Inkwood Books in Tampa, Florida, has been under the ownership of Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner for 21 years, but the store is changing hands. Stefani Beddingfield will take the reins effective April 1.
Reiner said of her years working with Jimenez at Inkwood, “We’ve had an incredible partnership for 21 years. I feel very blessed.” Jimenez and Reiner put the store up for sale last summer and reached out to some of the store’s biggest supporters, including Beddingfield, to gauge their interest.
Beddingfield is no stranger to Inkwood. She lived across the street from the store in the 1990s and became a regular customer, finding that it served as an amazing respite from the outside world. “I just fell in love with it,” Beddingfield said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think of owning it. There’s a little part of me that’s wondering, where will I go now? What’s my hangout place?”
Beddingfield really hadn’t ever thought of owning the bookstore, so she approached the idea very carefully. “I did my homework. I looked at the numbers. I tried to be business savvy and talk to people,” she said. Beddingfield also attended ABA’s Winter Institute and a Prospective Booksellers Workshop to learn about the business and to network. She joked that, on more than one occasion, she asked fellow booksellers to talk her out of the idea of buying the bookstore.
But Beddingfield couldn’t resist the call. She was already deeply rooted in the community and had spearheaded a large-scale fundraising effort to have a universally accessible playground built in Tampa. Beddingfield said that project, which was close to her heart, received amazing support from Jimenez and Reiner. The bookstore purchase spoke to her as an opportunity to stay connected to the community.
While Beddingfield is excited to be taking on the business, Jimenez and Reiner have their own adventures to look forward to. Jimenez, though retiring, will be working on several causes, including the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Reiner plans to work part-time at the store to ensure that she won’t miss any particular element of the business too much, she said, adding that such a big change after so many years in the business had really brought home her love for people in the book industry, for customers, employees, and those beyond the bookstore door. “I brought my daughter to her first BEA years ago and told her, if you get lost…well, if you get lost here, you’ll be fine,” she said.
Having worked in the bookstore since December to get some hands-on training, Beddingfield has found great benefit in getting to know the customers, the business, and the books. Beyond that, she is learning as much as she can about the store’s importance to the neighborhood. “I’m looking forward to promoting and keeping the legacy of Inkwood and what it means to the community,” said Beddingfield.