Law school hangout has closed; Wilbert’s was an institution

Wilbert's owner Steve Langston poses outside the iconic convenience store located across from the University of Florida Law School Tuesday, October 29, 2013. WilbertÕs has been a grocery store, a bookstore and a coffee-break spot for 49 years and recently closed its doors. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.

Wilbert’s has been a grocery store, a bookstore and a coffee-break spot. For 49 years, the small store at 2410 SW Second Ave. was a staple within the University of Florida’s law school community.

But now Wilbert’s has closed its doors.

Owner Steven Langston has been running the store since his father, Wilbert, gave it to him in 1979. About 15 years ago, he expanded to include law textbooks, which became a significant aspect of the business.

But as technology progressed and students were able to buy books online, the store slowly went out of business.

“It was an emotion thing,” Steven Langston said. “It took me a while to kind of get through it.”

Over the years, Langston has “reinvented the Wil” four times. He sold milk, added Xerox machines, obtained a license to sell beer and finally started selling law school materials.

Bought in 1964 by Wilbert Langston and his wife, Betty, the store initially sold meat and other groceries. At that time, there was no convenient place to eat near the law school, so Wilbert’s came to be known as a haven for law students, providing hot sandwiches and coffee late into the night.

As more food and snack options became available at the law school, fewer students visited the store across the street.

Law school professor Dennis Calfee, who proudly owns a Wilbert’s T-shirt, recalls his time spent at Wilbert’s as a student. Wilbert was his milkman and banker --- the only person who would cash Calfee’s checks from his hometown bank.

Calfee said it was common for Wilbert to lend money to students who needed help paying rent.

“It was always, ‘How can I help you?’ – not, ‘What do you want?’” he said. “It was a real institution and a great part of the history of the law school.”

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