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Bookstore outgrows church nest

Published May 9, 2007

Manager Sharon Jebens shelves books in preparation for the opening of Wings Bookstore on First Unity Church's campus in the 4500 block of Fourth Street N. The street front location includes a coffee bar.
[Times photo: Martha Rial]
[Times photo: Martha Rial]
Barista Crystal Nyerick shows some of the teas available at the new store. The ChaiCoffsky -- chai tea with a shot of espresso -- is the Wings Bookstore's signature drink. Smoothies and coffee are also available.

There's a new bookstore in town, complete with requisite coffee bar, videos, CDs and, naturally, books.

What makes this Fourth Street N shop just a little bit different is that it's run by a church.

First Unity Church's decision to place its Wings Bookstore on the busy thoroughfare was a strategic move.

"With our presence being on Fourth Street, our goal is that the Wings Bookstore will be a window for our community to see the full body of our campus and what we have to offer, " said the Rev. Temple Hayes.

The church owns almost the entire block between Fourth and Fifth streets and 45th and 46th avenues N.

"There are so many people who love Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and Ramdas - and certainly The Secret is part of that - but are not aware that there's a church right here in St. Petersburg that teaches and offers all these ancient spiritual teachings, " she said.

The large, new bookstore has been a longtime dream of Sharon Jebens, the store's manager, and events manager Patti Rondolino.

Until the new store opened May 1, the shop and its eclectic offerings had been crammed into a 356-square-foot space in the same building as the church. A hallway and even part of the church's fellowship hall were plied into service to handle the spillover, Jebens said.

The new store, with Wi-Fi access, a patio area, coffee bar and cushy couch, now has room for such events as author appearances. Programs in the bookstore will be free. A newly renovated nearby building with classrooms will handle paid events. Programs that draw larger audiences will be held in the sanctuary.

At 4500 Fourth St. N, the store features Oprah's Book Club selections, volumes about ecology, natural health, dream interpretation, yoga and all things metaphysical. Browsers also can find jewelry, Bibles, aromatherapy and Buddhist offerings, books about life after death or even explore the Native American section. Even before it moved, the shop had been riding the wave of The Secret's popularity. Jebens has since stocked up on books and authors referred to in the bestseller. She also has chimes, candles, incense, Zen doorbells and a children's section.

Jebens is particularly proud of the shop's coffee bar. "It's just awesome, " she said of the counter that will serve coffee and tea drinks and smoothies. ChaiCoffsky - chai tea with a shot of espresso - is the bookstore's signature drink, she said.

The shop's permanent sign is not yet up, but Jebens believes she's already seeing new customers, many of whom had previously been unaware of the store or might have been unwilling to walk through the church to find it.

"They don't have to find the right door and wonder if the store is open, " she said. "We wanted people to feel comfortable here, no matter what they believe or think. This is a place for anybody to come in. ... I don't want it to look like we are evangelists or missionaries. Unity is about accepting people exactly as they are."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 892-2283 or

Fast Facts:

Wings Bookstore

Fourth Street at 45th Avenue N

Phone: 727 522-6657

Web site: www.wings

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

By the numbers

2, 000 square feet, plus an outdoor patio

8, 000+ titles in stock

[Last modified May 8, 2007, 20:29:52]

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