How Hazel Gonzalez Makes Books and Books Shine
They come from all walks of life and have a variety of different interests but the Areas team at Books and Books in Miami International Airport have one thing in common: they are all avid readers of books.
Whether a guest is seeking a good read in the sciences or just wants to kick back with a thrilling best-seller, they will get a good briefing on their top options. Every book entering the store is acknowledged by the team in one way or another, so inventory astuteness is high.
“My staff are all into reading books, and that is very important because they engage with our guests and have great knowledge to share,” says Hazel Gonzalez, Concept Manager for Books and Books. “That’s what makes this store so special; we actually push ourselves to really get into the books so we can make our guests happy with the right recommendations based on what they’re looking for.”
Hazel started in the store as a cashier in 2015 then briefly left due to an illness but came back in 2018 and has been running the store and strategizing on how to increase sales ever since. Hazel herself is a passionate reader of books on leadership, growth, and development and highly recommends business strategy books by Robert Greene. Her current read is “I Love Me More: How to Find Happiness and Success Through Self-Love,” by Jenna Banks,
But reading didn’t come naturally for Hazel because when she first came to the US when she was eight years old, from Nicaragua to Miami, she did not speak or read a word of English.
“It’s difficult to actually be yourself when you don’t know the language. You’re confused a lot of the time,” recalls Hazel.
But with heaps of determination and the help of numerous English as a Second Language and other courses, Hazel quickly learned to speak fluent English and today reads voraciously, one of the most enjoyable aspects of her job, she says.
“Hazel has learned and simulated the book culture of all our individual stores while retaining a practical methodology that transfers well to our airport operations,” says Raquel Roque, a consultant who has helped grow Books and Books over the years. “Her retail experience and very deep knowledge and passion of titles, genres, bestsellers, and true tried backlist titles make the airport store shine,” says Raquel.
Raquel says she has been impressed with how Hazel has built strong relationships with publishers. “She has opened direct accounts with publishers and non-book item sidelines that complement the present selection. She also has a great direct relationship with Penguin Random House the biggest publisher in the world.”
Books and Books is a local, independent bookstore founded in Coral Gables, Florida by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982. The company operated its first store from a 500-square-foot space and has grown to six stores, including the one at MIA where it opened in 2008.
“It was actually a very long and cumbersome process to get the store approved by the airport committees first and then by commissioners,” recalls Raquel. “Areas was so adept at dealing with the process, which is expensive and takes a lot of manpower and counsel. We could have never done this on our own. We went from just a dream of being in the airport to actually being there with a powerful partner and making it!”