Books & Books: A reader’s haven

Ebooks may be only a click away, but literary aficionados continue to walk and drive, as well as fly and cruise, to Books & Books in the Town Centre of Camana Bay, located in the heart of Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach area.  

Since Books & Books opened in Camana Bay in December 2007, it has seen sales grow by 6 per cent year over year. 

Mitchell Kaplan, founder and owner of Books & Books USA, which just celebrated its 30th birthday, credits the success of the Cayman store to its embracing the spirit of community that is the lifeblood of any independent book shop.  

“Grand Cayman is a small island but it has an intensely passionate cadre of writers and readers,” said Mr. Kaplan. “Books & Books in Camana Bay has successfully tapped into that enthusiasm to become the literary centre of the Island.”  

While the Cayman location is not owned by Mr. Kaplan, it does draw upon his expertise and that of his Miami staff.  

“The store in Grand Cayman has successfully adopted our philosophy of intensely personal service,” he said. “Its staff members employ curatorial skills to match readers with the perfect books and never hesitate to pick up the phone if they think we can help identify a title the customer will love.” 

Books & Books Grand Cayman has also benefitted from the South Florida Books & Books stores’ robust visiting author programme. With up to six flights daily from Miami, it’s easy for big name authors to add a Cayman stop to their book tours. Since its opening, the store has hosted more than 100 writers including Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Robert Goolrick, Alexander McCall Smith and Dylan Lauren and children’s books authors and illustrators such as Mo Willems, Loren Long and Anna Dewdney.  

According to store manager Megan McCluskey, sales growth at Books & Books has been fuelled by categories that are most resistant to the ebook invasion.  

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in cooking, children’s books and local interest titles by and about Caymanians – genres from which readers get an emotional benefit from the photos and illustrations,” said Ms. McCluskey. “But our Grand Cayman location also gives us an advantage in mysteries, mind, body & spirit and travel. When visitors are out of their routine and immersed in a new sense of place, they crave a more physical connection with books that offer mental escape and exploration of different places and ideas.” 

Like the three South Florida stores, Books & Books Grand Cayman is home to a Rizzoli Studio, one of only 12 internationally. An anchor wall in the store’s art room features the renowned publisher’s beautifully designed and bound books, which lure readers with their tactile appeal. 

The store’s children’s room is a magnet for Cayman’s young families with an unparalleled selection of books for kids of all ages and several brands of high-end educational toys. The ritual Wednesday and Saturday morning Story Time draws more than 50 children who enjoy singing, dancing and creative crafts after Books & Books employees read a selection of books. 

“The parents who bring their children in for Story Time become my market research,” said Ms McCluskey. “They are voracious readers who are cultivating that love of books in their children and are bellwethers of the next big thing that will fly off the shelves.”  

Books & Books is also a community gathering spot for literary analysis and creative exploration. BookEnds attracts more than a dozen avid participants the second Wednesday of each month to discuss their latest reads while poets and performers gather for Floetry on the third Wednesday to share their inspirations in a supportive open mic environment. 

Books & Books’ community involvement runs deeper than in-store events. Employees read to students at George Town Primary School and the Lighthouse School for special needs children. The store employs participants from the Sunrise Adult Training Centre who have disabilities, but love books and find joy in stocking the shelves and helping with displays. Books & Books also donates stock to library and community group book drives and magazines to hospital waiting rooms.  

These local connections build loyalty among residents while traffic from visitors to Grand Cayman brings sales volume.  

“Our location in Camana Bay ensures most visitors staying on Seven Mile Beach pass by the shop,” said Ms McCluskey. “Many repeat visitors come see us every trip, even those who are on their annual cruise and on island for just a day. For them, we’re a “can’t miss” activity on Grand Cayman, just like Stingray City.” 

Books & Books is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a Big Birthday Bash on Saturday, 8 December, from 10am-9pm. The fun kicks off with a special Story & Craft Time party at 10.30am and continues with cake, balloons and gift bags for kids. Customers will enjoy 10 per cent off the entire store on the day of the event and everyone who shops at Books & Books leading up to the party will be entered to win the staff’s Favourite Things. One lucky person will win them all! 

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Books & Books at Camana Bay.

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