Auburn soon will have a new independent bookstore on Magnolia. Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers will take the spot that Dress Up once occupied.
This bookstore will be different from other local bookstores like J&M or Anders since it will focus less on the “college experience” and more on the community’s needs for books.
“J&M and Anders are fantastic bookstores for the university,” said one of the owners of Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers, June Wilcox. “They’ve got great university gear, they’ve a really strong textbook market, like J&M has a really strong art department, but it’s a different market from an independent bookstore.”
The owners of this bookstore, June and her husband, Mike Armor, have experience in the field; they own another bookstore in Greenville, S.C., M. Judson Booksellers, which has been open for five years.
June also runs an IT consulting company, and some of her employees are helping her with the bookstore.
Sarah Wesberry has been a friend of June’s and an employee of her IT company for years, and is a part of Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers.
“I think there are a lot of people, based on what we’ve heard the past day or so, that have thought, ‘Oh, we need one. We need one, we need the bookstore,”’ Wesberry said. “But part of June’s unique skills and gifts is that she can make it happen. Entrepreneurship is in her blood.”
Construction has already begun on the Auburn space and June has traveled to Auburn to begin conducting interviews for employees.
Mike said the reception for those who want to work in the store has been great.
“One of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had in the bookstore is the people that choose to work there,” Mike said. “Obviously it’s not a very high-paying job, but I’m just absolutely amazed at the talent that it attracts and the people with just a real passion for books and for writing.
“And that they’re willing to transfer that enthusiasm to helping other people enjoy it, is really been to me, amazing, and just the quality of the applications that we’ve got since we advertised for maybe a week, two weeks ago. I think we’ve got 40 or 50 resumes that are all way overqualified.”
The city of Auburn has been supportive during the process of securing the space and beginning work on the store, June said.
“The reception from this community, it feels like people are eager for that resource in the community,” June said.
A special name
There is history behind the unusual name, Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers. Auburn Oil Co. was once a business in Auburn that was run by Mike‘s father, Murphy.
Auburn Oil Co., when it was still a gas station, was the type of place where people could come and talk and knew each other, June said.
“It’s a connection, it’s not just a service,” Wesberry said.
Now June and Mike are trying to bring some of that history back by paying homage with the name.
“It is an honoring of Murphy and a way to speak to what we want to be in this community,” June said.
They also have a home in Auburn, which explains their new store’s location. Mike grew up in Auburn, attended Auburn High School and even graduated from Auburn University.
Auburn Oil Co. will not only have books but, June said, hopefully a wine-and- coffee bar as well.
“Something an independent bookstore brings is that, I think it’s a place for a community to come together,” June said. “And have important conversations and have a safe space and it just serves as a hub in a lot of senses.”
Despite having had the idea for another bookstore for a while, they had to find a location. Mike and June found out the Dress Up location was free, and they began moving forward with the idea.
The building is slightly smaller than they originally wanted but, June said, the location is great.
“We found out this place was going to become available, that was just a few months ago,” June said. “And now we are highly focused on getting open in October because there’s no home games.”
A bookstore operates on books and June said they way this happens is working through buyers and authors. The bookstore talks directly with publishers and buys seasons before they need the books, June said.
“The booksellers are also instrumental too,” June said. “Which has been really fun meeting people here, because booksellers will be the ones who hear what do the customers in Auburn want, and how do we tailor the offering here to what the specific community is going to (want).”
There are local authors who will also be featured. One is Ace Atkins, former Auburn football player and accomplished author with many published books.
Atkins said that one reason he has not moved back to Auburn is the lack of a bookstore like Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers.
He lives in Oxford where a bookstore, Square Books, is a center for the community. This store, he said, helps curate the arts, music scene, literary scene and more.
“It’s nice to be here in Oxford because we have a little bit of both,” Atkins said. “We’ve got a nice literary scene and we also have college football as well. And I think that’s something that’s been kind of out of balance in Auburn for some time.”
M. Judson Bookstore, the Greenville store, hosts events and even has a traveling book club. Members travel to different locations and have activities/sightseeing based on a book. Local authors are also brought into the experience as well.
Akins participates in book signings at the Greenville store and said he knows he can count on being in Auburn at least once a year for signings as well.
He and his wife have even discussed moving back to Auburn now that this bookstore is coming to downtown.
“(Mike and I) started talking about ‘boy you know the one thing, what we’d really like to see in Auburn is a bookstore’ and we couldn’t believe that no one has attempted to open a bookstore over the last few years,” Atkins said. “And it just seems to be a void in the community.”
Not only can a physical bookstore allow you to find help on a book selection, Atkins said, but it also provides a place for community.
“We describe it in Greenville, when people come into our store they should feel like they’ve been invited into your home,” June said. “So that they are welcome and invited and part of the spirit of the place as much as the people that are working there.”