Evanston Barnes & Noble closes permanently


Catherine Buchaniec/Daily Senior Staffer

The Barnes & Noble location at 1630 Sherman Ave. closed permanently at the end of April.

Haley Fuller, Engagement Editor

Evanston’s Barnes & Noble closed permanently last week. A Northwestern Medicine facility will replace the bookstore at 1630 Sherman Ave.

Barnes & Noble’s current CEO, James Daunt, took over in August 2019 and has been working to transition from larger stores to smaller, more intimate locations. With the franchise struggling economically, Daunt determined that a model of smaller, cozier stores would entice more customers. By doing this, he turned around the British bookstore chain Waterstones and is hoping to do the same with Barnes & Noble.

The lease for the Evanston store was set to end and the franchise was already in negotiations with the landlord and Northwestern Medicine. So when COVID-19 closed stores nationwide and Northwestern Medicine was willing to take over the space, Barnes & Noble chose not to renew its lease, said Paul Zalmezak, Evanston’s economic development manager.

The news has upset Evanston residents, including Northwestern students. Many residents took to Facebook to voice their sadness, disappointed that a one-stop-shop with books, games, toys, magazines and even a small Starbucks was closing.

Weinberg sophomore Payton Miner said she is sad to see one of her favorite study spots close. She frequented the store for its coffee, tranquility and two floors full of books.

“You could just get Starbucks, and I would sit down and work for a while on the weekends,” Miner said. “I would take breaks from studying, and I would just go into the stacks and pick up books that I’ve already read and read my favorite parts out of them when I was trying to take a break.”

Northwestern Medicine will open a full-service medical practice on the site. The company sees the new facilities, which are expected to open in 2021, as an opportunity for patients to have “more convenient access” to Northwestern Medicine’s services, a spokesperson told The Daily in a statement.

While the economic repercussions of the change are unknown, Zalmezak said the new practice will bring several high-paying jobs to Evanston.

Executive Director of Downtown Evanston Annie Coakley hopes the store’s closure will bring more shoppers to local businesses. Although consumers may not be able to buy books, toys and specialty magazines at Barnes & Noble, the city still has nine independent booksellers scattered throughout downtown Evanston, Central Street, the Main-Dempster Mile and Howard Street.

She said the pandemic has exacerbated the need for citizens to support local businesses, many of which were already struggling to compete with online retail.

[Read more about challenges local businesses faced before the pandemic.]

“They’re really working around the clock in a time of strange retail, so they will hopefully see an uptick in sales from the community that was going into Barnes & Noble,” Coakley said.

The closure of Barnes & Noble and opening of a Northwestern Medicine location will have an effect on downtown Evanston, but Coakley said she thinks it will be a positive one.

“We are a community of avid readers. I think that the Barnes closing isn’t necessarily the end of the world,” she said. “With the amount of people that will be coming and going in after a doctor’s appointment, they may stroll around and grab something to eat, grab coffee, or even go to a bookstore, so I don’t think it’s detrimental by any means.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @haley_fuller_

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