South Florida’s secondhand bookstores do things differently to stay afloat

Bookshelves at the Kendall Book Exchange.
Bookshelves at the Kendall Book Exchange. South Florida News Service

Of the seven secondhand bookstores standing in Miami-Dade and Broward in 2015, only four remain in business today, but their owners maintain a reserved optimism for the future.

In an age of rapidly advancing technology, in which many readers purchase books online, bookstores are gradually disappearing.

Bookstore sales were $684 million in October 2017, down 4.6 percent from 2016 and 39 percent from a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Miami-Dade County now has only two stores selling used books: Kendall Book Exchange and Dunbar Old Books.

Kendall Book Exchange, owned by alternative medicine supplier and bookworm Eunice Rodriguez, shares its space with Tea ‘N Sanity, an apothecary shop.

After Kendall Bookshelf closed its doors eight years ago, Rodriguez paid the property owner $200 for the 6,000 books left behind and opened her own secondhand bookshop.

“I had yoga classes in [Tea ‘N Sanity], and the yoga girls said to put it in the back because we really need books, so I did,” Rodriguez said.

Kendall Book Exchange does not purchase books but accepts gently used books in exchange for a 50 percent credit off the publisher price.

Rodriguez’s daughter, Lyla Rodriguez, believes that the reason their bookshop is still around is because their apothecary creates a welcoming environment for people to come to the store, drink tea and browse through books.

“People like to come back,” she said

Not far away is Dunbar Old Books, a warehouse bookstore where the owner, Mary Ann Talmadge, focuses on out-of-print and specialty books.

The key to her success, she said, is that her rent is still affordable and she doesn’t buy every book offered to her.

“I only take the most unusual and rare books,” she said. “Buy right, and you sell.”

Books found in Dunbar Old Books include nonfiction written on various subjects, in several languages, and occasional fiction books.

Farther north in Pembroke Pines is Volume One Books, owned by Sharon Luippold, who was an employee of the store before she purchased it from the original owner in 1996.

“I’ve always loved reading,” she said. “When my daughter started school, I was looking for something to do, and I always wanted a used bookstore.”

Volume One Books was remodeled over the last seven years to accommodate its overflowing book stock. Luippold prides herself in the organized layout of her store; each genre has its own section in the store, and each shelf is alphabetized by authors’ last names.

“I sell a lot of history books, and I have them set up in a loose timeline,” she said. “It starts with medieval times to modern day history books, and I try to have them also separated by countries.”

All books at Volume One Books are half off the publisher’s price unless otherwise stated, with additional discounts for trade-ins.

Fort Lauderdale’s Big Apple Bookstore, owned by Rob Fava, is a small shop that also sells CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and vinyl records.

According to employee Greg Philippi, the store has a vibe similar to bookstores in New York City, which focus on music and art culture to create a small community.

“It is a fun atmosphere,” he said. “A lot of stuff is in boxes so people have to find uncovered treasure. It is a treasure cove of searching.”

What differentiates Big Apple from other used bookstores is the price strategy; everything is $4 or less, according to Fava.

Fava hopes to expand his business to become a community center where tutoring is available for people who wish to learn. He envisions retired people volunteering their time and bestowing their wisdom to youths.

“I want to be like Barnes & Noble, but with cheaper books and better coffee,” he said.

Just like public libraries, Fava said secondhand bookstores are an essential part of a community because they make books more accessible to those who cannot otherwise afford them.

“Used bookstores create accidental learning that happens from finding new things,” he said.


▪ Kendall Book Exchange, 12011 SW 131st Ave., Miami

▪ Dunbar Old Books, 7063 SW 46th St., Miami

▪ Volume One Books, 8910 Taft St., Pembroke Pines

▪ Big Apple Bookstore, 5461 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale