Downtown Auburn will soon get something it hasn't seen in recent memory — an independent bookstore featuring new releases, a wine and coffee bar and plenty of events for those wanting to scratch their literary itch and foster a book-loving community.
June Wilcox and her husband, Mike Armor, plan to open Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers right in the heart of downtown along Magnolia Avenue where the boutique Dress Up used to be. The vision for the bookstore will model the couple's other bookstore in Greenville, South Carolina — M. Judson Booksellers, which opened in 2015.
"The bookstores here are much more focused on the university and they’ve got great gear and that kind of thing, but there wasn’t a traditional independent bookstore, so we really felt like that was a great niche," said Wilcox. "You’ve got a college town, so you’ve got the right base for it."
The inspiration for the bookstore's name springs from Armor's deep roots in the Auburn area. Mike grew up in Auburn and graduated from Auburn University. His father, Murphy Armor, also owned Auburn Oil Company and a string of gas stations in the area starting in the 1950s.
"At the time, those locations were very much the place where people came and sat and hung out and told stories, kind of a community feel, so we very much want to use that as an inspiration," Wilcox said. "And that’s what we want to be here is a hub. It’s a way to honor Murphy and also to represent who we want to be."
In addition to offering a general selection of books, including new releases, Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers will host what Wilcox calls "nontraditional kinds of events."
"We really specialize in Southern literature and cooking, so we’ll bring that same expertise here,"she said. "We have the book readings and that sort of thing, but we have a real vibrant Lunch & Lit program where we have an orchestrated three-course lunch where an author comes and you get a book. We also do different cocktail events, just anything we can do that’s kind of different.
"We’re really going to try to figure out what would be ideal for this market, what would people want to do and then develop events around that."
The bookstore also plans to feature a coffee bar and feature wine and desserts.
"That’s the intent is to have coffee all day because they go really great together, coffee and books," she said. "But we’ll also do the wine and desserts, and we’ll be open later hours. That’s something we’ve found that’s really nice to have, something that’s not a bar, a place that you can go and have a glass of wine and a nice dessert after going to dinner."
Wilcox and Armor have also gotten support from one of the more famous authors to come out of Auburn — Auburn alum and novelist Ace Atkins.
"Ace Atkins has been a wonderful support for us," she said. "And Ace has wonderful connections within the university, and we hope to get to leverage some of his knowledge of the university as we navigate this area.
"He’s a very successful author and is providing a lot of support and consultation as we get going."
Wilcox said the hope is to open the bookstore in early October while the football team is busy playing away games.
"Our drawings just cleared the city for the upfit," she said. "The fact that there are no home games in October seems like really great timing to us.
"We feel like getting our legs under us before the city has this huge influx of people. We’d like to get started in October and be ready when November comes, which will be pretty crazy."
You can check out the website of M. Judson Booksellers to get an idea of what the new bookstore in Auburn will offer. It can be found at mjudsonbooks.com.
Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers' can be found at www.auburnoilbooksellers.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
"We’re just super-excited to be a part of this community," Wilcox said.