A new Tavernier book store is bringing back the smell of fresh pages. And it’s getting owner Becky Washam plugged in to the community,

“I wanted to be involved and make a difference,” she said.

Originally from Oklahoma, Washam and her husband, Michael, had been in Dallas for 20-plus years and owned a business-to-business cloud tech training firm. Like many people who decided to move to the Florida Keys, the water was calling them. And since COVID-19 changed the landscape of business, they made the leap.

Even though they moved to the Keys in November 2020, her idea to open a bookstore wasn’t finalized until September 2021. Washam discovered that finding a space took a little more time, but the Tavernier Winn Dixie Plaza ended up being a good fit as it has good foot traffic and parking.

Sandbar Books’ title mix is ​​a wide range, including local authors and locally themed books. She is intentional about desiring to share other voices and stories too.

“So many bookstores lean towards a particular side. I want to be a bridge-builder. I wish to have more conversations versus putting up walls,” she said.

In addition, she said, “Shoppers today are moving away from online shopping and want an experience. With a bookstore, you can look at the books, touch the books, open the books and even smell the books. It’s a very tactile experience.”

So far, only new books will be carried at the store – over 7,000 titles. But there are also educational toys, gifts, games, bookmarks, reading glasses, journals and more. Washam doesn’t wish to duplicate what other stores carry in the Keys and what people can easily find. Also, fun greeting cards and gift wrap will be available, along with complimentary gift wrap option.

Washam has incredible vision and spared no attention to detail. A lot of strategy went into the layout, from the children’s area to the self-help section to the checkout. The store will be easy to shop; everyone should feel right at home.

She hired local Key West-based artist Brandon Vessels to paint a mural, which includes the quote, “Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvelous adventures anyone can have.” —Lloyd Alexander.

Another local artist, Mariano Leone, handmade various coastal-inspired tables and fixtures.

Even though it’s her first retail store, Washam is extremely comfortable running a business and having employees. She also considers herself lucky, as employees of past bookstores in the Keys have been very helpful in giving direction to what the customers like.

“They’ve been so kind, supportive and helpful,” she said.

Washam is excited to offer regular events. Some of her ideas from Ella include weekly story time for kids, book clubs not only for adults but also tweens and teens, and author signings. She also has plans for events such as Harry Potter, Tolkien’s birthday, and celebrations like Hobbit Day. She is also looking to collaborate on special events to support other local businesses.

“We wish to be part of the community in more ways than just selling books,” she said.

The store’s website is up and running and ties directly into its inventory. This helps if you are looking for something specific or are in a hurry. Sandbar Books will also take special orders.

What have you surprised Washam? “The most surprising thing has been the community support. The people who send me direct messages on Facebook or through my website. People have been stopping by as we have been working, saying ‘hello’ and sharing their excitement.”

Her face lit up when asked what her favorite part has been, “I have loved picking the sideline, ie, gift items the most! It’s fun to pick those items.”

The Washams have been together for over 30 years. Becky likes a variety of genres, especially historical fiction. Michael is partial to his favorite books and likes to read them over and over, including the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series. She added, “We also both like to read business books and listen to a lot of audiobooks, which you can purchase through our website.”

Fun fact: They named their two children after popular characters — Jovie, who is 10 years old, is named after a character in the popular movie Elf. And Garion, who is 23 years old, is named after a character in ”The Belgariad” by David Eddings.

Washam notes, “We’ve always been readers. I used to hang out in the library after school and wait for my dad to pick me up when he was done with work.”

Sandbar Books’ opening is bringing quite the buzz, and knowing a few of her plans is making it even more exciting as the store grows.

“I feel like I am living in a Hallmark movie,” Washam said.

Sandbar Books is located in The Winn Dixie Shopping Plaza in Tavernier, MM 91.2.

Store hours are:

10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Thursday.

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Closed Mondays.Connect on Facebook and Instagram @sandbarbooks and

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