By Paula Weinman
The Unorganized Bookstore looks like that secret clubhouse you might have had as a kid: colorful, comfortable and filled with second-hand treasures.
A worn suede and leather moose head hangs on the wall. Old comic books share a table with a stack of faded puzzle boxes. Teas-just in case Mom visits-cover a counter dividing the front of the store from the back. And books are everywhere, on shelves, stacked on the floor and overflowing from plastic bins.
It's a bizarre and random collection, and it all started with Taylor grad Drew Zylstra ('11).
"Second semester freshman year, we had to do a marketing plan," Drew said. "I was the person assigned to study selling books online. I didn't think anything of it, and treated it like just another school project."
The project took on real-world dimensions for Drew the following summer, when his parents moved from his childhood home in Arkansas to Indianapolis.
"I basically didn't have any contacts for a job that summer, but I found a box of books at a garage sale," he said.
He decided to sell the books on the Internet and found out the online book business was an easy route to profit.
For the rest of his college career, Drew sold books online. During his sophomore year, he opened The Unorganized Bookstore.
The store keeps prices simple: Paperback books sell for $1 and hardbacks for $2. Books are separated into broad categories, such as fiction, reference or romance.
What time Drew's employees have at The Unorganized Bookstore they thoroughly enjoy. Daniel Yokum, the store's manager, said the people are his favorite part, and the staff's impromptu Nerf gun wars are a close second.
The boss agrees.
"We have about 30 Nerf guns hidden all around the back of the store," said Drew. "They're loaded and ready to go, so people can pull them out at any given time and start shooting."
As for the victor of these battles, Drew claims there is no contest.
"Definitely me. I have experience," he said. "I've grown up with them."
Nerf guns isn't Drew's only interest that has infiltrated the store. Peek over the teas on the countertop, and you'll discover a treasure trove of liquid gold-nearly 120 different kinds of honey.
"My first winter (at Taylor), I was so cold," Drew said. "I didn't have warm clothes at all, so I found myself drinking a lot of tea. Then for spring break, I went up to Michigan and came across a blueberry orchard. They were selling blueberry blossom honey."
Drew bought a jar and mixed the honey into his tea later that night. The blueberry honey became the first of many exotic honeys Drew discovered over the next few years.
"I found out there's an insane amount of different kinds of honey," Drew said. "I decided to become a honey connoisseur."
Customers can buy a cup of tea-and few teaspoons of unique and unusual honey to go with it-but sales are not the primary purpose of the "Exquisite Teas and Honey" corner.
"Drew just really loves to teach people about honey," said Daniel, as he rummaged through the tea cabinets. "I sell maybe one, two cups of tea a week. You can see that a lot of these (boxes of tea) haven't moved much over the years-the colored ones are all faded from facing the sun.
Kayla laughed a little and tossed the dart over her shoulder, postponing the Nerf gun war until further notice.
Drew shared different reasons for starting the tea corner.
"The Exquisite Teas and Exotic Honeys was supposed to be a cafe concept, but it really was just an excuse for me to buy more tea and honey." He grinned. "Quite frankly, it's more of a joke."
The store also does embroidery, as demonstrated by several quirky hats displayed on the counter next to the cash register.
Drew picked up two of the hats. One read, "Zombies were people, too!" The other: "Zombie Hunter."
As for the battered moose head hanging on the wall, Drew considers it a personal purchase.
"I liked it," he said. "About once a year, we do something called Barter Week, where basically people can bring us random crap, and we'll trade them for books. Someone brought in the moose head, and I was like, 'That's pretty cool. Yeah, I'll give you 20 books for that.'"
The next barter week will be the week of April 1-6, and Drew invites everyone to attend and contribute. If you're lucky, something you own could become a part of the zany, clubhouse-like collection of The Unorganized Bookstore.