Coffee is on at Mondragon
Settled on the edge of what is now known as the “college town” of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, sits the used book store, Mondragon Books. If you walked by it too fast, you’d miss it, mistaking it for yet another Victorian-style home that Lewisburg is oh-so famous for. I sure did, despite how many times I’ve been down that very street. But if you’re strolling through Lewisburg, say as a college student exploring the town for the first time, you may be intrigued just enough to go in.
This exact situation probably happens more often than not. Lewisburg’s median age is 24.3, a number largely brought down by the presence of Bucknell University students (Data USA). In fact, Bucknell students make up the majority of Lewisburg’s population. There are 3,600 undergraduates (Bucknell University) to a total population of 5,757 (Data USA).
All of Lewisburg seems to be a making a shift to appeal more to college students. Market Street is lined with hip boutiques, hopping restaurants, an art gallery, and even a cat cafe. At the same time, it manages to keep its Victorian-esque history with an old style looking buildings like the Lewisburg Hotel.
Even the outside of Mondragon has an old, homey sort of look to it. The outside could be a front door, with a table and chairs nestled underneath the ground floor window. The store itself is divided into four rooms, with each room housing different genres, and as you peruse through the sections, tipping your head slightly to the side to read the spines of the books, it’ll feel a little bit like being home home. Mondragon even has a cat in residence, who greeted me when I first walked through the door with a sniff and an air of indifference. A couch sits in the middle of the first room, with a tea and coffee station just in front of it. A sign above the beverage station reads, “Coffee is on at Mondragon” and “Coffee and tea are gifts from us to you. Please help yourself.”
It’s hard not to wonder if the creation of such a warm, welcoming, and comfortable atmosphere was intentional. Lewisburg is full of excited and eager-to-learn college students, ready to explore all the town has to offer. Yet, when they’ve exhausted the restaurants and browsed the boutiques, they may find themselves missing a warm place to rest with a book in their lap and a cat staring at them from a distant corner.
That’s where Mondragon comes in.
Mondragon offers this vital majority of Lewisburg’s population a place to relax and unwind away from the stress of university and the hustle and bustle of Market Street. It even offers itself as such, with the words “meeting place” on the sign outside insinuating to passers-by that this is a place to come spend time in and meet with people. It is home, as much as a home-away-from-home can be.
In his book Place: a short introduction, Tim Creswell explains the difference between space and place by saying, “These are the haunting of pas inhabitation. This anonymous space has a history–it meant something to some other people. Now what do you do? …You could add your own possessions, rearrange the furniture within the limits of the space,…arrange a few books purposefully on the desk. Thus space is turned into place. Your place” (Cresswell, 2). This is exactly what Mondragon seems to have done; taken this space that used to be someone’s home, and turned into a place for students and other visitors to call home, too. One could even say they have filled it with things that are “theirs,” simply by showcasing multiple local authors within the store.
Mondragon even further establishes it as a home-like place through its inclusivity. Creswell writes, “Massey’s Kilburn is, in her words, a ‘meeting place’ where a particular ‘constellation of social relations’ comes together in place. Her observations of Kilburn draws her toward a new ‘extrovert,’ ‘progressive,’ and ‘global’ sense of place marked by the following…Place as a site of multiple identities and histories” (Cresswell). If one of Massey’s criteria for a place is its willingness to be a place of “multiple identities and histories,” Mondragon matches perfectly. First it was a house and now a bookstore. On the door is a sign welcoming all who enter, regardless of who they are.
Bowers, Mac. The entrance to Mondragon Books. Digital file, 6 Feb. 2019.
—. Mondragon’s Resident Cat. Digital file, 6 Feb. 2019.
—. Outside Mondragon. Digital file, 6 Feb. 2019.
“The Facts About Bucknell.” Bucknell University, www.bucknell.edu/About.
“Lewisburg, PA.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/lewisburg-pa.
Bowers, Mac. Google Map of Lewisburg and Mondragon. Google Maps file, 9 Feb. 2019. Map.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: a Short Introduction. Blackwell Pub., 2009.