Hostel hangout

Bruce Holland dresses like any Floridian — in flip-flops, board shorts and an old T-shirt. He spoke calmly, in a way that revealed comfort in his own skin, as he patted the side of the old building he runs.

“I don’t want to lose any of the original aesthetic,” he said.

Holland is the owner and operator of Gram’s Place, a Gram Parsons-themed hostel in Tampa. Holland took over the hostel after his brother, founder Mark Holland, passed away in 2007.

Music is always playing at the hostel, which calls itself a “bed’n beat.” Thursday nights used to be jam nights, and though that tradition has passed, many of the guests are musicians.

Any given night might lead to an impromptu jam session with guests and locals,
something both the older crowd and college-age students can enjoy together, Holland said.

“This place is founded on music. Mark was a musician,” Holland said. “I think it was Mark’s love for music and Gram’s merging of styles. He chose the theme for that reason.”

Holland said he has made a lot of improvements to the facility. He is updating the structure but sticking to Mark’s vision.

His brother designed each of the rooms with a theme, including a Lucille Ball-themed kitchen. Every corner of the place houses some token of homage or kitsch.

In addition to making structural improvements, Holland plans to hold concerts in the courtyard in the future, bringing touring musicians to play shows.

For now, hostel guests enjoy the hot tub, BYOB bar and company that Gram’s Place offers.

The stereotypical hostel guest is a young person passing through town on a backpacking adventure, but the guests at Gram’s Place run the gamut.

Around lunchtime on a Thursday in March, the place was full of travelers, including Kristian Abell, 22, and Lasse Prins, 21, both from Aarhus, Denmark, and amid a
three-month U.S. tour.

“We originally planned to only go to the Keys, Orlando and Gainesville,” Prins said. “We just came yesterday and last night we used the pool. Today we will probably go to the beach.”

Abell and Prins said they did not originally plan to stop in Tampa, but they met a Danish couple in Flagstaff, Ariz., who recommended Gram’s Place.

Another guest, Aaron Tabackman, 37, had come from New York City to Tampa with his pedicab to work during the Super Bowl. His vehicle, a bicycle with a carriage-type seat on the back, was parked just outside the gate.

Tabackman said he came to Florida because he wanted to escape cold weather, but came to Gram’s Place because a friend recommended it.

More than one review calls Gram’s Place an “oasis.” Gram Parsons is best known for merging two styles: ’70s rock ‘n’ roll and old-time country. The genres, Holland said, epitomize a general laid-back feeling he wants all of his customers to experience.