Another Grand Central District hidden treasure – Tombolo Books

Tombolo Books in the Grand Central district has been open since late 2019 and is run by Alsace Walentine and her partner Candice Anderson.


The holiday season is always a busy time of year for families, individuals, businesses and more, but for co-owners Alsace Walentine and her partner Candice Anderson of the recently opened Tombolo Books tucked away in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central district back in 2019, “busy” couldn’t even describe the opening of their little bookstore. There was much to be done for the grand opening on Dec. 14; from stocking shelves and tables with everything from graphic novels, page markers, to tarot cards and stringing up last minute fairy lights in the kids’ section.

Now, three years later, the store is everything the owners imagined and more as a common destination for tourists and regulars alike and a renown literary and community destination in the surrounding area.

It wasn’t always this way though, there was a time before the store was even brick and mortar, before it was a thought. Moving from Asheville, NC, so her wife could have a more enjoyable job and leaving her own job as longtime events director of Malaprop’s Bookstore in 2015, Walentine and her partner soon settled in the sunshine state.

But Walentine didn’t just want to settle – seeing there wasn’t a store such as Malaprop’s in St. Petersburg, she took it upon herself to make a bookstore of her own.

At first Tombolo Books was simply a pop-up shop around the Tampa Bay are, before a “successful crowdfunding campaign” (as per the store’s website). With these newfound funds, the couple were able to buy a small store at 2153 1st Ave south, neighbored by Black Crow Coffee Co. Grand Central District, Squeeze Juice Works and St. Petersburg Opera Co. To bring their dream to life.

“Creating a community around literature is an honor, and really, it’s fun,” Walentine said.

Since then, Tombolo Books has grown exponentially. Now curating fiction and non-fiction books from local, marginalized and many other authors, creating a website and online store that will deliver to a customer’s home and housing events such as book clubs and author seminars – this place isn’t anywhere close to unknown.

Events Coordinator Kelsey Jagneaux also shares the love for the shop, having worked there since May of 2020.

“I’ve always been a reader – it’s always been my escape, my pastime, so when I saw they were hiring I took the opportunity. It’s a dream job,” Jagneaux said.

As event coordinator, Jagneaux is responsible for working with authors and creating events that will be inviting and enticing to those interested to check them out, along with other smaller duties such as helping coworkers and keeping Tombolo up-and-running, continues to curate not just books, but the community that comes with.

“That’s the goal – creating a place people want to come back to, to see themselves in,” Jagneaux said.

Her favorite part of working here is helping those with their book choices and general shopping experience, she says, helping them find themselves in the very products on the shelves. Whether it’s someone new or a regular, the closeknit comfortable energy is something she says she wants everyone to experience when they walk through those doors.

“Even if you come in once, we want them to feel like they’re a part of Tombolo Books and can come back,” Jagneaux said.

Being open every day of the week – on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. – leads to a lot of their customers being frequent faces of not just Tombolo but the surrounding area too. One of these familiar friendly faces is that of Rosemary Kramer.

Working nearby, Kramer often visits closer to the end of the evening, usually just exploring the many titles and relaxing in the peaceful atmosphere.

“It’s such a great place, I work near here, mostly at night, so I like to spend my days perusing and browsing at the local spots,” Kramer said.

As just as regular as some of her loyal customers, is Walentine. Often one of the first faces customers see as she does her work, and always with a smile on her face in the place that is more than just the walls and books inside – a place full of love.

“It’s our job to share what we love, so here we do,” Walentine said.