The Auburn Family is something that many people are a part of and cherish. Many things come to mind when thinking of the Auburn Family: rolling Toomer’s Corner after a win, giving Aubie a high five, the Tiger Walk before football games, the Jungle in Auburn Arena, getting lemonade at Toomer’s, saying “War Eagle” when you pass other Auburn fans and so much more. And a big part of that Auburn Family has been Johnston & Malone Bookstore.
J&M Bookstore was founded on May 19, 1953 by George Johnston and Paul Malone. Johnston bought Malone’s portion of the company in the 1960s, and it has remained in the Johnston family ever since. In 1968, the store went under a major remodel. The store dates back to 1878 where the name was Burtons. The shop had a few other owners and names before Johnston and Malone bought it and named it J&M Bookstore. Celebrating 68 years in May, George Johnston’s sons Trey and Skip now own the business. Trey runs the downtown location, and Skip runs the South College Street location.
“I always worked here as a kid,” Trey said. “I would go to baseball practice at Felton Little Park or somewhere playing basketball and would ride home with daddy to close up. I was sweeping floors or emptying the trash cans and doing all of that stuff as a teenager and kid. I worked here when I was in college.”
Trey has three daughters so the Johnston’s are planning on keeping it in the family. Currently, one of Trey’s daughters paints the artwork that is in the store, and her husband is one of the managers.
J&M Bookstore sells almost any kind of Auburn souvenir a person could want. They sell Auburn apparel as well as stickers, drink ware, artwork, bags, jewelry, cards, stickers, decals, art supplies and so much more. Originally, the store sold books, but recently decided to stop selling books and focus on Auburn souvenirs.
Game days are some of the best days in Auburn. Tailgating in the packed tents around campus and heading to the stadium before kickoff are part of the experience. J&M Bookstore is another main attraction on game days. The employees hand out Auburn stickers to everyone who walks in the door, and customers are often standing shoulder to shoulder.
Terry said he started giving out stickers to everyone who walked in because he wanted everyone to have a piece of J&M Bookstore.
“We enjoy game days,” Terry said. “It is crazy. People are coming and going. Several years ago, I started putting stickers on people because people would just come in here to get the feel. They would come in here just to smell the victory.”
A famous wall that every Auburn fan knows is the “War Eagle” painted brick wall next to the downtown location. It’s been been a photograph location for many fans, students and families who tour Auburn’s campus and for graduation pictures. The wall is owned by Ronnie Ware with Ware Jewelers, but dates back to the 1980s when George decided to paint it.
“It became an icon,” Terry said. “It’s become a place to get your senior portraits made.”
A unique aspect of J&M Bookstore is their employees. Over the decades, the bookstore has created thousands of jobs for Auburn students and locals as full-time or part-time employees. Many of their employees are college students trying to pay their way through college. However, one of their employees has worked there for 50 years. She fell in love with J&M and wanted to continue her time there, and she ended up retiring about four years ago.
Familiar faces have worked in the store. Terrance Finley is now the CEO of Books-A-Million, but Finley worked at J&M Bookstore through his college years at Auburn and grew his love for books.
“[Finley] was a good employee,” Trey said. “He was a lot of fun to be around. He was a doer. He was one of those kids that you didn’t have to tell him what to do all of the time.”
The original location of the bookstore is located in downtown Auburn. They opened up the second location in 1989 in Tigers Crossing and relocated it to University Village on South College Street in 2004. The downtown location is located at 115 S College St. with the second location less than two miles from the original at 1100 S College St.
J&M Bookstore has been a part of the Auburn family for decades and will be for a long time. UPS named J&M Bookstore to its Top 10 Football Town Business Landmarks in 2015. The store is loved by many and will continue to be one of the leaders with the Auburn spirit.