Judging a Barnes & Noble By Its Cover

We regularly find ourselves sprinting from point A to point Z in a daily daze of work and socializing, hunting for time in between to scarf down a meal. In an age dedicated to instant gratification (streaming, selfies, we could go on)­, can anyone really be faulted for not having the energy left to pick up a book?

Yet, in an Armstrong-esque giant leap for mankind, Eastchester’s new Barnes & Noble prototype store is proof that someone out there wants us to keep reading, and enjoy it, too.

Opening on Tuesday, November 22 in the Vernon Hills Shopping Center, the bookseller is showing off it’s first full kitchen and restaurant concept store, designed by AvroKO and Italian architect Miguel Sal, with its own full menu, café, and more than 20 wines and craft beers on tap. The menu, developed by Colorado-native chef Sheamus Feeley, is focused on small, shareable items, but also boasts some pretty complex dishes like the slow-cooked beef short ribs with potato puree and roasted carrots.

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“This is not about us being a merchant or retailer,” says Vice President of Development David Deason. “We want people to come here and relax, slow down, and enjoy themselves.”

This expansion alone is only a small part of B&N’s new aesthetic. At 22,000-square-feet the Eastchester store is about 20 percent smaller than the average B&N, according to Deason, but the floor design feels more spacious and approachable. And the kids’ section, dressed in a vibrant orange hue with multicolored polka dots, is particularly inviting.

The standard chair-in-the-corner you might find at your regular B&N location has developed into ample and comfortable community seating, including a dynamic outdoor lounging area complete with fire pits to complement the warmth of your cappuccino.

The introvert no longer has to come out of his or her shell to enlist an employee’s help finding a book; B&N scattered iPad kiosks around the store to allow customers to look up books themselves. It even has a nifty store map that tells you where to go. Buyers in a hurry won’t have to wait in line to checkout — employees on the floor are equipped with mobile payment devices to checkout those paying with cards.

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You can even use these bad boys to text questions and comments to staff members.

Photo by Jonathan Ortiz

“It’s a completely different concept,” says store manager Kathie Bannon, who previously managed the Borders that resided in the same location as the new B&N store. She explains that the staff themselves chose the store’s selection of books. “It’s been a very special process, curating every single section for this store and for this customer.”  

But what really makes this store unique, besides the abundance of alcohol, is the 600-square-foot word search that welcomes you as you descend the escalator into the store. With 432 jumbled letters, the perplexing puzzle contains the names of 80 writers, from Baldwin to Dante, with Shakespeare proudly displayed at the center.

If you get stumped, Deason says, “We have a key, we’re just not giving it out yet.”

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So, if you find yourself in need of some solid R&R in the company of a good book, perhaps you’ll stop by B&N’s new store. At the very least, you can have drink while you’re at it. 

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