Despite decline of print media, unique Coral Gables bookstore still thrives

Posted November 1, 2016.


In the ultra-competitive market of Miami, one small business is thriving against all odds: a bookstore. While print products are quickly vanishing from shelves across the country, visitors are still flocking to Coral Gables’ Books & Books for a good read in an inviting atmosphere.

At Books & Books, a historic Coral Gables attraction, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line the walls.

At Books & Books, a historic Coral Gables attraction, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line the walls (Photo by Julie Harans).

Founded in 1982 by Miami native Mitchell Kaplan, Books & Books is thriving as one of the most renowned independent bookstores in the country.

Kaplan said he wanted to bring a “literary” bookstore to Miami.

“From the beginning, we had readings from authors, open mic nights and a wide selection of categories not found in great depth in other stores,” he said.

Books & Books’ success can largely be credited to its versatility; for writers, readers and the entire community, the establishment is so much more than a bookstore. This is especially true for the Coral Gables establishment, one of seven of the bookstore’s locations.

Phillip Triesman, a tourist from New Orleans, visited Books & Books for the first time during a vacation to the Miami area. He said the romantic atmosphere and laid-back environment drew him into what he called an “oasis” amidst the busy city.

“It’s quiet and reserved, without trying nearly as hard as their competitors,” he said. “Also, the selection of books is pretty neat.”

Books & Books has a uniqueness that is evident before customers even walk through the door. It’s housed in a stunning Mediterranean-style building constructed in 1927 and registered as an official historical location in the area.

Rust-colored archways span the façade, while the interior features a fireplace, beamed ceilings and tile floors from the building’s original construction. Of course, books and publications are the main draw of the store, and those are displayed in beautiful wooden bookshelves that span the entire walls.

There’s even a courtyard hosting live musical guests that includes a full-service café. In the evening, this space comes alive with guests sipping cocktails by the bar or enjoying book selections alongside light dinner fare. String lights and smooth jazz create a peaceful oasis that is hard to come by in Miami.

In addition to the hundreds of books, newspapers and magazines that Books & Books always has available for reading or purchase, the place is always buzzing with a wide range of events. Its “Reading Series” is the recipient of multiple awards and has brought guests from across the globe – from first-time authors to big-named writers – since its first event in 1982.

University of Miami senior Kaitlin Castillo even met author Judy Blume through such an event, and it’s those kinds of experiences that have made her a self-proclaimed “huge fan” Books & Books.

“What I love is its unique, not-a-big-chain vibe,” said Castillo, who has been frequenting the bookstore since middle school. “I’ve gone to midnight release parties and other cool things that you can’t get anywhere else.”

But Books & Books doesn’t restrict itself to guest authors and reading groups; the store hosts all kinds of events that jump off the page, from workshops to kid-friendly activities and even cooking demonstrations with local chefs.

The historic building, inspiring atmosphere and variety of events keep locals and tourists coming back for more and have established the spot as a one-of-a-kind destination and a community landmark.

Though readers’ tastes and event offerings have changed over the years, the Books & Books philosophy of “It’s about neighbors, books, history, quality, tradition and creativity” has stayed the same.

In this digital age, it is becoming increasingly challenging to seek out the space and the time to truly kick back, but at Books & Books, guests can slow, down, unplug and leave feeling deeply refreshed.

“People still want a sense of community, they want to gather in real places,” Kaplan said. “In the great tradition of independent bookstores, we like to think of our stores as community centers where people can come and explore the ideas by experiencing the power of books and writers.”

If You Go

  • Books & Books
  • 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, Fla. 33134
  • 305-442-4408
  • Open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • Metered street parking is available throughout the surrounding area.