Amazon Books Is Coming to Bethesda Row

Online retailer has already opened 13 brick-and-mortar bookstores in seven states


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Updated 4:15 p.m. Nov. 13: Bibliophiles mourning the loss of Barnes & Noble on Bethesda Row can take heart: an Amazon Books is coming to town.

The e-commerce giant has opened 13 brick-and-mortar bookstores in seven states across the nation already, and a new location is under construction in Georgetown.

The Bethesda bookstore will open at 7117 Arlington Road, in a space currently occupied by the home furnishing store Urban Country, a source told the Bethesda Beat on Monday. Urban Country in October announced plans to move next door to 7121 Arlington Road, taking over the former City Sports spot.

"We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bethesda Row in Bethesda, Maryland and we are currently hiring store managers and associates," Amazon Books spokesperson Alexandra Woodworth wrote in a statement. "Stay tuned for additional details down the road."

A building permit application for the Amazon store was filed with the county on Nov. 8 for a $1.5 million project to renovate the roughly 6,000-square-foot space.

Amazon Books stores act as a "physical extension" of the website, according to a company description. The outlets stock titles based on factors such as Amazon.com customer ratings and sales and carry Kindle, Fire tablet, Echo and Fire TV devices.

Store customers who are members of Amazon Prime can net savings by paying the online price for books and other merchandise. Non-members have to pay the sticker prices for most items.

Ginanne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the news that an Amazon Books outlet is heading to Bethesda.

"It's not the end of bookstores as we used to know them!" she said. "They're coming back."

Italiano said she's not surprised that Amazon chose to open a location in Bethesda Row, an energetic shopping and dining district that has attracted a number of other hip brands. The new bookstore will occupy an important place in the local retail landscape and will serve as a community gathering space after the Bethesda Barnes & Noble closes its doors, she added.

County Council President Roger Berliner said it's regrettable that Barnes & Noble locations across the nation are shutting down, and he hopes the Amazon Books store will meet the community's needs.

"I do feel that this is a positive development for our community that so very much wanted a bookstore," said Berliner, who represents the Bethesda area. "Hopefully, this is just a down payment on Amazon's presence in our county."

Montgomery County is one of the many U.S. jurisdictions competing to bring Amazon's new headquarters to their communities.

Amazon opened its first physical bookstore two years ago in Seattle and has since launched locations in states including California, Illinois, New York and Massachusets. The company hasn't yet opened an Amazon Books in Maryland or Virginia, although D.C.-area residents learned in May about plans for a Georgetown store; the outlet will be steps away from the former site of a Barnes & Noble, which left the block in 2011, the Washington Post reported.

Earlier this year, Bethesda Row book lovers were disappointed to hear that Barnes & Noble would close its three-level store at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues when its lease expires with Federal Realty Investment Trust at the end of 2017. Federal Realty, which owns Bethesda Row, announced in July that an Anthropologie clothing store would be replacing the book retailer.

Shortly after the announcement of Barnes & Noble's departure, the co-owner of the Politics and Prose bookstore in Northwest D.C. said he would explore the idea of opening a branch in Bethesda.

However, Bradley Graham on Monday said Politics and Prose, which he co-owns with his wife, is currently focused on several D.C. expansion projects. The company recently established a branch in the Wharf development, is opening another store in Union Market and is enlarging its flagship store on Connecticut Avenue.

"We have our hands full at the moment," he said Monday in a phone interview.

Amazon's foray into the world of brick-and-mortar retail could be taken as confirmation of the growing desire for physical bookstore locations, he added, but the Amazon stores are adopting a different approach from many independent book sellers. Their shelves are more often filled with chart-topping titles, and customers are less likely to stumble on an unexpected find, he said.

"Independent bookstores tend to offer a wider variety of books, and there's more chance for a customer discovering a book that maybe becomes special to them," Graham, a Bethesda resident, said.

A spokeswoman for Federal Realty declined to comment on the report.

Staff writer Andrew Metcalf contributed to this report.

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