By Charlotte Aguilar
Many bibliophiles were skeptical whether Barnes & Noble — when announcing the closing of the 28-year location in Vanderbilt Square last year — was sincere about its posted request for help in finding a new location nearby.
Rip Reynolds, leasing agent for Weslayan Plaza, confirmed to Essentials Saturday that the store is reopening on the west side of the development at Weslayan and Bissonnet, near both West University and Bellaire.
The site plan shows the book and music retailer occupying the spaces vacated by Tuesday Morning and Famous Footwear, about 21,000 square feet total. No target date for opening was announced.
The chain — once thought to be down-and-out due to a decline in reading and the popularity of Amazon, Kindle and other competition — is instead going through its liveliest expansion in more than a decade, opening 30 new stores in the U.S. and getting rave reviews for a new design concept. The chain was purchased by Elliott Management, a hedge fund, in 2019, and the buyers used the pandemic and a surge in reading and abundance of abandoned, lower cost retail space, to rethink and reposition B&N.
The new stores — a number of them in areas B&N had previously abandoned — are smaller and have more of an independent bookseller feel than before, according to the business model — “curated, cozy, and welcoming space(s) for communities to work, read and browse.” The stores are divided into nooks or rooms, by genre, and feature furnished areas to encourage sitting and browsing.
Weslayan Plaza itself is enjoying a surge, with the recent news that Rice Village institution Beautique would be moving into the spaces formerly occupied by JOANN’s and Al’s Formal Wear later this year or early in 2024.