In the late 19th century, around the time Tampa took shape as a cigar-peddling boomtown, a new job began to appear in the city’s factories -- el lector
. Seated in an elevated chair in the middle of the factory floor, lectors would read out loud from newspapers, novels, and poetry collections, providing factories workers -- who’d pooled together change to pay the lector out of their own pockets -- with both entertainment and education throughout their hot and humid workdays.
Exterior seating at Lector Wine Shoppe and Social ClubLector Wine Shoppe and Social Club
in downtown Tampa hopes to carry on that tradition and celebrate Tampa’s history as a cultural touchstone. With a focus on literature and natural wine in a chic and intimate setting, Lector offers book-and-bottle pairings, a lending library, monthly membership program, and modest residency to support artists in the city.
“Tampa has always been this landing place for artists and philosophers to travel from other countries, to stay in Tampa and Ybor before traveling up north,” says Michael Hooker, Lector founder. “We want to help remember that history and strengthen the bridge between this exchange of different artists and ideas.”
Visitors can select books to browse.
Lector Social Club will host a range of cultural events -- from literary readings to historical talks and small concerts. As a sampling of its future cultural program, the venue held a grand opening featuring local historian Manny Leto; poet Maureen McDole; and musicians Melissa and Joe Grady; among others.
Only natural wines -- wines made with little or no chemical manipulation -- are offered at Lector, including bottles from organic and biodynamic vineyards. The store is set up with sections like “Robust Romanticism” and “Noble Noir,” with the aim to provide a more welcoming atmosphere.
“A lot of people have been giving in to organic and farm-to-table food, but then they're drinking [wines made with] pesticides and chemicals,” Hooker says. “We're trying to open up peoples’ minds through the concept of natural wines through that avenue.”
Bottles range from $7 to $67, with most wines priced around $18.