Party celebrates a Gables success story: Books & Books
Saluting its loyal following of readers and writers, Books & Books celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 3, with children’s activities followed by a street party that brought hundreds of celebrants to its flagship store in Coral Gables.
During the daytime, children and their parents were treated to live musical performances as they enjoyed snacks and took photos with costumed characters at the store, 265 Aragon Ave. Giveaways, featuring exclusive prizes, offered families the chance to take some of Books & Books’ literary bliss home with them.
As night set in, many guests took advantage of the store’s special 30% off sale, perusing through and purchasing books. Others enjoyed gastronomic festivities as they savored dishes cooked by celebrity chefs, such as Michelle Bernstein, Allen Susser and Norman Van Aken, at the indoor café.
Outside, visitors swarmed the illuminated streets, enjoying free food and drinks while dancing to the music of DJ Max Torres.
The beaming host, Books & Books founder-owner Mitchell Kaplan, seemed to know everyone in the crowd, since so many guests were writers who launched their books at Books & Books and customers whose purchases have kept the independent store thriving for three decades.
Among authors showcasing their work as well as their support for Books & Books was Brian Smith, photographer and author of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous.
“I’ve been coming to Books & Books from the very start and it’s fantastic to see their 30th anniversary! In particular, Books & Books is one of the wonderful book stores for authors,” he said. “It’s great to be here to celebrate with Mitchell, all the staff and local Miami faces.”
Also in attendance was Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who presented Mr. Kaplan with a $30,000 grant for the Miami Book Fair International. Coming up Nov. 11-18, the book fair was founded in 1984 by Mr. Kaplan alongside Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College.
Now at the helm of a mutli-store success story, Mr. Kaplan dedicated the merriment to his South Florida costumers, readers and writers.
“What has allowed publishers to continue to believe in us is the way we treat the authors and the turnout we get,” Mr. Kaplan, a former high school English teacher, said of his success. “Bottom line: The reason we’re still here is because the community supports us. Otherwise, we couldn’t continue to do what we do.”
After earning an undergraduate degree in English at the University of Colorado, Mr. Kaplan returned to his native home of South Florida to earn his master’s in teaching at the University of Miami. Over the next few years, he taught at Miami Southridge Senior High School and began his homework for opening a bookstore, a goal he had dreamed of fulfilling since youth.
“I grew up admiring writers the way people admire actors,” Mr. Kaplan recalled. “To me, there was no higher calling than being able to put books in people’s hands.”
In 1982 at the age of 21, Mr. Kaplan founded Books & Books in a quaint, 500-square-foot space situated about half a block away from its current trendy, 9,000-square-foot Coral Gables location.
Today, hosting 60 author events a month, Books & Books has evolved into a literary empire.
In 1989, Mr. Kaplan opened an outlet on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and in 2005 opened a store at Bal Harbour Shops. Going international, he opened the fourth Books & Books in the Cayman Islands in 2007. In 2010, Books & Books opened at Westhampton Beach, Long Island. There’s also a Books & Books at Miami International Airport. Books & Books’ newest locations are at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale and a newsstand at 200 S. Biscayne Blvd. in Miami.
“Although we have several locations, each store is different and represents the community,” Mr. Kaplan said. “Our selection is different and unique. I think that’s what makes us a bit special.”
With the Books & Books’ 30th anniversary party under Mr. Kaplan’s belt, many wonder what’s next on his to-do list.
“We want to celebrate our 60th anniversary,” he said.
For more information visit booksandbooks.com.