Nestled in between Tin Roof Teas and a trendy boutique, the brand-new Barnes & Noble is officially open for business in the Village District. Located only a mere 10-minute walk from Hillsborough Street, it’s near impossible to resist browsing after a peek inside.
Immediately upon arrival, you’ll realize that it’s not your typical Barnes & Noble. Formerly a Pier One Imports, the storefront is expansive and airy, and customers have plenty of room to wander and browse the countless walls of books. From manga, to academic nonfiction to spirituality, there’s something for every bookworm.
“We love having these rooms, or nooks as we call them sometimes,” said Jen Curtis, the Village District Barnes & Noble store manager. “That way, it gives definitely more of an intimate feel to a larger space.”
The space is, in fact, large, and the concrete floors and bright lights can seem harsh at first glance. However, the numerous cozy reading spots, rugs and tables stacked with books give the storefront a much warmer feel. In fact, the general aesthetic of the store was a point of praise for some of the first visitors.
“They like that it’s nice and open and bright, and they’re loving the selection of books that they’re finding,” Curtis said. “We have a great selection of interior design, cooking, home and garden, those really nice coffee table books that are a little hard to find.”
By all accounts, the Village District Barnes & Noble could be described as fun sized. There’s no cafe or dedicated reading space, outside of the chairs tucked into a couple of the nooks. However, its unorthodox appearance doesn’t negate the fact that a community bookstore was sorely needed in the downtown Raleigh area.
“These first couple of weeks are really going to be about curating the store to what Village District means, right, not what everybody else in the country needs,” Curtis said.
Beyond the welcoming ambiance of the bookstore, another event brought new customers through the doors: a ribbon-cutting ceremony courtesy of Delia Owens, bestselling author of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which topped bestseller lists for weeks on end in 2019 and 2020.
“She has done so much for Southern fiction, and she has really underlined the importance of female authors,” Curtis said. “We were just in a really great position to be able to have her come and do the ribbon-cutting with us and spend some time with us.”
Owens won’t be the first high-profile author that Barnes & Noble will host, either. According to Curtis, the storefront is aiming to host book signings almost every weekend.
“With COVID, I think there’s gonna be some gaps, there are some authors that are kind of pulling back,” Curtis said. “But this weekend, we have Eric Lodin. He’s coming to do a book signing, and we’ve got some set up for later in the month.”
Those interested in attending any of the Village District’s Barnes & Noble community events can check them out on the company’s website. That being said, it’s absolutely worth it to show up on a whim, browse and maybe even buy a book or two.