After 30 years, Lincoln Road pioneer Books & Books closed in June just as Amazon, one of the nation’s largest companies and originally a digital bookstore, completed plans to open down the street.
The new Amazon store, set for a 5,000 square foot spot at 700 Lincoln Road, is one of three locations planned for Florida. It will be a four-star store, selling only highly-rated items including home goods, electronics, games, books.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as retailers nationwide have closed, Amazon has grown more than ever as its stock price has almost doubled.
Mitchell Kaplan, the owner of eight Books & Books locations from Kendall to Bal Harbour, confirmed the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the rise of Amazon as it harmed his store.
“The location struggled with rents being out of proportion to sales and big box stores now dominating the market,” he said. “The pandemic sped up the closure and relocation process for us.”
When the store opened in 1989, Lincoln Road was a deserted strip of empty shops. Over the next few years it evolved into a hub for alternative businesses and small restaurants.
Later, chains like the Gap opened there and rents ballooned. Then in 2020, COVID-19 wreaked havoc, particularly on the small, independent businesses left there.
Kaplan said Amazon’s coming will hasten the notion that Lincoln Road is just a regional mall without a roof.
“Ironically, it’s online competition that is hurting physical retail with Amazon being the monopoly that is putting so many stores in jeopardy,” he said. “So, there’s no reason to celebrate their opening.”
Kaplan believes there is something unique about independent bookstores that will let them continue for years to come.
“People still want physical places to meet, discuss ideas and feel a sense of community,” he said. “Even though Amazon is making businesses bankrupt, there is something about local bookstores and their experience that will never get online.”