There may come a day in this era of immediate downloads, clouds for storing data and electronic books that the local bookstore will be no more.
For now, though, the Brandon area — and the world — still have the Book Corner of Tampa Bay, a treasure trove of rare and out-of-print books, some with fancy leather and gold bindings, elaborate illustrations and the autographs of those who penned them more than a century ago.
“The number of small, independent book stores is dropping like flies these days,” said Michael Tennaro, who owns the Book Corner with his wife, Victoria Moore Tennaro. “There will come a time when there won’t be a bookstore and people will realize there was something about having a physical store” where they could wander and browse.
In its 26th year, the Book Corner remains a modest nook where literary aficionados can find two volumes of Brewster’s Lectures from 1807, the Book of Sermons published in 1738 or The Novels and Tales of Benjamin Disraeli, inside of which is a hand-penned letter of gifting from novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to his friend, Hollywood producer Charles Brackett, famous for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
“My husband and I both adore books,” Moore Tennaro said. “We both had well-paying jobs, but we were working for other people. We decided to take a risk and open a book store.
Michael Tennaro was an executive assistant and Victoria worked for an international company that finds people to translate English programs in to other languages.
“I like doing the unusual,” she said.
Once they opened the bookstore for rare and out-of-print books, the couple never looked back to corporate America.
“There were no bookstores like ours,” she said. “We decided to try it. It is bold of anyone who starts a business from the ground up.”
They landed at 728 W. Lumsden Road at the northwest corner of Kings Avenue.
About a third of their business now comes from the internet, thanks to Michael Tennaro’s insight and the data base he began online shortly after they started up their store.
“Right away we began getting customers that were repeats,” Moore Tennaro said. “If we didn’t have it, we would go book buying and at least once a year, we’d go up to the northeast on a book-buying adventure.”
When a Barnes & Noble opened in Brandon, the couple worried. But, they made it through just fine and have continued to have a loyal customer base, she said.
“We have a good selection of books by Florida authors and about Florida,” Moore Tennaro said. “We have a number of people who come in to buy books that are decorative. Some are gorgeous. Others come in for books from which they can cut out illustrations. We don’t encourage that, though, and if we know that is what they want to do, I encourage them to photocopy the pages, instead and frame the copies.”
The store has customers in all 50 states and 74 countries. Their biggest sellers are books about science fiction, metaphysics, religion and children’s books.
“The wonderful thing for me is when someone comes in and finds something they’ve been looking for for years,” Tennaro said. “We seem to have a special connection with other people who love books like we do.”
The Book Corner is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.