7 July 2018
This month in Camana Bay Times, Dart Enterprises Ltd. employee, Alanna Warwick-Smith, writes about her love and loyalty to a beloved small businesses on Grand Cayman, the independent bookstore Books & Books.
Founded by Mitchell Kaplan, Books & Books first opened in 1982 in Coral Gables, Florida and has expanded to nine locations, eight of which are all located in the United States, making the Grand Cayman location its only international store.
Books & Books opened in Grand Cayman in 2007, making it one of the original tenants of the Camana Bay Town Centre. Since its opening the bookstore has become not only a bookstore, but a thriving community hub hosting literary and community events.
By Alanna Warwick-Smith
The first time I met Mitchell Kaplan, I was 16 years old and had been working at Books & Books in the Cayman Islands, a branch of his South Florida chain of independent bookstores, for just under nine months.
In one of the most memorable conversations I had with Mitchell, he told me about what led him down the path of bookselling, the greater role bookstores play in the DNA of a community and the role I played in all of it.
He told me I had a future in bookselling and spoke to me about a career I had never imagined. He offered me a path for my future, and a path to become a part of his company’s future.
He was, inadvertently, my first mentor.
I left Books & Books after just over three years of employment to head to England to finish my law degree. On my way, I made a purposeful detour in Miami to visit the Books & Books Coral Gables store.
I ran up to Mitchell in the store that day and said, “I’m not sure if you remember me, but my name is Alanna and I worked in the Cayman store.”
He spoke to me for more than 20 minutes, in the middle of his busy day. He told me that if I ever needed anything, wanted to switch careers, become a writer or move to Miami and sell books for a living, I would always have him as a line of support. I left with a hug and began shopping around the store. As I was checking out, he walked to the counter and asked, “Did she get her employee discount?” I had not worked at Books & Books for around five months at this time.
The following summer, I returned to Books & Books in Camana Bay as a part-time employee. During my last Christmas working at Books & Books, we got a call in the store. It was Mitchell Kaplan calling to wish us a Merry Christmas. I told him I’d finished law school and was working in HR for Dart Enterprises, the “mother” company of the Books & Books Cayman Islands store. I told him I thought it would be my last Christmas in the store and how much I had enjoyed working for his company. He said he was excited to see what opportunities I would have at Dart and that it was a great place to work.
But Books & Books, a company that established a culture of family from the top down, was also a great place to work, and one at which I learned much.
Working for Books & Books, under the leadership of Mitchell Kaplan, taught me about employee engagement, and permanently shaped my view of the company; I remain loyal to my Books & Books family and to the community they created and generously allowed me to be a part of.
I am forever inspired and forever engaged by the leadership I was exposed to, in my nearly five years of working for Books & Books.
As a result, I am forever a bookseller.
About the author
Alanna Warwick-Smith is a senior marketing communications coordinator supporting the business development and real estate marketing team for Dart. Alanna has worked in Dart’s flagship development of Camana Bay for the past nine years, when she began her career working at the town’s bookstore. A lover of the written word, Alanna reads and writes poetry in her spare time, and has written content for a range of platforms in the past, including her own blog and Camana Bay Times. You can find her in line at Foster’s every morning waiting for her large iced coffee with oat milk!