‘Local Charm Is Going Away’: Residents React to Anthropologie Replacing Bethesda’s Barnes & Noble

Several express regret, while some shoppers and businesses welcome new store


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Walkers pass by the Barnes & Noble on Wednesday.

Joe Zimmermann

Residents and shoppers walking Wednesday along Bethesda and Woodmont avenues in downtown Bethesda had fond memories about time spent in Barnes & Noble, the Bethesda Row bookseller that will close at the end of this year.

Adrienne Hand of Bethesda said it was a special place for her because she wrote a book sitting in its cafe—Make Way for Women. Along with others, she said she was disappointed by the news that Anthropologie would be replacing the bookstore, which she said was loved by writers, but also served as a gathering place for the community.

Federal Realty Investment Trust announced Wednesday that Anthropologie & Co., a large-scale model of the clothing and accessories retailer, will open in the corner space in fall 2018. Barnes & Noble has operated there for 20 years, but in March a spokesperson announced its planned departure.

“I think that Bethesda is turning into an upscale any town, and the local charm is going away,” Hand said.

Rachel Cokinos, a Potomac resident, said she takes her 7-year-old daughter to Barnes & Noble every day. After her husband died a few years ago, they continued going to the store where they used to meet him as a way to memorialize him, she said.

“Every day in the summer we go there, that’s our routine and our unique place,” she said, noting the trip wouldn’t be the same with another retail store. “That’s our sentimental place. We have a lot of good memories there.”

Though several people interviewed reacted with disappointment at the thought of Anthropologie & Co. taking the space of Barnes & Noble, a few expressed excitement at the pending arrival of the department store-style retailer that will offer a full-service restaurant and café as well as special sections for gardening supplies, furniture and other products.

Elizabeth Owen said she loves Anthropologie and thinks it’s a creative and unique chain, but still doesn’t think it will replace the void left by Barnes & Noble. The bookstore appealed to all ages, especially kids, she said.

“I think it’s going to be a hole [in the community] because that’s another retail clothes store,” the Bethesda resident said. “Nowadays [Bethesda Row is] all the stores you can find anywhere.”

Managers of nearby stores were more optimistic about the new retailer, and several businesses said they expect the same or better foot traffic once Anthropologie moves in.

“It’ll definitely be good business for Bethesda,” said Kolu Ziama, acting manager at Luna, a women’s fashion store next to Barnes & Noble. “It will help the area grow definitely and it’ll be a good competition also.”

Still, nothing will beat what the bookstore has offered to the community over the years, according to one local mom who wasn't happy about the news.

“It stinks,” said Florine Hamilton of Glover Park. in Washington, D.C. “We should read. Enough of the clothing.”

Other reactions to the news poured in on social media Wednesday:

On Bethesda Beat's Facebook page the story generated hundreds of reactions.

"It's sad that one of the "most educated" towns in our country won't have a book store!" wrote Jen Madison. "Love Anthropologie but not enough to replace the neighborhood book store and gathering spot!"

"I grew up in Bethesda and loved that chapter of my life," Scott Simpson wrote. "I still enjoy my annual summer visit there with my parents & brother's family but am a little saddened by how Bethesda has grown & changed over the years."

Not everyone was disappointed though.

"All the haters.... I LOVE THIS!!!" declared Blaire Kelleher on the Facebook post.

Back to Bethesda Beat

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