A Triangle of a Square.

The thing about Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, with its population of almost 22,000 people, is that there are three stores; Square Books, Off Square Books, and Square Books, Jr..

“Wouldn’t that make it “Triangle Books”?” You ask.

Oxford circle square triangle

Well, no.  The locations of main store and its two smaller branches are just off the main square in Oxford, which also has a circle that goes around Lafayette County Courthouse at the center of the square…there are many shapes.  If you stare at the map for too long it’s almost like being back in geometry class.

 

Me being from New Jersey, I won’t pretend to be an expert on the South, seeing as how most of my knowledge of the South comes from movies like Forest Gump and The Blind Side, as well as shows like Hart of Dixie and Friday Night Lights, and books like Their Eyes Were Watching God.  What I do know about is books, bookstores, and college towns and I’ve always wanted to venture down South and after researching the Oxford area I think I know where I’m going first.

Oxford is a hub for just about anything you can think of when it comes to the amazing history and culture of the South.  In the nearby vicinity, there are at least four separate place to enjoy Southern foods.  And what is most likely due to the University of Mississippi, or “Ole Miss” as most people call it, only being a little over a mile from the square, there are at least three pizza places and four coffee shops as well as many other typical college town businesses.

In the video you can see the main Square Books store at 22 seconds in, Square Books, Jr. at 42 seconds, and Off Square Books at 2:02 which is the building with the diamond shapes on the front.

 

On the map, the three blue tags represent the three locations of Square Books, the main store, Off-Square Books, and Square Books, Jr., the gold coffee cups are the coffee shops in the area, the little gold cows are the restaurants serving Southern cuisine, the gold pizza slices are the pizza places, the gold fork and knife are other various restaurants, which includes two Japanese restaurants, the blue crosses are the different churches in the area, the gold music notes are music shops and venues, and the gold books are other bookstores in the area.

 

Culture and business go hand in hand.  Laura J. Miller states in her book, Reluctant Capitalists, “The business of books presents one of the best cases for seeing the importance of joining together an economic and cultural analysis” (Miller 6).  This melding of economics and culture is prevalent in area surrounding the three Square Books stores.  The area of Oxford is teaming with historical significance with its connection to the American Civil War, renowned authors like William Faulkner, and its connection to music as well.

Although, in this booming college town, there is what most think of as the great enemy of independent bookstores, which is the chain store.  Even closer to the Ole Miss, is a Barnes & Noble which is walking distance from the campus.  Much of the appeal of large chain bookstores is that they are usually cheaper than independent stores and sometimes more convenient.  Miller writes, “In addition to managing a growing number of college bookstores, establishing trade bookstores in the Northeast, and operating the flagship Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, the company ventured into a number of other book-related businesses. These included publishing, textbook wholesaling, the distribution of books to supermarkets, and with the 1979 acquisition of a firm called Marboro, the mail-order book business as well” (Miller 47).  Barnes & Noble and other big chain bookstores have a tendency to put independent bookstores out of business mostly because of their immense resources in getting things cheaper and making then more accessible for customers, (another bookstore in the area, Baptist Books, closed), but that does not seem to be the case with Square Books, whose business has only grown from one store to three separate stores.

The space surrounding the stores are full of the culture which tends to develop around colleges.  That is, a variety in cuisine (local as well as international), music (Blues music seems to be very big in the area), and churches representing many different sects of the christian faith.  Square Books taps into this culture and does many readings and presentations, as well as, Off Square Books’ radio show, Thacker Mountain Radio, and Square Books, Jr. bringing the younger generation into the realm of books.

The college town aesthetic, which surrounds Square Books, makes coffee shops, pizza places, Japanese restaurants, and good Southern cooking thrive.  With the thriving food businesses and the rich history that Oxford, Mississippi holds, there is no doubt foot traffic for the bookstores through college students coming over for readings and tourists interested in the Civil War, William Faulkner, or simply going to Ajax Diner for some good Southern food.

 

Sources

Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

The Square At Oxford Mississippi. Dir. Justin Whitaker. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.

Maps/screen-cap taken from Google Maps