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Field Trip: Barnes & Noble at One Loudoun

Barnes & Noble’s newest bookstore opened this week in Ashburn, VA, in the One Loudoun development. It’s their fourth official B&N Kitchen location, and the first near me (well, near-ish – it is about half an hour away).

It has been covered on a number of local news sites but none of the stories included first-hand reports by book people or other topical experts.

  • Beer, wine and books: Barnes & Noble opens in One Loudoun on Wednesday (Loudoun Times-Mirror)
  • Barnes & Noble looks to woo readers — and diners — in Ashburn (WBJ)
  • Barnes & Noble: Grand Opening Nov. 22, One Loudoun (Loudoun Tribune)
  • Barnes & Noble Opens One Loudoun Store(Loudoun Now)

I stopped in this afternoon, and was surprised at the difference between this location and your typical B&N store. It is reportedly 17,000 square feet in size, but I thought it was larger.

That could be due to the design aesthetic, which was less bookstore than a high-end grocery store’s produce dept.

The front of the building was glass, the ceiling was left bare so we could see the roof struts and ventilation system, and much of the floor was bare polished concrete. On the right end of the store was a cafe. The left and rear wall were divided into sections for teen, kids, education, science & tech, business, and self help. They were carpeted, had chairs, and were quite pleasant looking.

image by Rebecca Cooper via WBJ

Most of the open floor was filled with books on tables, although I don’t know that I should use the word "filled". The space was considerably less cluttered than my local B&N store in Manassas, VA. (That, and the fact the tables were below eye height – unlike bookshelves – may explain why the store felt larger.)

Another way this store differed from other B&N locations is that it is set up to be an event space. All of the tables in the center of the store could be wheeled out of the way so the tore could host a large event, or you could rearrange the chairs in one of the departments and hold a reading.

None of the B&N stores I’ve been in had event spaces like that – they all had fixed bookshelves which precluded rearranging the layout. Some stores like the one in Fredericksburg may have been able to repurpose the Nook dept, but most would have had to set up chairs in aisles to hold an event.

The reason this matters is that in 2017 bookstores can no longer rely on simply selling books. The ones that are thriving are actively seeking out ways to get people through the door.

Holding events is one option, and so is having a restaurant/cafe.

Speaking of which, the cafe in this store is a lot smaller than I had expected. I eyeballed the store, and I would estimate that the floor space is divided 75%, 20%, 5% between books, the cafe (plus its kitchen), and general merchandise (the Nook section was about 5 feet of counter space next to a customer service desk).

That is more square footage devoted to books than your typical B&N store, and also a bigger cafe. And as I mentioned above, it is also a more flexible layout than before.

This store is by no means the first to combine a restaurant and bookstore. In my immediate area, there’s KramerBooks and also a chain of restaurant bookstores called Busboy and Poets. And there are many other similar stores elsewhere.

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Mosby November 26, 2017 um 6:08 pm

I stopped by the Loudon One location last night. It seemed very crowded but I guess that was to be expected. I liked the new aesthetic of the place. The place is well lit. I didn’t east there but glanced at the menu.

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