Allison Adams
Allison Adams (BSBA '91) has helped infuse style and sophistication in the Tampa community with the Oxford Exchange. (Courtesy photo: Gabriel Burgos/South Tampa Magazine).

A touch of Europe in the heart of Tampa

There was a time when the Oxford Exchange, a trendy, social and retail locale in Tampa, was supposed to be anything but that.

It was supposed to be an oasis of sorts for its director Allison Adams (BSBA ’91), a place to escape, think and reenergize—an office away from the office.

Fortunately, that plan failed. In its place is a vibrant and stylish venue that has charmed Tampa’s citizenry. Adams will be on hand to share her experience developing Oxford Exchange during today’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium at University Auditorium.

“It’s exceeded all of our expectations,” said Adams, “but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.”

Ultimately, Adams, and her brother and business partner, Blake Casper, couldn’t keep the idea of Oxford Exchange to themselves. Inspired by the quaint and chic shops and social clubs of Europe, the Oxford Exchange is a 25,000-square-foot, mix-use facility housing a restaurant, coffee and tea bars, retail spaces for books, eyewear and home décor, a shared work space for conferences and corporate functions, event space for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays, and a design studio. The venue opened in 2012, and has been gaining in popularity ever since.

“The goal was creating a place for the community to escape, a place where you can feel comfortable lingering,” Adams said. “We wanted an environment where people can meet one another, and is a place of discovery.”

Early on, it was Adams and Casper who discovered how demanding it was to manage the venue.

“We had no idea what to expect when we opened the doors,” Adams said. “We were not ready for the sheer volume of people. We were making things up on the fly.”

That spur-of-the-moment management was a far cry from Adams’ experience as Owner and Partner of Caspers Company, one of the largest McDonald’s franchisees in Florida with 53 restaurants. The company was founded by her grandfather, Fritz, in the late 1950s, and blossomed under the leadership of her father, Joe. Adams and Blake Casper continued to lead the company after Joe’s passing in 2005.

“When you operate a McDonald’s, there’s a giant handbook that explains everything,” said Adams, who worked as a McDonald’s assistant manager, manager and area supervisor before purchasing two stores of her own with her husband, Robby. “Everything is black and white. Over here [at Oxford Exchange], it was all gray.”

Adams addressed those issues quickly and effectively. Oxford Exchange’s staff has increased by more than one-third to about 130 employees to meet customer demand, and systems have been put into place to allow the various businesses to operate in a more efficient and integrated manner.

“We’re incredibly proud of it,” Adams said. “It’s humbling, honestly, to see so many people who appreciate it the same way you do.”


  • Allison began her college career at the University of Richmond. Homesick and tired of the cold, she transferred to UF.
  • Allison said working with her brother, Blake, has been wonderful, and they see eye to eye on most major business decisions. “I can’t think of a time when we weren’t in agreement on something important.”
  • Allison admitted some friends and colleagues were skeptical if Oxford Exchange would work in Tampa, but she was determined to make it work. “Don’t second-guess yourself. If you’re willing to work hard and surround yourself with the right people, pretty amazing things can happen.”
  • Allison earned a law degree from Southern Methodist University—where her daughter, Dallas, will attend this fall. Dallas will represent the fourth generation of the Adams family to attend SMU.