The Magnificent Mondragon
A doctors office turned center for the County Democratic Committee turned a hub for Lewisburg, the building which is now home to Mondragon Books has seen many businesses come and go and has had to undergo various interior changes over the years. Although Mondragon is quite small due to its structure, owner Sarajean utilizes the space by making sure books are stacked so high, barely any wall space can be seen. The makeup of the hidden bookstore is surely anything but that of an ordinary corporate bookstore with its maze-like pathways and hidden rooms.
Mondragon has two entrances, one leading in from the outside and one leading to the actual bookstore. Entering into the second door, I was greeted by the “Front Room.” This room highlighted the owner, Sarajean’s personality the most as many books about cooking, health, nature, and overall self-sufficiency are standing on their shelves.
As I wandered through the tiny, yet filled bookstore I noticed that there is a room for everyone. With the wide variety of books all carefully placed in their own rooms, I had seen that me, as well as my partners, had been drawn to and developed a meaning toward a specific room.
In order to gain that attachment, it is required that a visitor browses around and focuses on the books within each room as there is no specific label to any room which means one would not know what types of books are in a room until they walk into it. Being adventurous, I found myself enjoying that aspect for I could create my own themes as I closely observed each book carefully and drew my own conclusions. With this feature, I had become aware of my immediate fondness for not only the bookstore but to one specific room because I was able to create my own unique meaning, ultimately generating a bond.
My first instance with realizing this was when I entered the “Side Room”, the first room I was drawn to. I named this room the Geography Room. Consisting of secondary sources about different countries as well as the history of those countries and foreign affairs with a window front table to relax, read, and enjoy a cup of coffee from the Front Room’s coffee closet. While being the most aesthetically pleasing, I found myself rushing out due to my great disliking for anything about history. That room was surely not for me. However, individuals who enjoy politics as well as expanding their knowledge of the world will find pleasure in exploring this part of Mondragon.
The layout of the Side Room consisting of books relating to the history of countries as well as a coffee table aligned with the window.
Opposite of the Side Room I headed to the Middle Room, the second biggest room next to the Front Room. I found myself amazed by the selection of books and items placed upon the shelves, books relating to topics regarding race, philosophy, and religion, surrounding the walls and in the middle of the room, two sofa chairs on either side of a small bookshelf containing Shakespeare. This room also held many small items like one dollar postcards, pins, and buttons. My favorite object of all? The Black History flashcards laying on the second highest level of a bookshelf, just about eye level to me. Being as I am African American and understanding that Lewisburg is not the most diverse town, I appreciated that those cards were not only made a part of Mondragon but placed in an area where any customer can see them. The Middle Room had made a strong impression on me and proved to be my favorite room out of the whole store as it symbolized diversity and inclusion through the art of literature.
To the right of the entrance of the Middle Room is the hallway leading to the Back Room. At first sight, I thought the hallway was off limits to customers and was hesitant to peek as I believed it lead to a break room or the owner’s room. However, it was soon discovered that the hallway leads to the Back Room above all, the hallway even held books!
The Back Room hold fiction, poetry, Sci-fi, fantasy, and children’s fiction, vinyls, handmade coasters which resembles mini vinyls from classic albums, and many signs labeling the discounts of certain books. Individuals with strong imaginations who consider themselves free spirited and enjoy opening their minds while reading a wide variety of fiction and sci-fy novels will not be let down when entering this room.
Aside from the attachment different customers develop to each room or their own specific room in the store, the owners love and commitment for their bookstore is also taken into mind as their layout speaks for each owners personality. Seeing Sarajean put pieces of herself into this store makes it easier for customers who know her to also form a close relationship with Mondragon. Is it just Sarajean reflecting her personality into her bookstore that draws all of these individuals in or is there more to that? Could it also be that that Sarajean is well respected throughout the community so her store is able to thrive based on that? Or is her book selection just magnificent?
Visiting Mondragon Books and hearing what Sarajean had to say about her collection of books and also detecting how much “literary education” (Miller, 201) she has acquired throughout her years of running this store is certainly beyond impressive. Definitely not something one would hear from an employee working at a corporate bookstore. Laura J Miller highlights in her book, Reluctant Capitalist Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption, that “independents see themselves, in contrast to chains, as devoted to books for their own sake rather than as a means to acquire monetary reward” (Miller, 165) which is something I noticed about Mondragon.
Sarajean’s knowledge of these books and of her customers allows her to select literature that she knows shoppers will appreciate and want to buy because they would be interested. With the layout of her store, customers know exactly where to visit whereas in a corporate bookstore, not only is the space so big that it is harder to develop an attachment due to being overwhelmed by what feels like an abundance of books. But these books are also continuously moved around so that a shopper will hopefully become distracted while in the process of searching for what they want. The purpose of Mondragon’s layout is to provide a relaxing environment that allows customers to gain an attachment so that they are able to feel comfortable while wandering through the maze-like rooms and also draw them into coming back because they want to, not because they have to.
Map created by Thinglink
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. University of Chicago Press, 2014.