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What’s going on with Haslam’s Book Store in St. Petersburg?

The bookstore has been shuttered since the pandemic started, and Google now lists the business as permanently closed. But is it?
Exterior of Haslam's Book Store on Central Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019 in St. Petersburg.
Exterior of Haslam's Book Store on Central Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [ "MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jun. 2
Updated Jun. 2

For years, St. Pete residents and visitors alike have delighted in browsing used books — and greeting the shop cats — at Haslam’s Book Store.

The beloved shop at 2025 Central Avenue announced a temporary closure on March 22, 2020 due to the pandemic. Aside from one Facebook post in May 2020, the business has remained quiet online.

Owners have also resisted requests for comment since then, declining to talk to multiple Tampa Bay Times reporters who have called, emailed, and knocked on the door during the last year.

Recently, the Google business profile was updated with a red banner that labeled the business as “permanently closed.”

Tom Clancy, brother of fellow cat Emily Dickinson, relaxes on top of a bookshelf in Haslam's in St. Petersburg.
Tom Clancy, brother of fellow cat Emily Dickinson, relaxes on top of a bookshelf in Haslam's in St. Petersburg. [ Courtesy of Raymond Hinst III. ]

According to Google, businesses can mark their own pages with this status, but Google reviewers can also submit information to the site to mark them as closed. If the site doesn’t hear back from business owners, the “permanently closed” banner may be added to the profile.

A screenshot of Haslam Book Store's  Google business profile on June 2, 2021, which has been marked with a "permanently closed" sign.
A screenshot of Haslam Book Store's Google business profile on June 2, 2021, which has been marked with a "permanently closed" sign. [ Screenshot ]

The Times reached out again for comment Monday. This time, Haslam’s responded.

“For a variety of personal and professional reasons Suzanne and I are still undecided about reopening the bookstore to the public,” wrote co-owner Ray Hinst in an email. “We appreciate everyone’s interest and are trying to consider all aspects of the situation. In the meantime our kitties are very happy in their new homes in the area.”

Related: You’ve seen the shop pets at Tampa Bay businesses — now meet them

In another email, Hinst confirmed that the owners were in the process of updating the Google status accordingly.

One thing is for sure: the bookstore’s presence has been missed by the community.

Google reviewer Stacey Clarke posted last month that she was heartbroken that Haslam’s has not reopened.

“I am really hoping that prosperous things are to come for the Haslam’s crew and location.”

Teacup, pictured at Haslam's Book Store on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019 in St. Petersburg.
Teacup, pictured at Haslam's Book Store on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [ "MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times ]

Times book critic Colette Bancroft contributed to this report.