Editors' Pick

Most Anticipated (and Ironic) Store Opening

The history of bookstores in Bethesda is filled with more twists than a good page-turner. 

Twenty years ago, many people decried the news that Barnes & Noble (B&N) was coming to Bethesda Row, warning that the big-box chain would drive out locally owned booksellers. (They were right.)

Then Barnes & Noble became a sensation as a place to shop and gather. For many locals, browsing at B&N after dinner out on a Friday or Saturday night became a ritual. It was the place for adults (and middle schoolers) to see and be seen.

Amazon, of course, changed everything for the book industry, and in the last few years the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda became more about gathering than shopping. Gathering doesn’t pay the bills, and B&N announced last spring that the store would be closing. 

The Bethesda Beat story on the closing prompted nearly 300 comments. One person wrote: “For all those people who loved B&N, yet bought their books from Amazon, I hope you are happy. This is a very sad day for Bethesda.”

The sadness didn’t last long: In the most ironic twist of all, Bethesda Beat reported in November that an Amazon Books store will be opening in 2018 at the corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road, just down the block from the spot B&N is abandoning. A Bethesda Beat commenter wrote: “Irony of ironies. Bye-bye B&N, hello Amazon. Unbelievable.”