BEST SPANISH-LANGUAGE BOOKSTORE - 2004
Libreria Distribuidora Universal
Known both on its signage and among Spanish-language readers simply as La Universal, this pale, rounded-corner building that seems etched out of a block of mighty stone contains something more resembling a library than a bookstore. But Carlos didn't care about the gritty architecture or sweet comfort outside and inside this multifaceted operation (publishing and distributing are part of the Salvat family's decades-old book biz). After real estate school (he lost interest shortly before his final test), after "punch-out" work finalizing new houses led him to decline to become a contractor -- then Carlos went to a school for translation. Having come from Cuba at age eight, gifted with a poet-crushing knack for twisting the English language into art, Carlos ran into trouble because the class itself wasn't enough. He wanted to study the subject on his own, but a key book could not be found. Not until he went to the old gray building on the corner. "Of course they had it," he says. "Would I tell you it was the best bookstore if they wrote me off like a dime debt done gone a decade by?" No, he wouldn't.