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  • Tara Crutchfield

Pressed

Independent bookstore and coffee shop, Pressed had their grand opening on July 29. The page-turning proprietors, Christina and Paul Needham, are offering a hand-curated selection of new books (classics and new releases) and a small cove of used books, along with Ethos Coffee Roasters coffee, tea, and Honeycomb Bread Bakers baked goods. Pressed patrons can enjoy their Ray Bradbury with a bagel or a new copy of Frankenstein with fresh espresso from ‘Florence,’ the newly named espresso machine.


Christina Needham has lived in Lakeland for twenty years, save for her college years. In college, she met her husband, Paul, who hails from Durham, North Carolina. The Needhams moved back to Lakeland nine years ago when their daughter was born.


Pre-Pressed, Christina Needham was a Music Education teacher instructing elementary, middle, and high school students in private piano and voice lessons. Her music lessons paralleled her book store dreams. “In music, you’re teaching so much about overcoming fears and expressing yourself. I was telling this to my students, and at the same time, it was giving me confidence,” said Needham. “This last year was a different time for everyone. We had a lot of time to reflect on life and goals and dreams. While music was fulfilling me very much, I also had this other dream about starting a bookstore,” she said. The realization of that dream started last November while walking downtown and spotting a ‘For Lease’ sign on a Kentucky Ave. storefront. She called to inquire about the space, and so it all began.


Needham registered her bookstore business without having a confirmed location, hopeful that the Pressed pieces would fall into place. The initial Kentucky Avenue space fell through, and Christina found herself in March without a clear path to opening her book shop. “I felt like I hadn’t gotten anywhere. I thought maybe this isn’t the right time.” At the end of that month, another landlord called her about the Bay Street space formerly occupied by Twenty Seven and Honeycomb Bread Bakers. “I knew the space,” said Needham. “I had been in here before, and I thought it was perfect.”


A FAMILY LOVE OF LITERATURE

Christina Needham’s mother is an English teacher, which meant plenty of books in their home. “Growing up, I was surrounded by books,” she said. As a child, she was more into music and playing piano than reading but enjoyed it all the same. Her favorite childhood story was one that her dad would read to her, called Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.


“My love of books really sparked as an adult,” said Needham. Her husband’s family are also voracious readers with books filling their family home – a point of connection between Christina and Paul’s mom. “My mother-in-law would hand me things on holidays and recommend different books to read,” she said.


Today, her favorite genre is historical fiction, whereas Paul’s interest is piqued by biographies, philosophy, and other nonfiction reads. When the Needhams started their family, they wanted their three children, now nine, six, and four, to have the same love of literature that their families shared. “For us, books open up a world of imagination and stories, and connect us with things that we don’t know. I think it’s so important right now to learn and grow as a person by expanding your knowledge of the world and of different people’s beliefs and behaviors. I think books open that up for us. That’s why books are so important to us and our children,” said Needham.



IM-‘PRESSED’ WITH THE CONCEPT

When Christina and Paul first had the idea to open a bookstore a few years ago, they began visiting bookstores whenever they would travel. They browsed the shelves at places like Letters Bookshop in Paul’s hometown of Durham, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, and Parnassus Books in Nashville. “We saw the magic of a bookstore, especially in a local community, and we thought Lakeland would benefit from having a bookstore,” she said. Excited to see their dream come to life, the Needhams began to form a concept they thought the community would enjoy. “When we decided to bring the bookstore to Lakeland, we felt like it would succeed having another element to it as a gathering space. Not just selling books, but also a place where people can come and sit and gather,” said Needham. So, they added a coffee shop.


The Pressed owners have been intentional about adding local elements into their space. “Lakeland is growing, and new businesses are coming here, including us, that want to be here and want our city to thrive and are passionate about Lakeland,” said Needham. This shared passion for the city is why they chose to offer coffee from local roasters, pastries from a local baker, feature books from local authors on their shelves, and art from local artists on their walls.


Along with the children’s book section with curation help from the Needham kids, their selection of adult books was handselected as well. “The curating process was where we tap into our experience of what we’ve read, what we’ve enjoyed and making the experience of buying a book a little less intimidating,” said Needham. She went on to acknowledge that “Books are an investment of your time and money,” and as such, having a smaller, more diligently curated selection from which to pick makes for a better investment of both, rather than sifting through a sea of titles at big box stores.


Opening in late July, the plan is for Pressed to kick-off events in the fall. Those in the forefront of Needham’s focus include book clubs, writing workshops, author spotlights, book signings, and storytime for kids. “I think it would be fun to have different people in the community come read during storytime,” she said.


Though the book shop owners haven’t had much time to read while preparing to open, they did have a few recommendations and books they’re excited about. Christina gave high praise to The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and said she is looking forward to reading The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller as well The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Paul is keen to sink his teeth into The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson. These and many other titles will be available at the indie Lakeland book shop.


For months, brown paper has obscured from view the transformation taking place within 213 E. Bay Street. Pressed is shaping up to be what I can only describe as (and I include myself in this) a book nerd’s paradise. The cozy atmosphere – greenery here, a stylish rug there – is like being in the living room of someone very, very cool who also happens to love books.


There are reading nooks, tables for studying, cozy seating, and a green velvet couch – among other mid-century modern features contributing to a comfy bookish vibe. Across the coffee bar are works from Vakti Gallery by local artists Paul O’Neill, Seungdo Hyun, and Mockingbird Artist. A colorful Twenty Seven mural is the backdrop for the children’s books section, which Christina Needham plans to keep, saying, “It’s so sweet and whimsical.”


Now that the paper has finally come down and the community is invited to share in their love of books, Christina Needham reflects on her Pressed journey. She described their book shop as an extension of themselves. “We have big dreams for the place. I think Pressed has such potential. […] I think our ultimate vision is that it’s a gathering space for people to work, read, study, have conversations, host community events, and be a place where people want to come, and it brings them joy.”


213 E. Bay Street, Lakeland

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Photography by Amy Sexson

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