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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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A collection that keeps growing and changing

TAMPA — Hidden in a warehouse, deep off of Moran Road, is a treasure trove of history.

It’s a tough place to find. Go down Dale Mabry, look for Moran Road, take a left, then drive down a bumpy, mostly dirt road, and make sure you park on the cement. Head inside.

Meet Dave Alexander, who has been collecting books, magazines, and comics for almost as long as he can remember. On one shelf, there is a Life magazine with Elvis on the cover. On another is a vintage program from the famous 1950 “Snow Bowl” game between Michigan and Ohio State. There are Disney toys, but not the kind you find at the Magic Kingdom. These are things from the 1940s.

There are even books from the 1700s, and those are only a few of the items on display. Alexander, who owns Culture and Thrills, a collecting store on North Florida Avenue, says he has more than one-and-a-half tons of merchandise. He doesn’t deal in sports cards, but mostly books and comics and sports memorabilia such as yearbooks and media guides. He and his staff of 12 go through book after book and box after box of newfound collectibles. Items are listed on Alexander’s website.

Want baseball books from the end of the 19th century into the 20th century? This is the place. Vintage comic books? Pulp magazines going back to the 1800s? It’s all in the warehouse.

It’s not just sports and comics. There are detective novels, history books and almost anything else. Alexander collected as a kid and hasn’t quit. Even he doesn’t claim to know exactly how much he has, except that box after box line the walls of his two-story warehouse, all labeled so he can find anything in a matter of minutes.

“People love this stuff,” Alexander said. “I collected things when I was a kid. I always wanted to do some writing for magazines and I have. I have so much stuff here.”

He stopped himself to show off a 1930 Rose Bowl program, a real rarity in the sports collectors’ world.

“I buy collections in bulk and trade with anyone. It’s a hobby. I love vintage stuff, looking at these books that have advertisements from the old days that no longer exist. This isn’t about books and magazines, it is about history.”

Not many people go to the warehouse, but those who do can get lost. Comic book collectors, for example, can get disoriented in the place as rack after rack features comic books dating back more than a century. Sports collectors can find a random table and go through programs from some of the most famous games in history. In one room, a random, uncovered program from the 1966 World Series sits on a table among a collection of other magazines.

The products, after they are appraised, go to his store and on the Internet. As for inventory, he finds items on the Internet, collector shows, and from people who want to sell in bulk, usually after cleaning out the attic. Comics are the biggest volume in the warehouse, but there’s something for any collector and the website gets thousands of orders every year.

Alexander grew up in Seminole Heights and got into the collection business at the right time. His enterprise is huge and, while he might be soft-spoken, he knows he has a monopoly on a certain niche in the Tampa Bay area.

“I have a lot of everything,” Alexander said. “Go to the store, check out the website, or come on out to the warehouse. We have something for everyone.”

Culture and Thrills is located at 5205 N. Florida Ave. For a meeting at the warehouse or to contact Alexander, call (813) 968-1805.

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