Bethesda loses iconic bookstore Featured

Barnes and Noble closing signBarnes and Noble prepares to close its Bethesda store Jan. 11. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  BETHESDA — Maria Pagliarini and Brad Schwartz sat at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore’s café last week, sipping hot drinks and leafing through some magazines.

Their weekly excursions to the three-story bookstore on the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues in Bethesda have ended. Barnes and Noble, which has been at the heart of downtown Bethesda for 21 years, shuttered its doors for good on Thursday, after having failed to agree to the terms of a new lease.

“The lease at our Bethesda location will expire at the end of 2017 and the store will close in January 2018. We had discussions with the property owner in hopes of agreeing to an extension of the lease, but unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement. It has been our pleasure to have served this community and we hope to continue to serve our valued customers” at the Rockville store, wrote Jim Lampassi, vice president of real estate development.

Pagliarini said that many people go to the bookstore while shopping and eating in downtown Bethesda.

“It’s sad. It’s a Bethesda landmark,” said Paglairini of Potomac. “This is the meeting place. We go to the movies and we come here.”

Anthropologie, a clothing store whose parent company is Urban Outfitters, is expected to move in. The company did not respond to the Sentinel’s requests for an interview.

Anthropologie has a store in the Shops at Wisconsin Place in Chevy Chase.

Suzy Blonder visited the bookstore Saturday with her four-year-old, because, “I wanted to say goodbye to the place that’s been good to us. We’ve bought a lot of books here” and often came to the story hour program, she said.

“It’s kind of the hub of Bethesda,” said Blonder, a North Potomac resident.

Mrs. Smith of Chevy Chase, who asked that her first name not be used, stopped in this past weekend with three of her grandchildren, who ranged in age from five to 10 years old. Each of them sat quietly on the floor, totally engrossed in a book.

“We are going to miss it,” Mrs. Smith said.

Kaitlyn Wade of Bethesda also expressed regret. The store’s closing “is heartbreaking for me. I come to read. Most of the times I come away with a book or two.”

The medical student called Barnes and Noble “a nice place to study.”

Because some of the books were on sale during its last week, Wade and her boyfriend sat at the cafe with a large stack of books they planned to purchase, enjoying what was probably their final visit.

While Barnes and Noble is leaving Bethesda Row, the shopping area will not be without a bookstore for long. Amazon Books has announced it is “coming soon” to nearby 4860 Bethesda Avenue. The new store will be about 6,000 square feet, much smaller than the 37,500-foot Barnes and Noble.

The chain of retail book stores currently has 13 stores.

“We’ve applied over twenty years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping,” said Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books.

While most bookstores and libraries shelve books so that only the spine can be seen, “our books are placed face-out” so customers will be able to see the whole cover, she said. Also, beneath each book will be a review card listing its customer rating and a review, she said.

All books featured in Amazon stores have received a rating of four or more stars or are bestsellers on the company website.

“We are customer obsessed,” Cast wrote in an email to the Sentinel. 




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