Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Independent bookstore in Largo swims against tide

Tim Dorsey held a signing for his novel Atomic Lobster at Book Bank USA in the Largo Mall in January. "The staff worked hard to make it happen," Dorsey said. "The good thing about independent bookstores is they know their customers. They're able to spread the word, and it turns into a good event."

Creating memorable events is not a problem, said Amy Schmaedeke, who has owned the store since 1998.

But making a profit is a different story. In two years, sales at Largo's only freestanding bookstore have dropped 20 percent.

With readers gravitating to chain stores and the Internet, Schmaedeke, 58, says she needs more support from area readers to stay afloat.

"I want to tell the community to buy locally,'' she said. "It is sad that people have lost the idea of going into a neighborhood bookstore.''

With 4,000 square feet, the store — three doors down from the movie theater — holds 80,000 titles and includes a new and used book section.

Book Bank's average customer is over 50. "And the most loyal customers are found in the used-book department,'' Schmaedeke said.

The staff of five part-timers and one full-time manager goes through a "rigorous six-month training, learning the different genres and what sells and what does not,'' Schmaedeke said.

"We are very careful what we put on our shelves. As a member of the American Booksellers Association, we are expected to have integrity. Yet people want things instantly so they go miles away to chains.''

Dorsey is releasing his 11th novel, Nuclear Jellyfish, in January. He sees firsthand how the number of independent bookstores is shrinking as he schedules his next book tour.

"When you say that Largo has just one independent bookstore, I say, 'You're lucky,' " Dorsey said. "People have to remember that so many cities don't even have one.''

One city resident who shops at Book Bank is Mayor Pat Gerard.

"I've bought paperbacks there," she said. "I see where Book Bank has a niche, particularly with its used books."

When asked about the bookstore's struggles, Gerard pointed to the success of the Largo Library.

"Maybe people are borrowing, not buying right now," she said. "Our library is one of the busiest in the county.''

Gerard said she'd like to see a large bookstore at the Largo Town Center, slated to be built in 2010 at the site of the former Crossroads Mall on U.S. 19.

"Personally, I'd like to see a big store like a Borders or a Books a Million in Largo Town Center. Certainly with the bigger store there's advantages," Gerard said. "It would be great to see bookstores at both ends of Largo."

Piper Castillo can be reached at or (727) 445-4163.

>>If you go

Book Bank USA

Location: Largo Mall, 10500 Ulmerton Road

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Independent bookstore in Largo swims against tide 07/05/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 8:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  4. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. PTA treasurer at Pinellas school accused of stealing $5,000


    The treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at a Pinellas County elementary school faces a felony fraud charge after she was accused of stealing from the organization to pay her credit card and phone bills.

    Lisa McMenamin, 50, of Tarpon Springs, is facing felony charges of scheming to defraud the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer. She is accused of stealing $5,000 to pay credit card and phone bills. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]