WESTPORT — In a few weeks, Barnes & Noble Booksellers will begin its next chapter in Westport.
In February, Barnes & Noble is set to open a 10,000-square-foot store at 76 Post Road E. in the downtown. It will succeed the location that closed Thursday after operating for 23 years in the Post Plaza shopping center at 1076 Post Road E. The company has posted window signs at the new and former locations confirming the move.
“Our existing Westport store is to be redeveloped by the landlord following close to a quarter of a century as a Barnes & Noble,” the company said in a statement to Hearst Connecticut Media. “We considered several possibilities for the relocation of our bookstore and chose the beautiful — and much more centrally located — building at 76 Post Road E.”
The book retailer will move into a building where a Restoration Hardware store had operated for about 20 years until its closing earlier this year. From 1916 to 1999, the site had housed the Fine Arts theaters.
The new store will be about half the size of the former location.
“With modern, bespoke shelving and the exceptionally attractive interior of the old Restoration Hardware store with which to work, we expect to have a comparable range of books to the old store,” the company said. “The main difference is that we will not have an in-store café, at least at the outset of opening. We decided on this given the proximity of other cafes and wishing to keep a full range toys, games, puzzles and stationery alongside our books.”
About a dozen employees will work at the new store, with “tenured booksellers” relocating from the former location, Barnes & Noble said.
“Unfortunately, we will not be able to keep our (Westport) café employees, the company said.
The new lease was brokered by David Adam Realty’s David Waldman and Sharon Maddern, who represented the landlord, and SRS Real Estate Partners’ Hugh Kelly, who represented Barnes & Noble.
“David Adam Realty has brokered many deals in Westport over the last 25 years, but I think this one could be (my) favorite,” Waldman, president of David Adam Realty, said in a LinkedIn post. “This is a great use for the downtown and will continue to add to the leasing momentum the town is currently experiencing.”
In addition to Westport, Barnes & Noble also has establishments in the state in Canton, Danbury, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Manchester, Milford, North Haven and Waterbury. Its Stamford and West Hartford locations were its more recent stores in Connecticut to open, in 2007.
“I’m very excited about Barnes & Noble moving to the downtown. Westporters are book readers, and they love a good bookstore,” Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe said in an interview. “I think being located downtown will draw more people into the downtown area. Hopefully they’ll not just shop at Barnes & Noble, but will also take the opportunity to shop at some of the other stores downtown and maybe even get a bite to eat at one of the great restaurants in that immediate area.”
Downtown Westport has not had a book retailer in more than a decade, although many longtime residents speak nostalgically of two erstwhile Main Street institutions, Remarkable Book Shop and Klein’s. Remarkable operated for more than 30 years until its closing in 1994, and was instantly recognizable for the pink house where it did business. Klein’s was based at the lower end of the street for 67 years until its closing in 2004.
But a major literary presence has remained in the downtown: The Westport Library stands a couple blocks west of 76 Post Road E.
“It’s something that people ask for all the time — they wish they had a bookstore again downtown. Getting Barnes & Noble is a great deal,” said Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. “We want more kinds of businesses like that where people go more frequently and stop and pause. And there are certainly going to be synergies being so close to the library.”
Neighbors include Anthropologie & Co., across the street at 59 Post Road E., in the mixed-use Bedford Square complex. Anthropologie opened there in 2017 after formerly operating at 1365 Post Road E.
More downtown arrivals are on the way, including retailers that already have a presence in the town. The Tailored Home, which now has a store at 1276 Post Road E., is building out a new storefront in the Sconset Square shopping center.
As for 1076 Post Road E., Marpe said he was not aware of any new leases yet.
“It’s a good location with more-than-ample parking, and it’s an easy location to get in and out of,” he said. “I certainly hope it won’t be vacant for very long.”