Barnes & Noble, Bethesda Row’s longtime bookstore, is preparing to close.
A company executive confirmed Friday the bookstore will close its three-level location at the corner of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues when its lease expires with Federal Realty at the end of 2017.
“We had discussions with the property owner in hopes of agreeing to an extension of the lease, but unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement,” David Deason, a Barnes & Noble vice president, said in an email to Bethesda Beat. “It has been our pleasure to have served this community and we hope to continue to serve our valued customers at the nearby Rockville Pike and Clarendon Market Common stores.”
The closing represents the end of an era for the bookstore, which has anchored a key corner of the mixed-use retail center for two decades and has served as a popular community gathering space. The store opened in 1997 as a main component of the first phase of the Bethesda Row development that has since transformed the southern portion of downtown Bethesda into a regional shopping and dining destination. Over the years, the store has hosted top-name authors and programs and activities for kids and families.
The planned closure is also the latest in the ongoing national decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores as an increasing number of books are sold online, with Amazon taking over a significant chunk of the industry. Borders, Barnes & Noble’s primary competitor, closed all of its stores in 2011 after filing for bankruptcy.
At 37,500 square feet, the Barnes & Noble store is the second-largest retail space on Bethesda Row, just below the Giant grocery store, which occupies 40,000 square feet.
Federal Realty has not announced what will replace the bookstore.
“Bethesda Row is the heart of downtown Bethesda and continues to grow with the evolving interests, needs and lifestyle of its community,” said Dan Corwin, Federal Realty’s director of asset management, in a statement sent to Bethesda Beat. “This is reflected in the dynamic neighborhood mix today and recent additions like Kendra Scott, Modern Market, Ministry, and Warby Parker. While we are bound by policy and unable to comment on lease-related matters for existing or potential tenants, we remain steadfastly committed to our community and tenants, and are always excited for the future.”
Barnes & Noble also operates stores in Montgomery County at Montrose Crossing Shopping Center in Rockville and at Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, plus a college bookstore at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville.