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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Between the Lines bookstore’s founder retiring and moving on

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Between the Lines is among the boutique shops at Plaza Carmesí, created by artist Josefina Larraín. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

Obviously, the bookstore isn’t the final chapter for Juanita Stein.

Juanita announced Tuesday that she’s closing Between the Lines by Christmas and retiring with her husband to Europe. She said they will be closer to family there.

Between the Lines owner, Juanita Stein, introduces author John Berendt during a 2023 book reading. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

“I know you will all understand how difficult this decision has been for me,” Juanita posted on social media. “The community we have built together has fulfilled me in an endless number of ways, and it gives me immense pleasure to have built a successful, thriving business in such a magical space.”

Between the Lines is one bookend for the café and shops at Plaza Carmesí in Santa Lucia. It is overflowing with books in English and beautiful ancillary products such as high-end pens, readers and notebooks. Customers have praised it for being cozy and smartly designed, and Juanita’s knowledge of the trade comes through in For the Bookshelf, a regular column in Yucatán Magazine that highlights titles of note.

Late author DG Heath signed copies of “Yes, We Have No Camels” at Between the Lines in 2021. Photo: Mérida Writers Group

Between the Lines opened at a challenging time, just weeks before the pandemic lockdown.

Juanita, who had just given up a long-time post as editor of Yucatán Today to follow her dream, found ways to keep her inventory accessible during COVID. No longer greeting customers in person, she found time to focus instead on building an online catalog and delivery system.

Even during the reopening, Juanita was strict about masking and store capacity. Sometimes, customers had to wait outside before being let in, but Juanita showed how much she cared for her customers.

Author John Berendt reads passages from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” at the Between the Lines bookstore in February 2023. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

Not only carrying their titles and hosting a book fair, the bookstore also serves as an ally to local authors and was one of Yucatán Magazine’s first distribution points. Juanita has also been generous lending out her space for book signings, like in February when John Berendt was invited to speak about his bestseller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

“Mérida loses a lot without you and Between the Lines,” lamented one friend in her Facebook announcement. “Your vision, passion, and skills have been instrumental in the thriving success of BTL. To say [we] are grateful to have been part of it would be an understatement; we learned so much from you and your business,” said another.

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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