We’re Key West’s locally-owned, nonprofit, independently-minded neighborhood bookstore. Affiliated with Books & Books, one of the nation’s great independent bookstores, our home is part of The Studios of Key West, a non-profit arts center and cultural organization.
The Studio’s distinctive three-story nineteen-fifties former Masonic Temple is already buzzing with art classes, performances, artist studios and exhibitions. With Books & Books, it now has a dedicated space for the literary arts as well.
The Story So Far
Books & Books @The Studios of Key West is the brainchild of a small group of local booklovers, led by George Cooper, who previously founded the Tropic Cinema, and his wife, the beloved writer Judy Blume. It is a joint effort of two respected organizations, each of which brings its particular capacities to the venture.
Books & Books is the one of the leading independent booksellers in America. Founded by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982, it has since expanded to eight locations, concentrated in the Miami area and also with branches in Grand Cayman and Westhampton Beach on Long Island, and now Key West. Mitchell has been honored in the industry with the Presidency of the American Booksellers Association and was named Independent Bookseller of the Year in 2015. Each Books&Books location has its own flavor, from the sprawling 10,000 sq. ft. main store in Coral Gables to a tiny shop on Concourse D in the Miami Airport. But each shares a commitment to a deep and rich selection of great books, fined tuned to the interests and reading habits of its local community.
The Studios of Key West is a ten-year-old non-profit arts organization dedicated to enhancing and enriching the cultural life of the city. It provides low-cost studio space to local artists, a residency program for visiting artists, two galleries to display their work, a wide range of classes for both locals and visitors, and a diverse program of concerts, lectures and performances in a 200-seat auditorium. When it relocated last year to a new home in an iconic 15,000 sq. ft. former Masonic Temple, The Studios realized that its street-level space at the corner of Eaton and Simonton Streets would best used as a retail space. But it had to be something in keeping with its core cultural mission.
The absence of a first-class bookstore in Key West weighed heavily. Key West is famed for many things, not least of which is a literary tradition developed by the cadre of renowned writers who worked amidst and were inspired by its palm shaded charms—Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, John Hersey, Robert Stone, Annie Dillard, and Anne Beattie, to name only a few. The annual Key West Literary Seminar is one of the premiere cultural events in the nation. What could be a more appropriate use of this wonderful corner space than to bring a home for books back to town?
The store opened in Januar, 2016. Besides George and Judy, its guiding spirits are other local writers, including Cynthia Crossen and James Gleick. The Studios is providing the space and assuming responsibility for running the store, hiring staff, recruiting supplemental volunteers, developing and promoting a program of author events that would enliven the venue, and to raising the necessary funds to furnish the store with beautiful shelving and display tables, and an inventory of almost 5,000 titles covering everything from Art to Zebras.