If you’ve driven past the University of Tampa lately, Oxford Exchange may look a little different. Don’t fret, your standby brunch spot + bookstore is still there, it’s just wearing a brightly colored mask for a little celebration.
Australian artist Elliott Routledge was inspired by foilage when he coated the iconic facade in a medley of lilac, cobalt blues, and baby pink — making the building pop amongst its neighbors. Cassie Greatens, co-founder of CASS Contemporary which commissioned the project, says the artist’s elegant and trendy style was a perfect fit for Oxford Exchange’s vibe.
It’s not the first time the institution has gotten a facelift. The Downtown Tampa building was first built in 1891 (potentially as stables for the Tampa Bay Hotel). Since the 1920s, the structure has been occupied by an arcade and a number of other local businesses, vestiges of which can still be seen in today’s design.
Owners (and siblings) Allison Adams + Blake Casper opened Oxford Exchange on Sept. 24, 2012 after a massive restoration and renovation, hoping to create a place where folks would just stop by to talk face to face and discuss ideas, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In fact, they purposely didn’t install Wifi on the first floor to help keep the people off their devices.
They took inspo from the old world beauty of London’s libraries and social clubs when dreaming up the glass atrium, bannisters and checkerboard floor— hoping to create a must-see space for visitors. And 10 years later, OE is one of the first places we think of to bring out of town friends.
The shop has continued to foster great conversation. People use their cellphones all over the building now, but the shop has become a part of everyday life with its boozy champagne bar, in-house TeBella Tea Company, Warby Parker glasses pop-up, and our fave, OE’s events.
We recommend following the OE Bookstore Instagram to see when authors like Elin Hilderbrand, Carly Riordan, and more are hosting signings. Pro tip: the rose from the bubbly bar is the perfect accoutrement.