The Chest that Holds Many Treasures

Strolling down Market Street the first thing I notice when approaching DJ Ernst is the welcoming sign hanging out front. When I first enter the store around the late afternoon, my presence was made aware of by the sound of a faint bell ringing above the door. Then looking around at first sight I noticed the warm, setting sunlight pouring into the store through the two large front windows. Each bookshelf stood out from one another with all of their different books popping with color. I instantly feel a sense of home and comfort right as I spot out the old worn out armchair with a knitted blanket laid on top.

Walking through the store you”ll noticed there is not really a systematic design set up by Ernst for his floor plan. At first glance, from walking through the front door, smack in the middle of the store and slightly off to the left is an oddly shaped display of books. Observing the structure more closely it seemed that this book shelf was made up of several types of wooden pieces. Some of the shelves were tall while others were small and there was even a table that was thrown into the mix. Each of these shelves hold a variation of book from $12.00 paperbacks, to multiple topics of books and even full collections. All of which are facing in different directions. The way it is placed directs customers to travel around the perimeters of the store, evenly distributing the traffic that comes in instead of directing them in a specific direction. Some people who are lookin for a more corporate style may not appeal to this, but I for one like it because it adds character which I think is important for running and independent store.

Both Homer and his father started this business out of their passion for books, therefore Ernst did not know much on how to be a bookseller. I think this reflects in his floor plan because unlike corporate bookstores DJ Ernst Books is not very detailed oriented when it comes to its organization within the bookshelves. It is clearly grown from his pure interest and love for books. Not only is Ernst’s store filled with books , but it is also personalized by surrounding every inch of the wall space with various possessions like postcards, pictures of his family, articles cut out from newspapers about his store, and multiple maps and images of Pennsylvania. You can tell by all of these photos and newspaper cut outs that he is proud of his accomplishments of growing into being a successful independent bookstore owner. By sharing these various memories the store is made even more personable, which i think is the store’s true character.

The shelves on the outer perimeters are flush against the walls with each of their genres handwritten on pieces of paper. Although most of the books are on the shelves there are also three rows of books neatly stacked on the floor, spine up, in front of the shelves. Most of what covers the floors are the cheapest editions used and paperback books. It is almost as if he has too many books for his store to display. It is not necessarily organized in a traditional sense, but as Walter Benjamin refers to in his essay  “Unpacking My Library”: “For what else is a collection but a disorder in which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order” (Benjamin, 60).


To the right of the store, flush against the window side is where a variety of Shakespeare plays are stocked in several additions. As you keep walking towards the right side of the store is where one of the larger book cases is flush against the wall. It holds a variety of genres such as Poetry, American Literature, Hunting, Philosophy and a few others that you can follow towards the back of the store. As you near towards the back following that shelf, to left is where the cash register is along with a small shelf stocked with books written by professors at Susquehanna University. Across from this shelf to the left of the cash register, is where most of the older classics are held along with lesser known writers and even some fantasy and adventure books.

Finally almost wrapping around full circle, behind the previously mention bookshelf, flush against the wall are where all of the different history books are held. When looking around Homer’s bookstore it reminds me of Walter Benjamin’s writing on his collection of books, as he describes his library with “the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with…paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again” (Benjamin, 59). Homer gives not only his store its own unique identity, but also his books in the ways he displays them. Writing this I am also coming to the conclusion that the second true character of DJ Ernst Books would be self identity. From starting out of pure fascination of books to slowly learning the roles of what it takes to be a successful independent bookstore owner.





Floor Plan

hand drawn by Laurel Jakucs


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Benjamin, Walter. Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting. Schocken Books, 1931.