The other night I had the opportunity to visit a Tampa treasure, the Oxford Exchange with the Tampa Bay Bloggers group. The owners gave us to a private tour, introduced to us to their food offerings, and treated to a sampling of specialty tea and coffee blends paired with decadent chocolate. We also had the chance to shop. I can’t possibly cover the entire night in one post, so here’s the first of a few.
The building that houses the OE was built in 1891 and was once a horse stable for the historic Plant Hotel. Over the years, it has been a series of offices for doctors and businesses alike. A few years ago, Tampa businessman Blake Casper, after a trip to London, realized Tampa could benefit from a unique place to shop, eat, work and play. He and a team of designers took the building and transformed it into an amazing location to provide Tampa with a one of kind location to gather with friends.
They completely restored the building, buying reclaimed wood for the restaurant floor, and salvaging bricks for the walls. The building’s architectural details were inspired by the dining halls at Oxford University, The Garrick Club and the Napoleon House to name a few. The group of bloggers I was with all commented the building reminded them of their home cities. I felt it could be in the center of Boston while others felt the building was reminiscent of New York or San Francisco.
As you walk in the door, you can see from one end to the other. Your eye may fall on the shop in the front or the bookstore in the back with both filled with curated items from around the world. Walking from the front to the back, you walk through a wood paneled hallway with a barrel ceiling. The hallway empties into the coffee bar and tea bar with a sitting area featuring well-worn and comfortable Chesterfield couches. Stairs lead to the members only Commerce Club, featuring custom desks with leather tops, and gold toned desk lights. As I walked through the space, I could only imagine it as a boys club. I toyed with the idea of joining, just to be able to have a quiet welcoming place to create.
I loved the huge conference table. It was wood imported and sourced at High Point for this purpose. Can you imagine negotiating a contract or hosting a board of directors meeting?
The other part of the club features an array of desks and tables to provide work spaces for members. It’s complete with leather couches.
My favorite piece though is the long piece of wood that washed ashore during the Thai Tsunami. Some one had the amazing insight to send the piece to High Point, where the interior designer spotted it and brought it back to the OE.