A Look at Square Books: Modern Oxford

 

 

Square Books is a bookstore located in the heart of the south, Oxford, Mississippi. The store opened in the September of 1979, founded by both Richard and Lisa Howorth, as a privately owned bookstore. Oxford is the town that houses the University of Mississippi, a school that has produced many a great writer, including the likes of John Grisham, William Faulkner, and John Faulkner. It comes with no surprise that a town with such great academic history would also house an amazing bookstore that specializes in literary fantasy, works of Southern authors, and books packed with information about the South.

A simple map of the Oxford area, just giving an outline of the size of the town and an easy way to view stores in the area, from Google Maps

From the outside of Square Books, you can see a clear old school traditional bookstore look with the building itself. The building has a distinct smooth brick red color with gray decals towards the top of the building. From the front I was able to see a large glass window spanning the front of the first floor of the two story building, peeking in at the books that are on display to the public. As I used streetview to turn the corner of the street, there is a staircase marked going up to the second floor of the store and the balcony that branches directly off of it for customers to sit outside and enjoy the weather and read a book that they just bought or for groups to meet and discuss or just hang out.

Front shot of the Square Books Building courtesy of Google Maps Street View

Shot from the side of the same building courtesy of Google Maps Street View

The most notable feature of Oxford is undoubtedly Ole Miss. The University of Mississippi is a public university specializing in research with a student body of over 20,000 and an 81% acceptance rate. The facilities of the school take up a large chunk of the cityscape but also add greatly to the amount of people that reside in the town with almost the same population as the school. Oxford has been called one of the six best college towns by USA Today and the county that is resides in, Lafayette County, typically has the lowest unemployment rate per quarter in the state. And while technically the University of Mississippi doesn’t actually reside within the town, instead opting to call the surrounding area “University”, it very much fuels the kind of stores and market of the city. I have personal experience living in a college town, as I reside in Newark, DE, home of the University of Delaware and the Fightin’ Blue Hens so I understand how city culture and the stores around it can almost revolve around the kinds of students there.

The Law Building of Ole Miss, courtesy of law.olemiss.edu

The Law Building of Ole Miss courtesy of their website

While Newark has a heavily asian focused cuisine due to the high amount of transfer students from the East that we have, Oxford seems to have alot more local style creole food and cheap chain restaurants to cater to the residents of the area and the students who are still struggling to make a living there, paying for school. Stores like Little Caesar’s, Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell and the like are focused around the major roads and the school itself while the town center where all of the residents and the bookstore hole themselves up have more local cuisine. This really manifests itself with the stores Boure, Soulshine Pizza Factory, and Rib Cage. All of these stores have a very southern focus, with Boure being a casual creole restaurant, Soulshine Pizza being a store that specializes in serving both pizza and po’ boys (an old cajun tradition that puts meat and condiments on a French baguette that typically has a Louisiana styled hot sauce on it; I would recommend them, catfish po’ boys with melted butter on them are absolutely amazing) and Rib Cage, a shop serving up barbecue, a classic southern staple.

Boure, Creole Restaurant

Soulshine Pizza Factory, Pizzas and Po’ Boys

Rib Cage, Traditional Southern BBQ

Other things of note in the town are the fact that there are over 80 churches of various faiths and denominations spanning the area around the city and the schools of the Lafayette School district residing inside of the city limits that have some of the highest test scores of the entire state, and the county courthouse sitting only across the street. For entertainment outside of the bookstore and watching the Ole Miss Rebels play, there is The Lyric Oxford performing arts theater only two blocks from the bookstore and several strip malls just off 314 to the east.