Mitzi Gordon is the creator and owner of Bluebird Books. Housed in a converted short bus, her inspired project nurtures a passion for literature and builds community. Part bookshop, part art house, it’s a vehicle where readers of all ages can explore the written word. Mitzi is also the Media Manager for Creative Pinellas. Photographed in her Forest Hills home and inside the Bluebird Book Bus.
What is Bluebird Books? It’s a cross between a book shop and an art house. We have a curated selection of gently used books, books designed by local artists, print on demand, blurb volumes, books by local writers and hand-made notebooks and cards. The retail is designed to support the programming. The dream is to have everything from poetry reading to paper arts projects. I want to offer programs that engage people with books in a different way that might inspire them to create something of their own.
What’s it like having a bus? The funny thing about having a mobile space is that I take it almost anywhere and create the kind of atmosphere where I can get lost in a book. It’s a cozy place to curl up and read. Every once in a while I take it out because I just like being in there. I’ve taken it to parks. I even took it camping!
Why Tampa? I grew up in Tampa, moved to New York to go to journalism school at NYU. I never thought I would come back. But when I got back I could see that the scene here had grown and was starting to percolate some cool opportunities. I don’t think I could have done Bluebird Books anywhere else because of the timing and the people here. Realizing that I am in a community willing to foster something small & quirky, but potentially far reaching, is encouraging.
When did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur? I have never applied the word entrepreneur to myself – I just thought of myself as independent. I always knew that I wanted to work for myself and do my own projects because it was what I was most passionate about. I’ve had a photography business and a literary magazine. I have the dream of having a space. I can see myself in a little bookshop surrounded by books.
Did your dream include the bus? I never intended for it to be a bookshop on wheels! It’s always been about fostering the art of the book and creating a community meeting space for people who appreciate those kinds of things.
Where do you go for inspiration? I find an unexpected inspiration at Curtis Hixon Park. I’m really impressed how it’s created a heart in our city, a place where people come to engage. It feels like a real city in ways that it didn’t use to. I’m amazed to see that transformation!
Where do you find your books? The Old Tampa Book Company. The Goodwill on Hillsborough. Second Image Thrift store. I’ll spend hours looking at every book on the shelf. People donate books to the project. Also there’s the Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg and The Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. I probably shouldn’t be giving away all my secrets!
You’ve got great style. What are your favorite places to shop? Sherri’s Yesterdaze in Seminole Heights. Miss Red Outfitters in St. Pete. I do a lot of thrifting. Lately I go straight to the book section so my wardrobe hasn’t seen any new additions in awhile!
Who do you hope reads this and reaches out to you to collaborate? Anyone who has a cool, creative idea and a passion for literary arts. I want to offer workshops and performances and I don’t expect to do it alone! I need others.
What advice would you give others who want to start a creative project in Tampa? In this city, if you have passion, talent, desire and drive, just show up and start doing stuff. The community will coalesce around you. In many ways there is more opportunity here because it is a small, creative community. The barriers to entry are very low and people are very open.