Mondragon: A Vision that Still Lives
In the quaint little town of Lewisburg, not far off the river bridge, sits a bookstore. It is not very big, by any means, but the story behind it warms the heart. Located just inside the borough lines, Mondragon creates a certain atmosphere that allows someone a chance to feel like they are walking into someones life, someones house, told through books. On the outside, this “place” appears to fit in with the surrounding culture, hiding in a Victorian era house, but still serves the newer custom of a college town.
In Tim Cresswell’s Place: A Short Introduction, He thoroughly defines what a place is described as. In order for something to be considered a place, you have to experience what it is like to be in that area to develop your own ideas of this “place.” Not only does Mondragon fit the external beauty of Lewisburg, but as soon as you walk inside, you are greeting with the loving kindness that surrounds the town, its people, and the area. As soon as I walked in the store on my first visit, I was amazed at what I saw and the warm reception by not only the workers, but the manager. When I began to walk around, I felt the sense of not a bookstore, but of home. Home!
With most corporate “chained” bookstores, their coffee shop is usually a corporate name, such as Starbucks or Seattle’s Best, and outrageously priced, as well as the books . But at Mondragon, the sense of home was even more enhanced with their “coffee shop”, which was an old closet transformed into a miniature kitchenette with hot water, coffee, and teas. Their coffee was “their treat to you” as their valued customers. In meeting with the manager and now owner, I soon got a feel for the true style of what people from Lewisburg are like. After walking through the store and getting to know Sarajane, the manager, we ended up having a very informal meeting with a very friendly visitor: the Mondragon cat!
In the brief time Sarajane and I were able to spend together, I learned not only the story of Mondragon came into existence, but the meaning it has to her and the town of Lewisburg. Most specifically, the direct connection the founder of the bookstore has with Bucknell University, the private college on the southern end of the town. She also explained to me the wonderful connection she has made with other local bookstores and how they have different programs and trading that they share.
Sarajane explained that the one way that they get involvement from the Lewisburg community and those that surround is the amount of volunteers that come to Mondragon to keep the bookstore going. Many work all day and volunteer in the afternoons and weekends, or they are retired and willing to work to keep everything going. The other way they keep going is by the generous giving of used books from the people of the community or from yard sales. Sarajane shared “there is never a bad book, just an under-appreciation for ones work, which is why there are over 10,000 books in this store.”
Though my visit at Mondragon was brief, the amount of time I spent was a reassuring factor for the small independent bookstore, especially in this area. Since the Central Susquehanna River Valley in predominantly rural, we are based off of the “Mom and Pop” retailers and restaurants as our main source of goods. As one that has lived in the area my whole life, walked the streets of Lewisburg or Milton, I’ve seen the big push from the larger chains driving the “Mom and Pops” out of business. Seeing a store, such as Mondragon, strive in goodness is a very heart warming reassurance that we are holding onto our heritage in supporting the people and kinds of places that helped develop this “place” we call home! Part of the feel I get from Mondragon, besides the personal and dedicated service is the feeling of home, just as Roger felt in Parnassus on Wheels. The Foundation of where people build their business from is not in just what they stock, but the personal touches make to each individual customer, and making it feel like “home”. At Mondragon, their new since should not just say “Welcome”, but “Welcome Home!”, as you’re greeting by your neighbors and a cup of coffee.
Cresswell, Tim. Place: a Short Introduction. Blackwell Pub., 2009
Morley, Christopher. Parnassus on Wheels. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1917.
Tiger, the Mondragon Cat (Mackenzie Bowers)
Mondragon Books (Mondragon Books)