AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — Trey Johnston has made a lot of memories in his family’s shop in Auburn over the years. But the Final Four is something he’s never experienced.
Johnston and his brother own J&M Bookstore, a fixture in downtown Auburn since their father opened it in 1953. Just down the street from Toomer’s Corner, the store has become an iconic establishment for Auburn students and for fans visiting on football Saturdays. This week, they’re selling Final Four shirts for the first time.
“This is just incredible right now,” Johnston said. “We’re all building for A-Day in a couple weeks. All of a sudden, we’re chasing Final Four T-shirts and possible national championships.”
It’s a nice boost of business during a typically slow time of year when fans typically fix their focus on football spring practice. But basketball is the big topic now, and it’s brought enough extra business to require reinforcements.
“I recently retired from J&M Bookstore,” Johnston said. “But being a part owner, my brother has drafted me back to be working this weekend – this week, for that matter – because we’ve had to catch up a little bit on sales and what’s happening.”
The rush started Sunday evening following Auburn’s overtime victory over hoops power Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Fans stormed Toomer’s Corner and, in keeping with tradition, rolled the area’s trees with toilet paper. Johnson decided to open the store, but by the time he arrived on campus the closest parking was at Auburn Junior High School, 1.8 miles away. He walked to the store and opened its doors to a crowd of passionate fans.
“They came in wheelchairs, they came in walkers, they came in strollers,” he said. Young, old, all types. Even ran into a couple of my Bama buddies. They’ve fallen in love with the Auburn Tigers now – at least Auburn Tiger basketball.”
It’s the latest Auburn memory for a lifelong Tiger fan – the son of a bookstore owner and a former Miss Auburn. He’s seen the campus change, the town grow, and, finally, the development of the basketball team.
“Growing up in Auburn when Auburn was really a small village was really unique,” Johnston said. “And to see it where it is now with all the growth, development and people wanting to live here and raise their children here, and the success of the basketball, the new arena and things like that – it’s mind-boggling, really.”
Auburn plays Virginia in the Final Four Saturday at 5:09 p.m.