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Books & Books at long last opens a Fort Lauderdale location

January 12, 2011

Mitchell Kaplan

After 30 years of wishing and hoping by Broward book lovers, Mitchell Kaplan finally brings an outpost of Books & Books, his independent Coral Gables book store, to Fort Lauderdale. A four-day celebration begins Thursday at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, home of the new store.

True, the move follows Books & Books stores in far-flng locales like Grand Cayman and Westhampton, N.Y., forcing Broward bibliophiles to drive all the way to Coral Gables (what is that, 33.19 miles?) for the independent bookstore experience, which in this case includes an inventive selection of titles, a gourmet cafe, and something like 60 author appearances and other literary events each month.

Actually I’ve quizzed Mitch repeatedly over the 25 years I’ve covered books in South Florida, and he’s always gotten a wistful look in his eye. “I want to open a store in Fort Lauderdale,” he’d always say, or something like it. “I love Fort Lauderdale — but I just can’t make the numbers work.”

And believe me, no matter how highbrow our love of literature, we readers want the bookstore numbers to work, because if they don’t then Books & Books might join the thousands of independent booksellers that have gone out of business in the past two decades.

I mean, this is the man who co-founded and still helps run Miami Book Fair International, for Pete’s sake. He’s kept one of the best independent bookstores in the country going — and growing — through incredibly difficult times. And he’s personally modest and unassuming. Is it any wonder literary lovers in South Florida call him “St. Mitch” behind his back? I’m not kidding, I’ve heard it with my own ears.

So we can be grateful for Mitch’s caution in resisting the lure of For Lauderdale all these decades. He partnered with Dart Realty, developers of Town Center at Camana Bay, to bring a Books & Books location to Grand Cayman in 2007, while the Westhampton location is a partnership with two publishing veterans, Jack McKeown (co-founder of Perseus Books) and Dennis Berthiaume (president of Verso Advertizing).

It’s a partnership with the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale/Nova Southeastern University  that at long last makes a Broward outpost of Books & Books possible, as Ben Crandell reports in this story from the Sun-Sentinel. The Books and Books store, termed “a boutique outpost,” is part of a million-dollar facelift to the downtown museum.

“We are proud to bring Books & Books to the Museum where the community as well as our students, alumni, faculty and staff will be able to meet authors, hear writers and view art, all in one place,” said George L. Hanbury, Ph.D., President of Nova Souteastern University, already a partner with the museum.

The new store includes a cafe featuring sandwiches and salads by chef Allen Susser, who designs the menu at the Coral Gables store.

Admission to the museum is free Thursday through Sunday. On Friday Susser and cookbook author Linda Gassenheimer will be on hand. Saturday’s festivities include children’s storytelling and the reading of plays. Sunday’s full slate features a local author open house hosted by Kaplan with guests such as Kristy Kiernan, Tom Swick, Lynne Barrett, James Grippando and many others.

The Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale is located at 1 East Las Olas Blvd., in downtown Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500. For a complete schedule of opening weekend events, visit the Books and Books website (scroll to the bottom of the page).

“For one thing it’s downtown [Fort Lauderdale], and that’s always been an area that I’ve liked,” Kaplan said. “Plus, there are terrific people to partner with, at the museum and at Nova. It’s a great group of people, who are proactive. They know what they want to do.”

A note of caution: As savvy as Mitch is as a businessman, not every partnership has thrived. He opened a boutique bookstore in a nook of Levenger, the “Tools for Serious Readers,” store in Boca Raton a few years ago, but it did not last. If we want to keep Books and Books going in Fort Lauderdale, we’ll have to give it some business.

Are we all together on this?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2011 1:56 pm

    Chauncey, this news comes right on the heels of the venerable Mystery Bookstore in LA announcing that they’re shutting down. I can’t tell you how depressing it is as an author to do a book event at a store, meet the owners and employees, see how passionate they all are about books, and then see the store shut down shortly afterward.

    I hope this store (and all other bookstores) succeed and that we see a massive change in the direction we’ve been heading.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 12, 2011 4:25 pm

      I keep reading that independent booksellers will be the big survivors in the current techno revolution. My fingers are crossed.

  2. Tommy Smart permalink
    January 12, 2011 2:08 pm

    Yay!

  3. January 12, 2011 3:57 pm

    Yay yay yay — it’s called the Northern Crawl — and hopefully it will come to Boca Raton again — Levinger’s was a disaster because someone forgot the mantra: LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION — and since we are still buried under the fallout and continued splattering of debri from the next-to-the-greatest depression – I’m willing to travel to Ft. Lauderdale for my Books ad Books fix hoping that after the five-ish year expected recovery another B& B will emerge again in Boca. Meanwhile I celebrate this great news.
    Emily Rosen

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 12, 2011 4:26 pm

      Yes, it is great news. But we have to put our money where I mouth is if we want to keep a Books & Books open in Fort Lauderdale.

  4. Sean Piccoli permalink
    January 12, 2011 5:44 pm

    That’s great news. I wonder if the location will emphasize books on art or if that’s too “niche” to work. In any case, it will be a welcome addition to downtown and a good neighbor to the library.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      January 12, 2011 8:14 pm

      Let’s hope will be a general book store, more than just or even primarily art books. Otherwise, I don’t think it will last.

  5. Candice Simmons permalink
    January 13, 2011 4:18 pm

    Sounds like a great idea–the downtown assets will compliment one another. I miss the days where Downtowns were the center of all retail and community activity. But those days are gone.

    It’s good to see, these days, more and more Downtowns transition into their community’s arts/cultural centers.

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