Haslam’s Books is a vestige of old Florida, the Florida of flat strip malls built near interstate off-ramps with large signs announcing to travelers of the bargains to be found inside. Fading paint heralds its history: “Florida’s Largest Book Store” and “Over 100,000 titles from 'A' to 'Izzard.'” There's no cafe serving espressos, no Wi-Fi. Haslam’s charm is that it is, unabashedly, what it has always been, a repository for new and used books: It has remained unchanged despite the shift to a more slick and manufactured retail experience.
Flamingo-pink handrails, coughing air-conditioning units, exposed phosphorescent lights, poster-sized book covers from the nineteen-eighties, classical music piped through taupe speakers, wood laminate shelving, two cats roaming the aisles (Beowolf and Tea Cup), checkered linoleum floors: Haslam’s Books is old-school Florida.
But here you can retire for hours to its quiet nooks. The ambiance is more library than retail and Haslam’s takes you back to a time when going to the bookstore was a treat, an all-day affair. Used books mingle with new works and you can often find the unexpected or forgotten juxtaposed with the modern.
And Haslam’s has its history. For those of us who grew up here, it is an institution. I walked in behind an older gentleman who paused to announce to his friend, “My goodness, I haven’t been here in twenty years. It hasn’t changed!” And then they walked off, presumably, to reclaim a little bit of his past.