Inspired by the historic clubs, libraries and shops of London, Oxford Exchange is a gathering place housing a collection of ideas and experiences under a single roof. Oxford Exchange, Tampa, houses shops, a restaurant, event space, a members-only shared work space, and a creative design studio in a historic building that began life as a stable constructed in 1891. Blake Casper and Allison Adams, the brother and sister team, undertook a major restoration project, transforming the then vacant building into a magnificent space blending the old with the new, and opening the redesigned space in 2012. As well as the Oxford Exchange Shop and Bookstore, Oxford Exchange has partnered with brands such as Warby Parker and Aesop who have opened shops within the space. Allison Adams, director of Oxford Exchange, along with Jess Anderson, oversee all the retail outlets at Oxford Exchange. Allison and Jess share their inspirations and opinions on retail with The Shopkeepers.
Allison Adams & Jess Anderson, Oxford Exchange
Who inspires you? Allison: Ken Fulk, Linda Fargo, Arjun Waney. Jess: Mickey Drexler, Stephen Starr and Ella Brennan – I am fascinated by people who have mastered how to create authentic experiences for their guests.
What inspires you? Allison: Watching customers experience Oxford Exchange for the first time. Jess: Brand Identity and how that translates throughout every aspect of a business/brand.
Before I was a shopkeeper… Allison: I knew nothing about retail. Jess: I owned a Nanny Agency.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Allison: There will be critics. Not everyone will love what you are doing. Jess: Staffing and team training is so important, yet so hard.
What task do you like to delegate? Allison: Paperwork. Jess: Inventory Management daily tasks.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Allison: There are so many talented, creative people in Tampa who love design as much as we do. Jess: Trust your gut, and know that if it doesn’t feel organic to you that it probably feels the same to the customer. Oh and that wine fixes most things.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Allison: Don’t listen to people who say it won’t work. Jess: Find product your passionate about, it will all fall into place after that.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Allison: Ken Fulk. Jess: Diane Keaton would be my top pick.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? Allison: A boutique hotel owner. Jess: I would want to be an international food critic, combining restaurant aesthetics, hospitality, food and overall experience.
What is your perfect day off? Allison:Spending the day reading a book. Jess: Good Coffee, Kayaking, Drinks and Dinner by the water or in our backyard.
Can you share five favorite shops? Allison: Forty Five Ten in Dallas, John Derian, Kirna Zabete and ABC home in New York and Astier de Villatte in Paris. Jess: All of John Derian’s stores, Jayson Home, Chicago; STORY, New York; Ann Mashburn & Sid Mashburn.
On the Future of Retail
Allison: “People will always love to shop but in order to get them to do it in a physical store you have got to make the experience unique. It is entertainment”.
Jess: “Experience, Experience, Experience. And I think that experience has to be multi-channel and cohesive on all channels. We are working on that right now… it’s a big task for small business”
420 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33606