Sally Bradshaw has the perfect distraction for this crazy election cycle: Books.
For the past few months, she has been neck deep in bestsellers, up to her eyeballs in thrillers and focused on Florida favorites. She’s asked everyone she knows for a recommendation, and has been fixated on creating the perfect spot for literary lovers in the capital city.
All of that work will pay off Tuesday, when Bradshaw opens Midtown Reader, her independent bookstore in the heart of Tallahassee’s midtown neighborhood.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Bradshaw, a longtime advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Havana resident announced her plans to open the store earlier this year. In the months since, she’s traveled the country meeting with booksellers and shop owners to get a feel for the industry. When she wasn’t in meetings, she was at the shop, making sure every detail was just right.
The result? A cozy, 1,500-square-foot store filled to the brim with books. An estimated 10,000 books will fill the shelves when the doors open this week, and Bradshaw said she hopes the “eclectic mix” will attract readers from throughout Tallahassee.
“Tallahassee is a well-read town,” she said. “Regardless of who you speak to, everyone is reading something different.”
She’s hoping the bookstore will become a destination for book lovers across the region, a place where readers can stop by, browse the shelves and chat about their favorite piece of prose.
“There’s a lot of advantages to the social media world we live, but the experience that’s missing on the Internet is it’s very difficult to browse,” she said. “There’s value in being able to go into an independent bookstore and being able to browse. We’re really attentive to building a community of readers.”
That means spending a full day spent writing the staff recommendations that line the shelves, building a team “that loves reading and talking about books,” and quirky displays to draw in customers.
And while Midtown Reader is a general interest bookstore, expect to see a focus on literary fiction and Southern literature, especially Florida authors. Bradshaw and her team, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, are trying to build a “definitive Florida author list.”
Her dedication to Florida authors is already on display. The first in-store event — scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5 — features Craig Pittman, author of “Oh, Florida!: How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.”
The selection of Sunshine State books isn’t just the only thing Bradshaw is proud of; the store boasts a large children’s’ and young adult section. The curator of the “Kidtown Readers” section is a former teacher with a “wealth of knowledge” about children’s books.
The store will hold a grand opening event on Saturday, Nov. 12. Parents, take note: Curious George and Martha the Talking Dog are expected to make appearances. Poet David Kirby is scheduled to host a book signing and author mix-and-mingle at 5:30 p.m.