Barnes & Noble Throws Itself A 20-Year Bash

When Tricia Tierney was hired as Barnes & Noble’s Westport community relations coordinator 20 years ago, the bookstore had just replaced Waldbaum’s in the Post Plaza shopping center.

It moved there from smaller digs a few hundred yards east — where Pier 1 was (until recently) located.

Much has changed in 2 decades. The toys and gifts section grew exponentially. Children’s books got their own separate section. The music department saw the decline of CDs, and the resurrection of vinyl. Something called a “Nook” took over the front of the store.

To celebrate 20 years in the same location, Barnes & Noble has remodeled. Music area walls have come down. Comfy chairs — which vanished a while ago — returned. The Nook tables are gone.

Overall, it looks and feels much more open.

Barnes & Noble, after remodeling.

Tierney has seen other changes. In the beginning, she spent much of her time arranging author readings.

J.K. Rowling was here in 1999 to promote her 2nd Harry Potter book. “It was like having a Beatle,” Tierney recalls. The line wound around Purple Feet. Rowling sold over 1,000 copies — and looked every child in the eye.

J.K. Rowling in Westport, nearly 20 years ago.

Martha Stewart spoke several times. Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Frank McCourt appeared too. (Full disclosure: So did I.)

These days, there are far fewer author readings. Tierney now has a different job — community business development manager — and is more involved in book fairs, and school and business events. (GE moved to Boston, but still orders books for meetings through the Westport store.)

Tierney has developed strong relationships with area educators, in both the Westport and Bridgeport school systems.

Saugatuck Elementary School staff members, at a Barnes & Noble book fair.

The “community” in Tierney’s two titles is important, she says.

“From the start, we wanted Westport to know that we were part of the town — not just a big corporate store,” she says. “We still do.”

She is proud that when people hear where she works, they exclaim, “I love Barnes & Noble!”

Tommy Greenwald

This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the store marks its 20th anniversary in Post Plaza. They’ve planned special story times and crafts for kids (including a make-your-own instrument activity). Young musicians will play. Wakeman Town Farm will bring animals. Food trucks — and a frappuccino bar — add to the fun.

And even though author appearances are now rare, local writers Tommy Greenwald, Michaela MacColl, Hans Wilhelm, Ramin Ganeshram, Christine Pakkala, Elizabeth Menke and Elise Broach will greet readers and sign books (12 to 2 p.m.).

Sure, Barnes & Noble — along with the internet, other technology (including the Nook) and many other factors — helped drive small, locally owned bookstores out of business.

But the Westport store has been an important part of our community for more than 2 decades. They’ve showcased local talent, supported tons of town causes, and helped many organizations raise money (holiday wrapping, anyone?).

On Saturday, Barnes & Noble celebrates that remarkable achievement.

Youngsters enjoyed Barnes & Noble’s Harry Potter trivia event last year.

15 responses to “Barnes & Noble Throws Itself A 20-Year Bash

  1. Bobbie Herman

    I’m really sorry they closed the music department. Now I have to buy CDs from Amazon. Unless someone knows of a good record shop locally.

    • Peter Barlow

      Buy CDs from Barnes & Noble online. They have more selections than the stores.

    • Tina Cerrito

      I’m pretty sure that the Vinyl Street Cafe in Fairfield carries CDs in addition to vinyl records.

  2. Tricia Tierney is an absolute treasure. Another great community service Barnes and Noble offers: they provide the books for all of the Westport Library’s author events, which helps attract world class authors on their book tours. Happy 20th B&N, thank you for all you do for our community.

  3. Any town that has a bricks and mortar bookstore should consider itself fortunate. Before shopping at Amazon one should consider first going to a real bookstore.
    ADW Staples 1956

    • Nancy Hunter

      — or used book stores for ambience and bargains!

    • Gene Borio

      Agree. Barnes and Noble at 6th ave. and 8th St. in Greenwich Village closed down Dec. 31, 2012. Some 5+ years later, and the old Nedick’s building is STILL an empty shambles.

  4. Sally Campbell Palmer

    You’re right Dan, it does feel more like a local book store than a big chain. Happy birthday for us!

  5. Mark Bachmann (@BachmannMark)

    I used to spend a good deal of time in Barnes & Noble although not so much anymore. It still makes me happy knowing they’re there.

  6. Bill Boyd (Staples 1966)

    I too love Barnes and Noble!

    • Cathy Barnett

      I was there yesterday. It seems like a bright new store and not as cluttered. I didn’t see the familiar rack of sale books near front…wondering if they’re somewhere else or being phased out like the music dept?

  7. Julie Van Norden

    I love our Barnes and Noble! It’s true, it’s huge but somehow it retains a local bookstore feel. I love to go in there and roam around. I usually come out with an armful of books I didn’t know I wanted to read – those “suggestion” and “new in paperback” areas are very seductive! There’s no perfume like the smell of a new book. Never go away!

  8. Katherine Bruan

    I probably spent more my time here when my kids were little than anywhere else. And when I first moved to Westport and didn’t know anyone I would go at night and peruse the shop until closing. (Still miffed they close earlier now). Thank you and Happy Anniversary B&N!

  9. Lori Russell

    I’m sorry to see Barnes & Noble’s music department reduced. As a late 50’s music lover, I have well over 400 LP’s – and am not looking to purchase any additional albums. I did all my shopping in Barnes & Noble’s CD department. I loved their selection. Now I’m forced to either order from Amazon, or shop at FYE in the mall, which is like shopping in a crazy place – it’s so loud and hectic in there.

  10. Katrina Sal

    Lori Goodwill thrift store in Westport has an excellent selection of vinyl records. I saw Kingston trio, Elvis, Beatles and lots of 50s records last time I went. I love B and N cafe – friendly staff. Also books are excellent and there is a wide range of magazines. I’ll be at the party today. Sounds fun and there’s a petting zoo .