Fun fact: Allison Casper Adams is a third generation McDonald’s franchisee. Her grandfather, Fritz Casper, opened Tampa’s first McDonald’s in the 1950s, now Allison and her brother, Blake Casper, operate 53 branches in the area. Clearly, the entrepreneurial spirit is a family affair, as the duo didn’t stop there.
In 2012, the siblings bought an underutilized building across the street from the University of Tampa campus that once served as horse stables in the 1890s, and sat vacant for the last few decades. A painstaking renovation ensued, with Adams keeping watch over the historic elements that remained intact and introducing new features that would seamlessly meld into the overall design vision of Oxford Exchange. Now, it’s a menagerie of marble and leather, brass and brick, and has a variety of uses: a coffee shop, a restaurant, a co-working space, a bookstore, and an event venue. “We hoped to create a unique place where people could gather,” says Adams. “Every detail has a purpose and every object has a story.
Forward-thinking and innovative, Adams is a great example of a strong female force in the entrepreneurial world. She’s the New Southern. Here, we sat down with the Tampa Bay businesswoman to get her thoughts on what it means to be Southern right now.
Alyssa Rosenheck: Why open Oxford Exchange?
Allison Casper Adams: I have always been fascinated with design, and Oxford Exchange gives me a great canvas to experiment with. I’ve always been inspired by travel and I consciously curate my personal spaces with objects that have meaning to my family and I, regardless of their style. Oxford Exchange and Oxford Design Studio are a direct reflection of that mindset. I’m humbled to think that we’ve influenced others with our approach.
AR: Any tips for female entrepreneurs wanting to follow in your footsteps?
ACA: With Oxford Exchange, it was a sharp learning curve. I had absolutely no retail experience when we started, so there were no rules. It only took me a few weeks to realize that I have a lot to learn. However, I think that led to part of its charm. Our Director of Retail, Jess Anderson, is incredibly organized and keeps me in line. With that said, my advice would be to surround yourself with passionate people and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
AR: How do you make sure you’re setting yourself apart in the marketplace?
ACA: I am constantly traveling and looking for interesting pieces that can start a conversation. The Shop at Oxford Exchange is a mix of styles from all over the world and we aren’t afraid to try something new.
AR: What’s the key to making a house a home?
ACA: Your home should tell the story of who you are. Art that you love, photos, found objects from travels, and lots of books.
AR: Who is one of your favorite artists and/or makers?
ACA: John Derian is one of my favorite tastemakers. I love the history associated with his handmade pieces, and his shop in New York City is always a source of inspiration.
AR: Fill in the blank, “my momma always said…”
ACA: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
AR: Oxford Exchange is chockful of wonderful housewarming gifts. What’s your usual go-to?
ACA: Books. For a new home, I like to offer a beautiful coffee table book on design or travel. For a hostess, a cookbook or even a favorite book I recently read.
AR: What’s your dream project?
ACA: An Oxford Exchange Hotel in Tampa
AR: What’s on your nightstand right now?
AR: Do you have a favorite color palette?
ACA: White, navy, and grey is timeless. The range of colors you can pair it with is endless.