This week’s news about B&N’s new store in Ashburn, VA, reminded me that Barnes & Noble recently opened Barnes & Noble store in Fredericksburg, VA.
Opened in late 2012, the Fredericksburg store was one of a handful of B&N stores which featured a smaller footprint and a large, centrally-located Nook section. (The Nook imploded less than four months later, which means this is probably the last store opened during the Nook bubble.)
I couldn’t find the square footage, but it did appear smaller than the B&N store in Manassas.
It was designed by Martin Roberts, and was based on a loop-style layout with the main entrance in the corner. With large glass doors, the entry looked something like a bank, rather than the library-inspired central entrance found in most B&N stores.
At the request of a reader, I went down to Fredericksburg and visited the store. I had been there once before, and I was curious to see whether the Nook section had been removed now that it was no longer earning its keep.
I found a store which looked as cluttered as I remembered. As you can see in the photos below, it had a lighter color scheme than B&N’s older stores, which reminded me of old libraries.
To the immediate left of the entrance were the registers, media (DVD and CDs) and educational departments, with a small kids dept in the far left corner. To the right was the new releases and promoted titles section and the sizeable newsstand, with the cafe anchoring the far right corner.
The majority of the two back walls are taken up by a journals (as in diaries) and gifts dept, and a games dept.
I didn’t get a good shot of all four aisles, but here are three of them.
The center of the store is taken up by books, and the Nook dept. (There are very few chairs outside the cafe.)
I was particularly interested in the state of the Nook dept. With B&N’s digital revenues down so low, B&N would have generated a better return of they’d ripped it out and replaced it with tchotchkes.
But no, it’s still there. Instead of removing it, B&N’s staff has repurposed the space as an event space.
On the day I was there, someone was giving a talk about teen books (as part of B&N’s B-Creative Teen Book Festival), and there were several folding tables set up with books, samples, and non-digital content, including a tablet set up in front of the big Nook promo screen.
There were less than a dozen people at the talk, including the speaker, but that was still more people than were browsing for Nook hardware.
All in all, that’s a great way to reuse the space, and it’s a shame that B&N didn’t plan for a shared community space from the beginning. Yes, they were focused on hardware, but if that space had been designed without the central pillar, if all the storage had been built into the surrounding walls, then B&N could have made it twice as functional.
Coincidentally, B&N planned to remodel 100 stores and add the larger Nook dept, but I don’t know if they followed through. Aside from the flagship store in NYC, I have not encountered any stores with that large Nook dept.
O O O
All in all, I would be hard put to call this a bookstore. Books and periodicals still accounted for around half the space, but the non-book stock gives it the feel of a media store, or perhaps a department store.
And with all the tables in the aisles, it felt like a cluttered media store, and was not a place I would like to browse for a book. The lack of chairs contributed to the uninviting feel.
Have you seen one of the new stores with a smaller footprint?