Where do you live?
Coconut Grove – for the last three years. I grew up in Coral Gables, a couple blocks from University of Miami.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
I am the general manager of the café at Books and Books in Coral Gables and I consult for our other restaurants. My dad bought the property (of our Gables location) about a month ago, so I also do the maintenance for the building and anything else needed.
Did you always want to be in the family business?
I never thought I would be working for my dad. Out of University of Miami, I started as a sports agent and quickly learned that I did not want to work for another family business for 60 hours a week and get burnt out – I realized that I’d rather put my efforts into my inheritance.
How have you seen Books and Books change over the years?
We went from a retail store to an events management company. We now have over 400 events. We had to evolve with the way retail has changed. We’ve added restaurants – which is where my job comes in. We try to make all our businesses blend in to one. Our book business blends into our café business. Our café adds to the event business.
How has Amazon changed the business?
They really changed the game. They offer the lowest prices and it’s tough for us to match those. We have had to change our approach. For example, a ticket for an event will be a book purchase. We also now carry a large number of remainders, which are discounted books that can get to the point of Amazon prices. Competing with this huge conglomerate has been a challenging but interesting process.
Are all your store locations similar?
We like to have each location feel like an independent family owned business. There is a similar vibe in each location, but we have different menus and different spaces in each. For the most part, the bookstores are similar – we like to have a large variety of titles, authors and genres in each location.
Were you a reader growing up?
It’s funny. I was a reader growing up but didn’t read as much as people would expect the son of Mitchell Kaplan to read. It’s tough growing up and being inundated with so many books – I always felt like I wanted to do something different. I played sports, watched lots of movies and put books on the back burner. Now, I have come to realize how life changing reading books can be.
When we visit the café, what should we order?
My favorites are our vegan choices. We have a great quinoa chop and a green calabaza bowl. My whole approach has been to bring more accessibility to better food for everybody. I look at how our restaurant can grow into something better – primarily doing something vegan and healthy.
How often do you come to the Pinecrest farmer’s market?
I like to come once or twice a month. When you are at the Gables market, we’re always there.
Do you have a market ritual? If so, please describe.
Absolutely, we go to you guys first to get smoothies. We get your Rainbow smoothies with all the flavors. My girlfriend loves the Turmeric tonics. We also love your produce – the jackfruit, avocados and bananas. I had one of your bananas this morning.
What have you made with ingredients bought at LNB Grovestand?
We cook with your Turmeric dressing. It’s a great marinade. We also have cooked with your produce – we made plantains and use your avocados in our salads.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at other stands at the market?
We like the vegan empanadas from the Argentinean stand.
The best deal at the market is:
I think all the farmer’s markets are a great deal. To be able to buy local foods, at very affordable prices, is a wonderful thing. I am happy to see more markets being highlighted over the last couple years. More of my friends are going to markets and it’s a bigger thing than it used to be.
Favorite market story:
I grew up doing the Coral Gables market. We used to bring book costumes and have readings at the market. I have fond memories of going to the market every Saturday with my Mom. We’d have Curious George or Madeline walking around.
Most-frequented local restaurants and what dish to order:
I love Beehive juice bar. It’s a vegan restaurant and everyday they have something different. My favorite thing there is a Pianono – which is a Brazillan dish.
For special occasions, I go to:
I love Café Abbracci – I love Italian food. The owner, Nino, is a good friend of ours. When my dad started Books and Books, 35 years ago, Nino was just opening his restaurant. Both of our businesses have grown together. I see Nino at least once a month buying books. It’s not on the menu (and he’ll make it for anyone) – his chicken parm is the best in town!
A worthy splurge:
I have a serious retail shoe addiction. For me, a splurge would be buying a new pair of sneakers. Right now, I really want a pair of Nike Off White shoes. The creator of the Off White brand, has just become the menswear designer of Louis Vuitton.
Netflix in my bed and doing nothing.
The most romantic spot around:
The salesman in me would say, the courtyard here at Books and Books – but for me, I’d say the beach.
Do you participate in any community or philanthropic events that you would like to share?
I’m fortunate to put on a lot of events at the café. We have the young democrats club that meets here once a month that I like to take part in. I’m going knocking on doors with them for the upcoming election. We have a ton of literary groups that come in and different book clubs. It’s a great place to meet people from all walks of life. All our events are on our website: BooksAndBooks.com and if you join our newsletter, you’ll never miss out on an event we’re having.
Do you own your own business or offer a service? Would you share a pitch about yourself or company with the community?
Not just about us, but if we want to continue to better Miami as a community, we should all be lifting up places like Books and Books and local independent stores. Instead of shopping and eating at commercial chain stores, we can do more to support and bolster our farmer’s markets and local economy.
Is there a question that you would like to ask the LNBs?
When are we going to get your LNB products in our stores? That way, I can be eating them more often and people can pick them up during the week.
(A+W) Yes! We look forward to working with you to make this come true!
Is there a question that you would like to ask the community?
What would you like us to do more of? I love to hear customer feedback and I really try to run with people’s suggestions.