The BookMark Celebrates 20 Years With Move to New Location

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For its 20th anniversary, Florida’s The BookMark is getting a new, eco-friendly location 300 steps (exactly, owner Rona Brinlee counted four times) away from its old one. “We are moving the week of August 22,” Brinlee said. “We’ll pack on Sunday and Monday and move on Tuesday, August 23. Then we’ll unpack and get ourselves back together to open by Saturday, August 28.”

The new storefront, in the same Beaches Town Center area, is "a green building with more usable space, more street parking, and better facilities for hosting author events,” she said. “We’ll also have access to a studio next door on weekend nights to host large events. We’ll be closer to other retail stores, a coffee shop that’s just a few feet away, and a restaurant right next door. We’re actually even a little closer to the beach.”

Although slightly smaller than The Bookmark's previous space – 1,600 square feet compared to 2,000 square feet – “because of the more open layout and availability of usable space, it actually feels larger and more spacious,” said Brinlee.

The BookMark opened in Atlantic Beach in July 1990, and Brinlee and her husband, Buford Brinlee, bought the business in August 1995. The beachfront store has become known for its events (Pat Conroy, Paula Deen, Jan Brett, Elizabeth Edwards, John McCain, Carl Hiaasen, Nikki Giovanni have all visited).

The general trade bookstore has sections for fiction, mystery, history, biography, current affairs, kids, young adults, fantasy/sci fi, classics, gardening, art/photography, etc. “While we often say we are a ‘literary’ bookstore, since much of what we sell is that good fiction that people wouldn’t necessarily find without our guidance, we also sell books in all areas,” said Brinlee, noting that local community centers rely on that guidance for stocking their libraries.

“I often joke that people cheerfully leave their freewill at the door and ask us what they should read. We handpick our inventory … to meet the needs of our customers.”

Brinlee’s reputation for handpicking titles has even gone national. Ever since NPR’s Susan Stamberg appeared at a store event in 2000, she has called on Brinlee twice a year for holiday and summer Indie picks stories on Morning Edition.

To celebrate its move and anniversary, The Bookmark will host events all through September, including a book club night with Random House reps, a reception with Algonquin authors and marketing director Craig Popelars, author events, and a party in October.

While the store is going through big changes, Brinlee is also focusing on what’s been a constant at The BookMark. “We continue to cater to our regular customers who live in the area, which extends 20-plus miles in all directions (except to the East since that’s the ocean, and the fish don’t read), guests at the two hotels across the street, and a group of people who visit the area on a regular basis and stock up on books whenever they’re in town,” she said. “The BookMark is, and will continue to be, uniquely situated in the beach area of Jacksonville, across from two oceanfront hotels with nationally recognized golf and tennis facilities, the Navy, and, of course, the ocean less than a half block away.”