Even if you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover, how about a bookstore?
Quiet as it is not kept, the book, long revered and worshipped by intellects of all shapes and sizes, is said to be on its last legs. Our old, beloved US1 Borders has been demolished, to be replaced any day now by Trader Joe’s. As excited as I am to soon be reading the labels on the bottles of Three Buck Chuck, Borders had more educational potential (though I hope the former manager of that Borders will work at Trader Joe’s because he was so outstanding.) However, when it comes to the death of the bookstore, try telling this to Books & Books.
Cavernous Barnes & Noble still commands the corner of Red and SW 72nd St, along with the AMC 24, propping up a Sunset Place that often seems forlorn. They also have West Kendall locked up, along with a Miracle Mile location which hangs tough despite staggering to stay afloat. As Michael Jackson sang, “Do You Remember the Time” when we loved hanging out at these places? Bookstores with coffee shops seemed as ubiquitous then as coffee shops without bookstores are now. Other pummeled sad sacks, daily newspapers, ironically wrote epitaphs for the book alongside their own obituaries. Amazon, with nearly a quarter of all book sales, seemed to be like Mike Tyson, with referees performing a 10 count on Borders, Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, and Crown Books, all long gone since being knocked flat. It would seem that the book business is just down for the count -- finished -- defeated -- vanquished -- conquered -- kaput
However, like a sleeping giant, a lion hiding in the bushes, Casey at the Bat, or David going up against Goliath, the treasured independent bookstore in Miami is a monster called Books & Books, and we are supremely blessed to have it in our midst.
Aside from the business itself, all of Mitchell Kaplan’s locations ooze class, percolate with vitality, and provide everyone with an atmosphere that is hard to top by any definition. Books & Books have local stores in Coral Gables, Lincoln Road, and Bal Harbour, a kiosk at refurbished MIA, at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art on Las Olas, one in Grand Cayman, and one in Westhampton Beach. Things are always throbbing there -- events, parties, reading groups, signings, etc. Local favorites like Edwidge Danticat hang out there. I heard Jamaica Kincaid say, “I loathe the Queen,” there. Cee Lo Green is coming to Coral Gables. Salman Rushdie is coming to Miami Dade College; Mitch also hosts the Miami International Book Fair which he co-founded. Basically, If one can write, Books & Books will present them.
If it were only the long lists of splendid authors, Books & Books would command respect. Most locations sport fashion-forward cafes, and the flagship Gables spot a Mediterranean style courtyard where a bar is centered, bands play, and good vibes reign. It is said that the book is in trouble; maybe, but the bookstore is in fine shape.