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Bookstore offers site to sit and sip with free Wi-Fi

The owner of Oak Trail Books sees the store as a place to get information, shop and work.

By NICOLE HUTCHESON
Published May 22, 2007


PALM HARBOR - A popular downtown Palm Harbor bookstore has gone Wi-Fi.

Now, customers and visitors to Oak Trail Books and the neighboring coffee shop, the Witches Brew, will be able to log on to the Internet and surf for free. The bookstore is the first business in the historic downtown to offer free wireless.

"To me the store is a place where people try to get information, " said store owner Lesley Klein. "And the Internet has become such an integral part of that."

Klein plans to set up cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas in front of the store. Benches and chairs will be scattered throughout the herb garden behind the store as well. The goal is to give those who visit the store a comfortable environment to not only shop, but get some work done as well.

"I know when I travel it's important to find a place where I can do Wi-Fi, " Klein said. "It's okay to have your home office, but sometimes you need a change of venue."

Palm Harbor's Harbor Hall offers Wi-Fi Internet connections to people who rent the facility. But the service is password-secured. At Oak Trail Books all a customer has to do is bring a laptop to the store and log on to Klein's network.

Increasingly, Wi-Fi access has become an almost necessary attribute to not only businesses, but also parks and municipalities.

Clearwater recently made wireless access available in the city's libraries.

Last summer, the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce set up its first Wi-Fi base station, creating a half-mile-long "hotspot" along the south end of the beach.

And St. Petersburg is currently comparing companies that will provide a 60-mile radius in the city with Wi-Fi connections.

Chain stores like Starbucks, McDonald's and Barnes &Noble began offering free wireless some time ago.

The bookstore going Wi-Fi is in conjunction with Klein and her business partner, Denise Karnes, opening a new coffee and ice cream shop. The Witches Brew will not only serve locally brewed coffee and homemade ice cream, but it will serve beer and wine in the evenings.

"It's something that I always visualized for the space, " said Klein, who compared it to Purple Moon in Dunedin.

"The whole combination of coffee and bookstore is a nice combination."

Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at nhutcheson@sptimes.com or 727 445-4162.