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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Gainesville author Lauren Groff responds to statewide book bans by opening bookstore, The Lynx

The independent bookstore emphasizes banned books, opens April 28

At South Main Street, a large brown cat stands guard. You can’t help but feel like you’re being watched as you pass the freshly painted 30-foot mural, its large brown eyes following you to the glass front door.  

It guards a prize behind its walls that would attract any local literary enthusiast — boxes and boxes of books, waiting patiently to be shelved, bought and taken to their next home.

On April 28, The Lynx will become Gainesville’s latest independent bookstore. It’s the creation of New York Times bestselling author Lauren Groff and her husband Clay Kallman. 

When she’s not on nationwide book tours, Groff lives in Gainesville with her husband and two children, having grown “deeply attached” to the city’s charm and community. 

Opening a bookstore has been a decade-long dream for Groff. The Lynx came to fruition at a testy time in Florida’s history, catalyzed by the recent book bans and heightened restrictions placed on education. 

“We were hoping to respond to the recent authoritarian slide in the state of Florida right now,” Groff said, “and to respond with celebration of a lot of the books that are currently being banned.” 

In addition to banned books, The Lynx will sell books written by BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and Florida authors. 

The store’s titular mascot holds a deeper meaning than being just an iconic Florida cat. A group of lynxes is called a watch, which ties into the store’s message of accountability and education.

“The logo really led to a lot of the decisions that we made,” Groff said. “It’s a sly lynx smiling at you and being like, ‘I’m watching you.’”

This isn’t the only new bookstore in the community. On March 20, Butler Plaza reopened a Barnes & Noble after closing a store in 2013. 

But independent bookstores offer a more personal and community-oriented touch than chains, Groff said. 

“When you come into a store and say you want a book, we’ll know every book on the shelves because we’re the ones who bought the books,” Groff said. “We’re going to know what you want, and we’re going to understand the books that you’ve already read.”

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Kallman, the store’s co-founder alongside his wife, has a long history with Gainesville bookstores. His family owned the local staple, Florida Book Store, for 83 years before its closing in 2016.

Kallman grew up working at the shop, selling and buying textbooks for UF students. At The Lynx he has a more involved role, handling the rental process, setting up insurance and building an HR department. 

“It’s a fun full circle because it’s back to Gainesville and back to serving a community that I love,” Kallman said. 

As The Lynx gears up to open its doors, Gainesville residents expressed their excitement about what the store has to offer. 

Maricar Molisak is a 43-year-old matching specialist at UF Foundations, the university’s funding and fund management partner. Moreover, she is the owner of Cutie Doki, a business that sells sustainable accessories, candles and K-pop merch. 

As a small business owner who has lived in Gainesville for more than ten years, she said she was thrilled to hear about the opening of The Lynx. 

“I’m glad to have another indie bookstore opening in town and for another small business to start,” Molisak said. “Both are good things for the community.”

Molisak credits small bookstores for having a stronger personal connection with the community. 

“When I visited D.C. I visited a lot of indie bookstores and I loved the experience,” she said. “They knew exactly what I was looking for.” 

In addition to the indoor portion, The Lynx will feature an outdoor garden with seating for people to read and study.

“I love Gainesville for all of its quirks and I feel like this bookstore will fit in nicely,” Grace Romano, a 22-year-old international studies and Italian senior, said. 

She typically shops at local bookstores or uses the Alachua Public Library. She said she appreciates these places for offering a community to people outside her home or career. 

“I hope The Lynx will help introduce me to local authors and other hidden gems that I might not find myself if I was shopping at a less intimate store,” she said. 

Upon opening its doors to the public at 601 S Main St., the event will feature author readings, live music, banned-book discussions, a zine workshop, firefighter storytime and scavenger hunts. 

Looking to the future, The Lynx has no plans of slowing down. It plans on opening a coffee and wine bar in the weeks following its opening, as well as collaborating with other local businesses.

“I want us to be a lighthouse,” Groff said. “A beacon for tolerance and diversity and love in Florida. I want us to show the nation that not everybody is close-minded and authoritarian in Florida.”

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at Follow her on X @bonnymatejowsky. 

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.

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