MERIDEN — City officials confirmed Tuesday that Barnes & Noble would be moving to the vacant, former Pier 1 Imports store at Townline Square Shopping Center.
City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said representatives from the national book retailer have met with his office and city building officials about occupying most of the former Pier 1 store at the plaza.
“It’s exciting,” Feest said. “The new (plaza) owners have been very aggressive to get new tenants. This is a newer style. It’s all going to be very modern, but not the first they’ve done.”
Barnes & Noble is now opening bookstores that are smaller than the big boxes they occupied in the 1990s. The company expects to open 30 new stores this year, according to corporate reports.
The retailer had faced numerous closures but according to media reports is now emulating independent bookshops and opening smaller, more intimate stores.
In a press release announcing the opening of a new store in Marietta, Georgia on Wednesday, Barnes & Noble representatives said another store is opening in Salem, Oregon on the same day.
The new Georgia location showcases the new bookstore design seen in the most recent Barnes & Noble store openings, housing all the books, toys, games and gifts that customers have come to expect, as well as a B&N Café, according to the statement.
“When we first announced the opening of this new Barnes & Noble, the outpouring of positive feedback was astounding,” said James Daunt, Barnes & Noble CEO. “Our ability to open beautiful new bookstores at such a pace is a testament to the strength of our strategy to localize our bookstores and the growth of the book market as a whole.”
Barnes & Noble is enjoying a period of growth as the strategy to hand control of each bookstore to its manager has proven successful, according to corporate statements. In 2022, Barnes & Noble opened more new bookstores in a single year than it had in the whole decade from 2009 to 2019.
Representatives for the retailer credit the increased interest in reading during the pandemic and strong sales among young people of Japanese comics and graphic novels known collectively as Manga.
“We’re excited to have them,” Feest said. “It’s a great step.”
Feest said store officials have come in for building permits, but he didn’t have an opening date.
Barnes & Noble officials could not be reached for comment about the Meriden store.
Townline Square is a 310,000 square-foot grocery-anchor center located near the Meriden-Wallingford town line 20 miles north of New Haven. The shopping center has strong performing national tenants such as the Big Y grocer, Burlington, Marshalls, Michaels, Ulta, Five Below, Old Navy, Five Guys and McDonald’s.
Townline Square is one of two plazas owned and marketed in Connecticut by Bridge33, a national commercial real estate investment firm.
Castle Rock purchased Townline Square, 533 S. Broad St. (Route 5), in 2015 from Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc. for $44.5 million. The plaza was built in 1989 and was significantly upgraded.
Three years later, New Jersey-based Castle Rock Equity Group wanted to sell Townline Square Plaza on South Broad Street, with an initial price tag of $48.5 million. It sold to Bridge33 for $38.5 million in 2022. The former Pier 1 was vacant at the time.