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Palmetto & Pine

Tombolo Books: A Diverse Literary Hub of St. Petersburg

Local indie bookstore represents the voices of St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District and beyond.
Siara Salg
One of Tombolo’s central goals is to make literature more accessible to younger readers.

Recently awarded Best Bookstore in the Tampa Bay Area for the fourth year in a row, Tombolo Books has proved to be a landmark of St. Petersburg culture. What began as a series of pop-up locations flourished into a cozy permanent store on 1st Avenue South, attracting readers of all ages and backgrounds to the humble yet mighty independently-owned bookstore. Tombolo has continued to impress through its unique author events and attention to detail, with “blind-date books,” locally made goods, and even a nook in the children’s section for baby bookworms. With a broad selection that highlights both the critically acclaimed and the local Floridian author, leaving the store with a fresh stack of books (and a signature Tombolo bookmark) is inevitable.

According to Amanda Hurley, children’s buyer and primary receiver, Tombolo is designed to be “a space where everybody feels welcome and represented.” Seen throughout the store, representation is a major theme; from LGBTQ+ and Black Studies to Women’s Studies and Indigenous voices, Tombolo strives to be an inclusive environment for all backgrounds. Other important representations shown throughout the rotated displays include, but are not limited to, Mental Health Awareness, neurodivergent authors and content, along with Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander heritage. The store dedicates its efforts to be an exhibit of marginalized voices and histories; as a result, the community of St. Petersburg is further unified through storytelling and literary representation.

As an independent bookstore, Tombolo has many hopes for the future; while continuing to be a place for broadening horizons and fostering discussion, the store aspires to elevate the literacy of its community. One of Tombolo’s central goals is to make literature more accessible to younger readers. Hoping to bring authors to schools eventually, Amanda expresses that the store wishes to help children “realize that anyone can grow up to be an author.” Along with school author events, a middle-grade book club for 4th-6th graders, hosted by Amanda Hurley herself, helps young minds discover the wide world of literature. However, like children’s events, Tombolo holds various author events for adults that they hope to expand further. With in-person and Zoom adult book clubs involving Fantasy, Horror, Romance, and much more, readers of any age can enjoy the company and opinions of fellow bibliophiles. 

Despite being a relatively young business, Tombolo Books has imprinted on the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg. From employees like Amanda, who are both approachable and more than willing to share spectacular recommendations, to the very novels that line the shelves, the store glows with the buzzing energy of newcomers, locals, and all bookworms in between. Combined with the representation of diverse voices and those from our own backyard, Tombolo has most certainly proven its value to the community. It is on the track to remaining a hotspot and literary hub of St. Petersburg. 

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