Dále Zine, the Little River-based purveyors of art books and ephemera, is going places — literally — with a new mobile bookstore.
This isn't just any standard bookmobile, however. The shop, which New Times declared the Best Bookstore in Miami earlier this year, is using a converted mini-truck from Japan to house the Mobile Dále Zine Shop. Co-owner Steve Saiz purchased a 1996 Honda Acty, part of a special class of vehicles called kei trucks, and fitted it with a bright yellow display shelf built by local carpentry business Koki Customs.
Dále announced the mobile shop on Instagram last week. The store plans on driving it to community events throughout Miami-Dade, with an official debut set for NADA Miami during Miami Art Week, and hopes to partner with museums and local businesses on activations. It will also be hosting programming at the shop during Art Week centered around an exhibition by artist Terrell Villiers, including a panel by Black, queer, Caribbean party Masisi.
Saiz says he was motivated to create the bookmobile due to a lifelong interest in the unique Japanese trucks.
"I've always been obsessed with those mini-trucks, and when I got the chance to finally go to Japan a few years ago, all my photos were of those mini trucks," Saiz says. "I had always wanted one for that purpose. How cool would it be to bring art books to somewhere like Little Havana or West Kendall, somewhere you might not expect?"
Kei trucks are part of a class of cars specific to Japan called keijidosha ("light automobile"). Generally designed with low horsepower engines and smaller frames to suit the narrow streets of dense Japanese cities, kei trucks are made to be as small as possible within the legal limits of Japan's road regulations for consumer cars.
Despite this, kei trucks have recently become surprisingly popular in the U.S. With American automakers catering to suburban demand for massive, dangerous, and expensive pickup trucks, farmers, building contractors, and workers in other industries are turning to kei trucks for actual hauling. Lower cost is also a part of the appeal. Doral-based Kuruma Imports, the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) dealership where Saiz bought his Honda, currently stocks a variety of kei trucks and vans with prices ranging from $7,899 to $15,999. For comparison, a new Ford F-150 costs upwards of $36,000. Saiz also says the dealership worked to secure a car with specific features such as automatic transmission and air conditioning.
In Japan, Kei trucks are used for a variety of purposes, including as fire engines, delivery vehicles, and camper vans. A bookstore may be one of the more novel ideas for a kei truck conversion, but Saiz believes it's perfectly suited to Dále's ethos.
"It aligns with Dále Zine bringing art everywhere, making art as accessible as possible. And something I thought was funny was that it's part of our brand – we're 'always on the move.'"
He adds, "It's really frickin' adorable."
Dále will announce pop-up locations for the mobile bookstore and other events through Instagram.
Dále Zine. 7325 NW Miami Pl., Miami; dalezineshop.com. Wednesday through Sunday 1 to 6 p.m.