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From Art to Zoot: Tampa Offers an Eclectic Array of Independent Shops



In the last decade or so, the shopping malls and big box stores in Tampa just seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Today, the city features all the big retail names from Neiman Marcus to Ikea, but there are still lots of eclectic and unique independent retailers that offer visitors value and variety. This 10 Best list spotlights just a small sample of these proud small businesses that showcase Tampa's creative spirit and offer some of the best shopping in the city. 

Many of the shops on this list are not just retail outlets, they are destinations in themselves hosting special events, classes, and/or a cafe space. One of the newest of these shops is the Blind Tiger Cafe. This unique retail space features a deluxe coffee bar with snacks AND the locally designed and US manufactured clothing line from Black & Denim. 

Another unique option is Inkwood Books, the leading independent bookseller in town where famous authors consistently stop by to read from their new works and autograph copies. They also have a wonderful selection of Floridiana for visitors looking to achieve a more in-depth understanding of the culture and history of the Sunshine State. Check their website for upcoming events.


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10
Outside the city


It's hard to think of Tampa and not think of all the fresh fruits and veggies you can find here. Located just a 20 minute drive from downtown Tampa, family-owned Parkesdale Farms has been growing and gifting fresh citrus, strawberries and produce since 1956. Many varieties of citrus are in season during the winter months, however there is always something in season in Florida. They also have a delicious selection of homemade preserves, pickled items, orange blossom honey, hot sauce and much more. Pick up a box of sweet, juicy navels, or have them shipped anywhere in the country. This business is closed during the first two weeks in August.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Parkesdale Market is the largest family-owned & operated citrus and strawberry stand in Florida.

Skye's expert tip: If you're visiting in February, make sure to stop by and sample their world-famous strawberry shortcake.

Read more about Parkesdale Farm Market →




Tampa is a gateway for all kinds of exciting adventures and features many independent outfitters. One of them is Adventure Outfitters who specialize in water sports including scuba diving, free diving, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing. For travelers looking to gear up and take part, Adventure Outfitters is here to help. With their extensive supply of equipment, gear and accessories, everything you need is here. If you're not looking to buy, you can arrange for rentals as well. Have equipment that needs servicing? Adventure Outfitters can help with that too. Not only can Adventure Outfitters get you set with everything you need for your scuba adventures, they offer instruction for everyone from beginner to advanced.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Adventure Outfitters specializes in providing intrepid adventurers with all the equipment you need for your water sport adventure.

Skye's expert tip: If you're looking for somewhere to use all your new equipment, they offer a limited number of guided adventure tours.

Read more about Adventure Outfitters →


Blind Tiger Cafe/Black & Denim
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


The Blind Tiger Cafe is one of Tampa's most unique retail spaces. Combining a cafe, clothing store and co-work space, this trendy spot promises to quickly become one of Ybor City's favorite gathering spots. The cafe features Tampa's own Buddy Brew coffee, TeBella teas and light snacks while the clothing is provided by Black & Denim. Formed in 2006 by three talented and hard-working young locals, the philosophy behind Black & Denim apparel is quality craftsmanship that is American inspired, American owned and American made. The clothing itself is comfortable and contemporary, consisting of classic essentials such as graphic tees and jeans. If you're looking for souvenirs for the hard-to-please men in your life, make sure to stop by The Blind Tiger Cafe while you're visiting Ybor City.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Blind Tiger Cafe in the heart of Ybor City is a unique combination of trendy cafe and locally designed clothing mostly for men.

Skye's expert tip: Black & Denim apparel is also available for sale online.

Read more about Blind Tiger Cafe/Black & Denim →


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Inkwood Books


In today's current literary climate, a good independent bookstore is worth its weight in gold, and that's exactly what Inkwood is. People who are serious about books, including famous authors themselves, can be found perusing the shelves at this comfortable and cozy book shop. Although their Florida book section is legendary, every genre is represented somewhere in the shelves of this renovated 1920's bungalow. If you're having trouble making up your mind, the friendly staff always has a helpful opinion about what's out now. Check their website for a list of their upcoming events which feature local author book talks and signings.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: For over 20 years, Inkwood Books has been the most popular independent book-seller in Tampa.

Scott's expert tip: Check their website for upcoming author signings and the staff's latest recommendations.

Read more about Inkwood Books →


Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


Located in historic Ybor City, the Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company carries on the family tradition established by Arturo Fuente in 1912. Today, his direct descendants continue to provide the service and quality that are hallmarks of the Fuente brand operating out of a renovated house just off 7th Avenue. Although small, it is cozy, and the owners are very knowledgeable. Their line of Dominican handmade cigar brands includes A. Fuente, Cuesta-Rey, Ashton, Diamond Crown, Don Carlos, Hemingway, Flor de Ybor City, and the ever-popular Tampa Sweethearts. If you get hooked, you can order more from their online shop.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Located in Tampa's historic Ybor City, Sweethearts Cigar Company continues over 100 years of Fuente family tradition.

Scott's expert tip: Perfect for the cigar enthusiast, the family and staff are very knowledgeable.

Read more about Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company →


5
Seminole Heights


Located just north of downtown Tampa, Rustic Steel Creations is a gallery/workshop that showcases the work of local artist, Dominique Martinez. Martinez is a welding artist who takes odd bits of junk metal and transforms them into unique and eye-catching sculptures. Examples of his work adorn the exterior of his location featuring a changing exhibition of fire-breathing dragons, hockey players, robots, giant dogs and more. In addition to his sculptures, Martinez and his staff of experienced welders also create one-of-a-kind custom wrought iron railings and decorative steel gates. Some of his work can be viewed while touring around Tampa such as at Ulele Restaurant.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Dominique Martinez of Rustic Steel Creations is one of Tampa's most creative artists transforming junk metal into amazing sculptures.

Skye's expert tip: Call ahead if you want to take a tour of the workshop.

Read more about Rustic Steel Creations →


Columbia Restaurant Gift Shop
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


Located next door to the famous Tampa dining institution, the Columbia Restaurant, is the Columbia Restaurant Shop. This well appointed store allows visitors to take home gifts and souvenirs of Tampa and their one-of-a-kind dining experience at Florida's oldest restaurant. Here you can pick up Columbia cookbooks and signature food items, including their famous Cuban roast coffee, created in-house. Also available for purchase is a selection of beautiful hand-made and hand-painted Spanish ceramics. The shop even features a small cigar factory and selection of hand rolled cigars. From 11am - 3pm, Monday through Friday, cigar aficionados can watch professional cigar-rollers demonstrating their skills.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Columbia Restaurant Gift Shop is fully stocked with the restaurant's famous food items and other unique local souvenirs.

Skye's expert tip: Stock up on your Columbia favorites including 1905 Salad dressing, sangria mix, and Cuban roast coffee.

Read more about Columbia Restaurant Gift Shop →




You can't visit Tampa, the cigar capital of the US, without taking home a souvenir of the area's tobacco-rich heritage. King Corona has been in business for six generations and has the most extensive collection of cigars and cigar-related products, both locally produced and imported from around the world. The retail business shares space with a bar and cafe where you can order from their light menu that includes authentic Cuban fare and some of Tampa's best Cuban coffee. It's like a piece of Havana was picked up and dropped in the middle of Ybor City.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: King Corona Cafe offers a large selection of cigars, cigar-related products and is also one of Ybor City's favorite locals hangout.

Scott's expert tip: One of the best places to meet multiple generations of neighborhood locals.

Read more about King Corona Cigar Bar →


2
Seminole Heights
Cleanse Apothecary


Cleanse Apothecary is located in Tampa's trendy, up-and-coming Seminole Heights neighborhood, just north of downtown. A beautifully curated bath and body boutique featuring quality products from around the world, this shop makes you feel luxurious just by walking in the door. Winner of several "Best of Bay" awards by a local publication, this shop is a local favorite with many loyal customers. The hands-on owners live in the neighborhood as well and are always available to make customers feel comfortable and to provide advice on the best products.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Cleanse Apothecary is offers shoppers a carefully curated selection of the top bath and beauty products from Florida and around the world.

Scott's expert tip: The convenient location next to ultra hip Urban Bungalow and Bungalow Coffee makes this a day trip!

Read more about Cleanse Apothecary →


Oxford Exchange
Photo courtesy of Skye Rodgers


The Oxford Exchange is 25,000 square feet of mixed-use space that combines a eclectic bookstore and upscale retail with specialty coffee and tea vendors and a full service restaurant to create a unique shopping experience. Originally built in 1891 as stables for the nearby Plant Hotel (now the University of Tampa), the building has been painstakingly restored and new contemporary elements added to create a classic, but welcoming space. The gift store merchandise is carefully curated to provide high-quality unique items culled from New York, London and Paris. The bookstore features a hand-selected collection of books organized by eclectic themes such as "mind over matter" or "complicated women." After shopping, you can relax on an overstuffed leather sofa in one of the many seating areas and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The Oxford Exchange offers a unique yet classic shopping experience featuring a variety of retail and dining experiences in one elegant space.

Skye's expert tip: Special events and programs are a big part of the Oxford Exchange experience. Check their website to see what's coming up.

Read more about Oxford Exchange →


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Meet Skye Rodgers

Skye is a freelance writer that adopted Tampa as her hometown over a decade ago and never looked back. As a native of Canada, Skye has happily embraced the no snow climate, and in her spare time...  More About Skye

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