Photo by Annika Tomlin

By Annika Tomlin | September 15, 2021

Barnes & Noble celebrated the reopening of its new Peoria store with a September 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

This new bookstore at Arrowhead Palms Shopping Centre replaces the original Barnes & Noble in the Arrowhead Towne Center, which is to be redeveloped by the landlord.

“I’m probably the happiest person here because I live around the corner and I love to share my books with the little ones,” says children’s author Dawn Young, who made an appearance at the store.

She says brick-and-mortar stores provide a better experience than purchasing books online.

“We’ve been clicking, clicking, clicking through books,” Young says. “Now we can come in, pick out a book, browse books, smell books, talk books with an amazing staff that will help you find anything that you are looking for. I hope you come in and get lost in the wonder, magic and adventure that only books can bring.”

Young cut the ribbon along with store manager Colene Huston and stayed within the store creating paper puppets with children.

“Dawn has been coming to our store at the old location. She was actually our very last author event in that location,” says Huston, who has been with the company for nine years.

“(Dawn) just brings so much heart. She had so many people already in the community that were making her successful, and when she does things, it’s not to promote her books, it’s to share an experience. I think that at heart we are both trying to build readers from a young age.”

Along with making puppets, Young was there signing copies of her books including “The Night Baafore Christmas” and “The Night Baafore Easter,” in addition to revealing her new book “Once Upon a Christmas,” which releases later this year.

“Barnes & Noble is thrilled to be reopening here in Peoria with such a bright, welcoming store,” says James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble.

Monica Yelin, Rep. Debbie Lesko’s outreach director, extended the congresswoman’s regards on the grand opening and welcomed the business to the eighth congressional district.

Huston says Barnes & Noble “kind of got booted out of the old location.”

“We were not expecting it, and it took us about two weeks to close,” Huston says.

“At the time they were telling us that they had never seen a closing go as smoothly as that, which didn’t really make us feel good ’cause that is not the business that we are in.”

Through the help of a customer sourcing the new location and the assistance of national leaders, the new location was quickly acquired and preparations took place to remodel it to Barnes & Noble standards.

“(The leaders at the national level) were able to get with the rental people immediately. … Probably, in fact, before we closed the store, they had already determined that we would not be a store closing, that we would end up being a store relocation,” Huston said. “Any of the booksellers that intended to come back went to other stores and worked, so we still know what is new and what is great.”

Of the original 19 booksellers, 13 returned to the new location with Huston.

“The team here has so much heart,” Huston says. “We’ve had a group text the whole time, and it ended up being a team-building activity, but it was a harsh one. I appreciate them so much.”

Within two weeks of acquiring the building, Huston and her team made sure the sections reflected the surrounding community needs.

“One of the things that our company has been doing for the last couple years is talking to customers and the booksellers to find out what they need and what they want in a bookstore,” Huston says.

“I feel like in this location you see all of those things working together. We’ve got places to sit, we’ve got tons of open areas for people to just kind of browse through and see what they love.”

Huston says this relates to her favorite part of Barnes & Noble: “It adds value to the area.”

“That is actually why we don’t have a café in the building, because there is already a café in our parking lot, (The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf),” Huston says.

“Even, in fact, we looked at stores like Buy Buy Baby (next door) to see what they carried so we are not competing with them. We are just adding to that experience. Definitely a lot of insight from the customers to what they are looking for.”

Seven days prior to opening, the store was completely barren, Huston says.

“I was very proud of the fact that our area Barnes & Nobles, a lot of the booksellers partnered with us to make this (grand opening) possible,” Huston says. “We didn’t have enough of some product, and so I think every store manager in the Valley went through what they had and actually shared with us so that customers would be delighted here today.”

Huston is happy to have a new location that called for a remodeled look and feel.

“I feel like the old store was very dark and it felt like kind of cozy, which wasn’t bad, but I feel like they are just trying to make this a brighter experience,” Huston says.

“They want people to be able to interact with others while they are shopping for books. They want us to really become a part of the community. I just feel like it opens up conversations and still fits the needs of the customer.”

The new Barnes & Noble is located at 7401 W. Bell Road, Peoria.