WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - What was once a defunct Borders bookstore is now a Barnes & Noble concept store and restaurant selling wine and craft beers that became open to the public on Tuesday following slight construction delays at its Eastchester location at the Vernon Hills Shopping Center on White Plains Road.
After being vacant for several years , the new-look Barnes & Noble hopes to serve as a hub for the entire community, complete with open spaces, collaborative tables, interactive displays and a fully stocked restaurant that features a “shareable menu.”
Upon entering the location, patrons are greeted by a 600-foot “Author Wall,” a word search that includes more than 80 author names hidden in its 432 six-inch high letters hung in the atrium. As they make their way down the escalator, they are greeted by the Barnes & Noble Kitchen and thousands of books, organized by subject matter and desired audience.
“Overall, we were looking to create an engaging experience and make this space a true community destination,” David Deason, the Vice President of development on the project said. “It’s a place people will want to meet and gather with each other. It’s a place that people are going to want to come back to.”
Special to the concept store is the 2,600-square-foot Barnes & Noble Kitchen, which includes an all-day menu of “flavorful, shareable dishes,” and a selection of premium wine and local craft beers. The Kitchen is enhanced by a 3,000-square-foot outdoor patio complete with a stone fire pit, seating and bocce ball court.
Sheamus Feeley, the Executive Chef Consultant for the Branstetter Group - which partnered with Barnes & Noble on the restaurant project - said that his goal was to create an “approachable” menu that caters to patrons of all tastes.
Feeley said that he encountered some hurdles in getting the Kitchen up and running, including zoning challenges that prevent him from using open flame. His entire kitchen contains electric appliances and cooking surfaces, musing that they "built a ship's kitchen" inside the store by "stuffing 20 pounds of stuff into a 10 pound bag."
“We wanted something that would agree with everyone. A menu of items they’d want to pop in randomly and have a bite,” he noted. “The key is to do a handful of things really well, and to keep it small instead of trying to do something bigger, but not as well.”
The 22,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble also includes a series of technology improvements to “enhance the customer shopping experience.” Patrons will have the option to text questions and comments to staff and experts for personal assistance, and booksellers will be equipped with mobile engagement devices that provide detailed information on products. There will be self-serve kiosks and the store will provide an interactive store map.
“We wanted to make it functional, but modern. A lot of thought went into how we set up the layout to make it a seamless experience,” store manager Kathie Bannon added. “I pinch myself every day when I come down that escalator, this place is fantastic. It’s once again a place that people who enjoy books can embrace.”