Their main product is still books, but Barnes & Noble will be selling much more than the printed word when it opens its newest store this week in One Loudoun.
Doors will be open Tuesday (Nov. 21) as the 17,000-square-foot gathering place has a “soft” opening, and the grand opening is scheduled Nov. 22. The Ashburn location combines an open-design store with the Barnes & Noble Kitchen, offering fast-casual dining and a beer and wine bar.
It is the fifth store in the United States and first in the Washington, D.C., area to feature Barnes & Noble’s prototype concept.
In an era in which brick-and-mortar stores are being disrupted by online vendors, Barnes & Noble is continuing to open large, new retail outlets with the philosophy that they can offer an experience that internet shopping can’t. Ashburn Store Manager Christopher Louderback sums it up in one word.
“I think the answer – the only answer – is hospitality,” Louderback said Monday during a preview of the store for local media. “Our mission is to create a space that’s inviting and that brings guests in – from the openness of the building all the way through. The message of hospitality is to come, stay, visit us for a while. It’s not just about shopping. We want there to be an experience, from beginning to end, where people feel comfortable like they are in their own home.
“This is their bookstore. That’s how we want them to feel.”
The grand opening is Nov. 22, with events scheduled daily to launch the business and attract their guests. Management did allow, however, that the doors will unlock Nov. 21 for a “soft” opening.
Two whole sides of the store feature floor-to-ceiling windows. As a result, Louderback said they already have had a steady stream of window-shoppers and people trying the doors to come in and shop.
“We think people are ready and eager to come in and start enjoying this space,” Louderback said. “One day, there was a whole group of school kids who had been in the area for a movie or something. They were right up against the glass, trying to see what was in the store.”
The layout of the store allows for a clear view of every department from the front door, which Louderback said makes the space even more inviting and hospitable.
“From the moment they walk through the front doors, anyone, in a matter of seconds, can easily see where they might want to start their experience,” he said. “From the color schemes to the signage, everything is designed to be welcoming for our guests.”
To the right of the front doors is the Barnes & Noble Kitchen, which will serve fast-casual, locally sourced food whenever the store is open.
The all-day menu items reflect the seasonality of local ingredients and feature dishes that include mezze plate with hummus, artisan cheese plate, warm BBQ potato chips and heirloom tomato salad with burrata. Grab-and-go items, including fresh salads and sandwiches, will also be available throughout the day.
Beginning at 4 p.m. each day, the kitchen will offer an expanded menu featuring dishes such as herb-rubbed chicken with crispy potatoes, pan-roasted salmon, a brisket hickory burger, and gluten-free items. Menu items are made-to-order and delivered to the customer’s table.
The food can be consumed in the kitchen area or taken over into the main part of the bookstore where a variety of seating areas are provided – from round, plastic benches at the Lego table in the kids area to padded rocking chairs in the middle of the store.
Louderback said the menu is geared toward the Loudoun County audience and features locally sourced food. The wine and beer selections also have a local flavor.
“All five of the restaurants, including us, are doing local wines and beers,” he said. “So, four of our wines are local and three of our beers are local.
“Each store is a little different with each store aiming to speak to the local community. Of course, we want any guest from anywhere to walk in and have a great experience, but we are really aiming at each local community where we are positioned and knowing who our guests are and what they want in our store. We want them to come in and feel at home with things that are familiar – along with some new things.”
The store also features new technology, with booksellers equipped with mobile engagement devices providing detailed information to assist customers as they are browsing. Those devices also can be used to complete a customer’s purchase without having to wait in a check-out line.
Self-serve kiosks are also located throughout the store to help find products and enable customers to order and ship directly to their homes.
Carl Hauch, vice president of stores for Barnes & Noble, echoed Louderback’s summary of the company’s philosophy with stores like the one at One Loudoun.
“You can get the same products online, but you can’t get the same experience,” he said. “We’re hoping to create an environment where people can get together and connect over books and stay a while.
“It’s a place where people can come and engage with one another and their books, and we think that is part of the experience.”1 comment