chris Matthews, Carl Hiassen and a number of others.
Making the adjustment: "I wouldn't trade this for anything," Jimenez said. "I was looking to leave my former job and this has been a good adjustment. I miss having my own secretary though."
South Tampa: People in this part of town seem to be pretty well educated," Jimenez said. "It's been an adjustment because I use to think of all of Tampa Bay as our town, but the more we work here, the more we realize how much of our customer base we pull from this area right here."
The independent bookstore: "People are seeing the benefit of the independent bookstore more and more," Reiner said. "I just came back from San Francisco and they have an independently owned bookstore in the airport. It's great because the independent book shops give people passing through a sense of what the place is all about, even if it is in the airport."
Hours: Mon - Wed, 10am - 6pm; Thu, 10am - 9pm; Fri - Sat, 10am - 6pm; Sun, 1pm - 5pm