Bux — a curious name for a bookstore. Its pronunciation is a cross between “books” and “bucks,” and with the store material’s cheap prices, its tongue-in-cheek nature seems entirely intentional.
You’ll see the store if you go to the Culver Center. It sits on the right side of the first floor, so it’s visible if you approach it from Riverside’s town hall. If you peek in through the window, you’ll notice it’s a sparsely populated bookstore, although “sparsely” may be putting it lightly; there were no other customers in there the three times I visited, and I wondered if that was the norm for the bookstore. I could imagine one student out of every thousand casually bring up their visit to Bux. “You’ve probably never heard of it,” they’d snidely remark. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
Every time I entered the Culver Center I was immediately asked if I’d like to visit the primary halls and exhibitions that were going on. I hadn’t even turned my head toward Bux before I was asked this. It’s not a good sign when the people running the front desk assume that you’re not there to visit the Center’s newest bookstore.
The interior is, if anything, unique. Riverside is well-known for its DIY subculture, where one man’s broken toilet or loose stool leg is another man’s practical piece of art. And while Riverside hasn’t entirely caught the DIY bug, it’s inevitable that the city’s contrasting cultures rub off on one another; the graceful 90-degree angles that make up the Culver Center and the nicotine-choked, hardboard environment of Back to the Grind collide together in Bux, and the result of this clash isn’t what you’d expect, to say the very least. White rectangular tables and small plexi cubes — existing exhibition furniture — inhabit the center and sides of the bookstore. On the walls is a strange wallpaper that I can only describe as the Jazz paper cup design that was popular in the ‘90s. As for the ceiling — well, there is no finished ceiling, to be precise. And given the pop-up shop nature of Bux, it doesn’t look like they’ll be finishing the ceiling anytime soon.
“Because it’s a pop-up shop, it’s very temporary,” said Jennifer Frias, a curator for the Sweeney Art gallery. “But at the same time, we did want to make it look too temporary … and we also have to make everything modular to a point where if we have to leave this space, how do we go about doing everything within (our) limitations.”
The small space that Bux currently occupies was supposed to be a cafe, and the higher-ups still plan to eventually turn the space into a cafe in the near future. Frias highlighted the potential frustration of wanting to balance the ideal bookstore with practicality and sales numbers. “It’s (Bux) supposed to be a retail space, but it’s also an art institution.”