Tallahassee's Midtown Reader

Tallahassee has a wonderful new independent bookstore, the Midtown Reader, opened by Sally Bradshaw. 

Sally was former Florida governor Jeb Bush's chief of staff. Jeb called her his "closest advisor for the entirety of my political career." A lifelong Republican, Sally announced that she left the party in 2016, citing her deep disapproval of their presidential candidate, Donald Trump. She finally decided that she wanted a saner life, became an Independent and joined the honorable (although not quite sane) world of bookselling. Welcome to our tribe, Sally!

Here are some shots of this wonderful new store and Sally's answers to my interview questions.

Street view, a little sushi, a good book, nice combination! 😉

I love the entrance to their children's room.
This beautiful artwork was done by local artist Debby Brienen

Just inside are these magical doors for kids to open.


Shelf talkers are everywhere!

SIBA representative Linda-Marie Barrett and Sally discuss the possibility of them making a presidential run in four years.

Read, Think, Share

Looking toward the front of the store from the Nerve Center.

The back entrance has these groovy book-inspired steps.

The best bookstore bathroom I've ever seen!

Midtown booksellers Kim Anderson, Shelby Bouck, Sally Bradshaw, Tanya Corbella.

So, Sally, tell me.................

What drew you to open a bookstore?

I’ve wanted to open a bookstore since I was a little girl.  In our small Mississippi town books carried me to a new world to which I was unlikely to be exposed but for reading.  Over time another career took me in a different direction.  But 2016 sent me on a new path which led to the Midtown Reader!

Tell me about where you live and why you love it so much.

I actually live in Havana, Florida on a chicken farm, just outside of Tallahassee where our bookstore is located.  My husband raises rare heritage breeds of chicken (www.greenfirefarms.com – I’m not above a little social media plug) and is part of the movement to make sure these breeds are given plenty of fresh air and room to grow in a free-range environment.
  I love living in North Florida – it’s a connector for so many parts of the South – within 40 minutes we’re on a Gulf Coast beach, within a couple of hours in Jacksonville or Atlanta.  But most importantly, we have the most beautiful live oak trees in the world. 
 Tallahassee is the state capital so interesting people are always traveling here, and our two major universities (FSU and FAMU) bring tremendous resources to the area. There is a sense of community here, and it has a been a great place to raise a family.

Where were you living when you were 7 years old? Are they fond memories?

Greenville, Mississippi  - right on the river.  Greenville was a wonderful small Southern town in which to grow up.
I remember making a lot of mud pies in my backyard with my little sister, riding my bike safely in our small neighborhood, and reading and then pretending to be Nancy Drew with my friends.

Did you have a favorite teacher and are you still in touch with him or her?

My high school government teacher, Tony Blanton, was a favorite and encouraged me to move to Washington and apply for an internship on Capitol Hill.  He is unfortunately deceased following a long bout with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  I still remember Ann Clifton’s history lessons.  And fortunately she’s still teaching history in Greenville.

Is there a book that changed the way you look at life?

Doesn’t every book change the way you look at life?:)  Different books have made a difference to me at different phases of my life.  I loved (and still love) anything written by Ellen Gilchrist, but her book The Annunciation rocked my world because the protagonist was such a strong female figure, https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51H06XVYYZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg  and I read it at a time when I was just getting started as a freshman in college at Vanderbilt, which seemed at the time to be very far away from my home and full of possibilities.

Do you have a favorite children’s book and what about it makes it so?

I mentioned the Nancy Drew series earlier – another strong female role model for young girls.  We would ride our bikes into the field behind our houses and look for “clues.”  Anything and everything was a clue – a blade of grass bent a certain way, an old bottle cap. 



 I remember at some point reading Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier) and being absolutely stunned  - I was so surprised by what happened – totally did not see it coming. 

 It led to a love of mysteries, but I remain completely unable to solve them, which explains why I am now a bookseller and not an author.  My “Nancy Drew training” was worthless.

What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories your family tells about you?

Hmmm.  No one but my sister tells embarrassing stories about me because she is the only little sister and can get away with it.  I’m not sharing them here because it would delight her.   

I will just say that I am a little obsessive compulsive, or used to be before having children, and she constantly made fun of either how neat my room was or how often I went back through the door to check that everything was still the same.

How did you meet your beloved? How did your first date go?

I met Paul working on Jeb Bush’s campaign for Governor in 1998.  He put together Jeb’s policy team and served as a speechwriter at the time, and I was the campaign manager.  I’m sure it was less of a date and more me telling him about some task on my list that he needed to complete over the usual campaign dinners of pizza and bad beer.

Is there a song that you listen to when you are feeling a bit down?

I’m an 80s junkie and love anything by the Police, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, REM or the Bo-Deans, but I love hearing September by Earth Wind and Fire.  It always picks me up.

How are you different now than you were 20 years ago?

I think I am much less confident that I am right about things than I was 20 years ago – age and experience do that to you - and I hope I am a more empathetic and kind person.  I am very aware that the world is not black and white – there is a lot of gray.

And in a short essay…………………………


to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,

be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your choice, actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all, meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with them.

When would you go? 

Where would you go?

Who would you want to meet?

And most importantly, why do you think you chose this time?

I would travel back to June 1944, to London, to meet Prime Minister Churchill and to see Churchill’s war rooms and the men and women involved in planning the D Day invasion.  I love history, especially that period, and I love planning – and surely there were few bigger and riskier plans put together in history.  In many ways WWII was the last great effort where the western world was able to come together regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnic background and take on a challenge much bigger than the individuals involved. 

A challenge that really meant protecting the freedoms of democracy and the decency of mankind.  That generation put their smaller differences aside and joined forces for the greater good in a way that is worth remembering and emulating.

Thank you so much, Sally. You have a beautiful store. All of us in the bookselling community wish you the very best (Oh, and the same for that presidential campaign!).


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