One of the first displays that visitors will notice when they enter the newly opened Barnes & Noble bookstore at the Mosaic District in Merrifield is a showcase of books by local authors.
While Barnes & Noble is not exactly independent, Barnes & Noble Mosaic store manager Sherri Routt envisions the store as more of a neighborhood bookstore than a corporate chain, so a focus on local authors will be integral to the identity of the store, which opened on Wednesday and will continue to host book signings and other grand opening events through Apr. 28.
“It makes us more part of the community,” Routt said. “It makes us more local, going back to…making us part of the neighborhood and making everybody feel like they’re part of our family.”
To emphasize their neighborhood-oriented approach, Routt and Barnes & Noble’s corporate team invited exclusively authors from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area for the Mosaic store’s grand opening events.
How Lucky You Are writer Kristyn Kusek Lewis and memoirist Ikechuku Chigewe kicked off the proceedings on Wednesday with signings of her most recent novel, Half of What You Hear, and his autobiography Chronicles: The Journey of a Legal American Immigrant.
Northern Virginia resident and former freelance reporter Ellen Crosby appeared on Thursday to sign copies of her books, which include nine mysteries set in Middleburg. Crosby’s wine country mystery series has been nominated for a Mary Higgens Clark Award and a Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award.
The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me author Olivia Hinebaugh is scheduled to sign books at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, followed by four different authors on Sunday, including Reston native Kwame Alexander, whose verse novel The Crossover won the Newbery Medal in 2015.
The grand opening events will conclude on Sunday with signings by two children’s authors: Barbara Carroll Roberts, who published her debut novel Nikki on the Line in March, and Tiffany Foo, who wrote Ruby Foo and the Traveling Kitchen based on her grandmother’s work as a restaurateur.
Routt says her store will continue shining a spotlight on local authors going forward.
“Our second weekend that we’re open, we’re going to have another local author,” Routt said. “We’re going to try and do it where we’re really celebrating local authors that are in the area, because there are so many.”
Barnes & Noble Mosaic is the company’s ninth store in Northern Virginia, joining existing locations in Tyson’s Corner, Falls Church, and Fairfax, among others.
With 8,300 square feet of space and 24,000 titles on its shelves, the Mosaic store will be notably smaller than a typical Barnes & Noble, as the bookseller seeks to adjust to a market where brick-and-mortar locations must compete with Amazon and other online retailers.
According to Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble management announced in May 2018 that the company would open five “prototype” stores in Fiscal Year 2019 after a “disappointing” third quarter saw revenue drop by 5.3 percent.
Barnes & Noble Mosaic is the 12th prototype store that the company has opened in the U.S., according to Barnes & Noble Vice President of Stores Frank Morabito.
While each store is slightly different, the prototypes are generally designed to focus on books with a smaller, more curated selection of other products, such as games and music, available.
“We’re ultimately testing different prototypes so that we can inform what the Barnes and Noble store of the future looks like,” Morabito said. “…We’re going to continue to test in different sizes and formats so that we can ensure that we come up with a store that delivers the best customer experience.”
In addition to being smaller than its older counterparts, Barnes & Noble Mosaic boasts a slightly more contemporary aesthetic style with oak bookshelves, a mix of wood-grain tile and carpet flooring, and lower-profile shelves that offer a more expansive view of the whole store.
The store is also experimenting with its use of end caps, the panels at the ends of each book shelf. Along with featuring popular paperbacks and books that have been adapted into films, Mosaic is using the panels to highlight smaller sections, such as a new regional category, that otherwise tend to get overlooked.
The store has a café that offers a selection of Starbucks beverages and baked goods, though the café is owned and operated by Barnes & Noble.
While it is expected to be more of a grab-and-go station, the café still provides some indoor and outdoor seating for customers who would prefer to linger.
“We want to make sure they still feel comfortable staying and sitting if they like,” Routt said.
For Routt, the opening of Barnes & Noble Mosaic is the fulfillment of a dream.
After starting her career 25 years ago as seasonal help for Doubleday Bookstores, which was taken over by Barnes & Noble in 1990, Routt has spent the past 10 years working as the store manager for the location at Fair Lakes in Fairfax.
She says the most exciting part of opening a brand-new store of her own is the opportunity to meet new customers.
“Since this is a new store, we want to make sure that we create a name for ourselves just like Fairfax created a name for itself, so it’s starting off fresh,” Routt said. “While we might be close to the other store, geographically close, you know how traffic is around here. Having a neighborhood store that you don’t have to sit in traffic to get to, I think, is really important.”