At J&M, ‘It’s about more than just shopping. It’s the experience.’
For more than 60 years, the familiar look and feel of J&M Bookstore has greeted Toomer’s Corner visitors. Generations of Auburn University students, alumni and fans say visiting and shopping at the store is an AU family tradition.
“We are truly blessed with the following that we have,” said Trey Johnston. “People will say, ‘Y’all are the one constant that I remember from my time at Auburn University.’ It’s about more than just shopping. It’s the experience.”
The downtown bookstore and a second location at University Village on South College Street sell textbooks, art supplies, Auburn apparel and souvenirs.
J&M Bookstore was opened in May 1953 by George Johnston and Paul Malone. In the 1960s, George bought out Paul’s portion of the business and since then, J&M has been wholly owned by the Johnston family.
Today, brothers Skip and Trey Johnston own and operate the family business. Most days, you’ll find Trey greeting customers and energizing fans on game day at the downtown location, while Skip oversees operations at the South College Street location.
“We love Auburn. Having a small, family-run business allows us to fully invest in the community. It’s especially fun around here in the
fall when alumni come back,” said Skip Johnston.
Between the two stores, 35 people are gainfully employed. “A lot of people depend on J&M. We have people who’ve worked for the business for 50 years. And we have a lot of college students who work for us as well,” said Skip.
One of those former student employees says working at J&M Bookstore launched a lifetime career in book sales. Terry Finley, who is now the CEO of Books-a-Million, the second largest bookseller in the country, worked at J&M Bookstore to put himself through college.
Skip said, “We still have books, although they’re not as popular as they used to be for us. Now, it’s the souvenirs and AU gear that bring people to shop. We have parents who come here and shop. And now their kids and even their grandkids come here and shop, too.”
Skip Johnston is the newest member of the Alabama Retail Association board of directors. His term began Jan. 1. Skip, who holds a bachelor of science in education from Auburn University, officially joined the family business in 1983. He’s proud of the big footprint the store leaves on every Tiger fan.
It’s not just the store itself that holds a revered place in the hearts of all Auburn students, past and present. The store maintains a painted brick wall next to the original location that bears the university’s battle cry “War Eagle.” It is arguably the most popular backdrop for photos, particularly for graduating seniors, that’s not officially part of Auburn’s campus.
While the landscape of downtown Auburn and Auburn University continues to change, the Johnstons say they have no plans to change the look of J&M.
“Those shingles out front have hung on the building for more than a century,” said Trey. “It’s important to maintain that presence.”
J & M Bookstore, an Alabama Retail Association member since 1992, at 115 S. College St. and J&M II (University Village) at 1100 S. College St. in Auburn are open Monday through Saturday. Business hours vary based on the season and kick off time for Auburn University football games. Learn more at jmbooks.com