Oxford Exchange offers an escape from the ordinary in downtown Tampa

TAMPA - Located right across Kennedy Boulevard from the University of Tampa, this place is like nothing else in the Bay Area... This cross between an Anthropologie or Restoration Hardware and a Book Store and a Coffee House and a Pub and a Restaurant has folks flocking here.

"You know what's awesome is that it makes you feel like you're in Hyde Park London," says JP Peterson, a customer for much of the six-weeks this place has been open.  "You know it's a very European place, it's got a very eclectic feel to it."

"I hate to say non-Tampa," offered Heidi Shimberg -- echoing an oft-heard refrain from first-time customers. "It sounds so cliche... but it is."

Run by a brother and sister team whose roots are in the fast food world, this place is designed to be savored. Slowly.  And that European feel isn't by accident.
"My brother spent a lot of time in London," said co-owner Allison Adams.  "He lived there for four years and so I think that's where a lot of the design elements came from and we really wanted to design a space that was engagingto people where they could come and exploreand felt comfortable spending time."    

As we stood on a balcony overlooking the main gathering areas and restaurant and courtyard below, Allison explained how the different design elements coming together have helped bring out a varied and engaged clientele.

"We have Moms coming in with babies in the morning sometimes having tea," she said, ticking off the constituents.  "UT Students coming in having coffee.  You'll see them sharing tables studying.   We have the business crowd in the morning and then the ladies who lunch, lunching in the afternoons..."

Or -- since the place is not open for dinner -- even earlier meals:

"Breakfasts are wonderful," said Scott Shimberg -- who brought his wife for a mid-week mid-day repast.  "It's a step above what you  would expect for a Breakfast spot.  The service is wonderful."

And so too is the ambience. You could spend hours here browsing, mingling, noshing and such no matter who -- or how old you are.

"So we've been here for about two hours and Abby just enjoys the looks and enjoys the sunlight and everything and she's been very well entertained by everyone going by," said Marissa Langford, holding baby Abby on her hip and swaying ever-so-slightly as we chatted.  "I got to browse some of the books, I also got to do somebrowsing in the home decor section so it's been really nice.  We've been having some coffee and just enjoying our morning."

This sure is the place to do that.

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