Barnes & Noble closing at 12th and E St, NW in December

12th and G St, NW

Tough times continue for the big bookstores [as well as the retail in this particular building – RIP ESPN Zone] – Books a Million closed in July and now news broke from the Washington City Paper late Friday afternoon:

“Barnes & Noble on the ground floor of 555 12th St. NW—known as the Thurman Arnold Building—will shut down by the year’s end.”

Fortunately Politics and Prose, Kramerbooks and Upshur Street Books continue to kick ass. And don’t forget Riverby Books is coming back too!


45 Comment

  • Farragut

    Gah, that was the closest bookstore to my apartment. The others are out of my way usually.

  • Is the space big enough for a Nordstrom?

    • If you combined it with the ESPN Zone space, it likely would be, but not sure Barnes Noble by itself would be. I hear B&N cited disagreement with lease renewal terms with owner of building as reason for packing up and less so about the state of the paper book industry. Which might explain why ESPN Zone space has sat empty for over 4 years.

      With Arnold & Porter moving out any day now, I imagine the owners of the building need to start quickly figuring things out over there.

    • Please please please become a Nordstrom Rack, Sephora or a shoe store.

  • Ugh. Sometimes you just want to browse genre mass market paperbacks. And sometimes you need, just need, the next book in that trilogy same day.

  • Sad, but not unexpected. I’ll miss the travel selection and the holiday cards.

  • Noooo! This is where I went to compare travel books, since they had a pretty good selection.

    • justinbc

      Yeah after the map store at Farragut closed this was one of the last few good options. Guess I’ll have to metro out to a suburb for future research.

  • The location is 12th and E not 12th and G.

  • Thanks again, Internet!

  • Someone needs to make a sequel to the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, where Tom Hanks big chain bookstore is closing and Meg Ryan’s corner bookstore makes a comeback! It really seems like a rare instance where the big corporate stores are closing and the small stores can snatch up the displaced market share.

  • I’m partly to blame. So many days spent there or at Borders, reading but not buying anything.

    It was like a library, but without the homeless people.

    • Red Panda

      Same. I used to go there to find books I wanted, then go home and order them from the library.

      • justinbc

        I do the same at Anthropologie. Find all the cool looking books I never knew existed there, then order them from Amazon for half the price.

        • Brilliant! I do the same for most things sold at Anthropologie. Get my inspiration then go to Ebay or Goodwill to buy or DIY.

    • Reading magazines, etc. at bookstores (but not buying them) is a sufficiently common practice in Japan that there’s a word for it — “tachiyomi” (literally, something like “reading while standing”).

  • goaldigger

    Bah, I hit this place often for cards, wall calendars and last minutes gifts (besides the drug stores, is there any other place around Metro Center that has interesting cards?).

    • I stumbled across some good cards in the basement of Macy’s a few years ago. It shocked me too. The last time I went, you’d make a left from the escalator. It’s in that corner surrounded by the wedding crystal.

  • Rats. Now where am I gonna go to flip through magazines and not buy anything.

  • Other sources have indicated that this was a decision forced on B&N by the building’s new owners, who are looking to “reposition” the property. Supporting this theory: 1) Arnold and Porter is decamping this month, and it was leasing half the building; 2) the former-ESPN Zone in the building has been vacant for years; 3) WBJ says B&N is looking for new space in the District to replace this store. WBJ also reported last year that the building was in for some renovations but that the extent hadn’t been determined. If B&N is getting kicked out, I’m guessing it will be some major work.

    • The renovations have been happening for a while.

      Also, I said all of this above already.

    • Reposition to what? I can’t imagine you’ll find better paying tenants than Arnold & Porter and ESPN Zone.

      • But… but they left. Maybe the decision to reposition came after?

      • “Class A Office Space” – whatever that actually means

      • What is also interesting is that just a block over is the near empty Covington & Burling offices on the 1200 block of Penn Ave. A lot of significant real estate sitting empty very near here. Not sure the landlords can get too picky, but I’m guessing they want something in these spaces that will draw a big anchor office space tenant.

  • Can anyone local report if the mass-hysteria sales have started yet? When Borders was closing, those sales were amazing.

    • Well, Borders ceased to be. B&N, presumably, at least for now, has other stores they could distribute the merchandise to, or most of it. But maybe it would be cheaper to sell as much as they could at a discount than pay to ship it.

  • brookland_rez

    I’m surprised at this. Whenever I have been in I have always seen a lot of people and tourists.

    • Even if they were all buying something, which often isn’t the case, I’m told the profit margin on mass market books is wafer thin. I don’t think they do enough business at the coffee shop or selling pens and journals to sustain what they must pay for rent there.
      (Note: I don’t mean for my comment to be argumentative; it’s just a slow work day, and that pushed my “should I bother to comment” decision onto the “sure” side)

  • I heard two different department stores will be going into the Barnes and Noble and former ESPN Zone spaces

  • Sorry to see this store go, since it was my place to hang out on a lunch break to break the boredom. But if I want to actually purchase a book from a store (and not online) I try to go to Kramerbooks. Not because I have some allegiance to them, but because the selection at Kramerbooks is so much better – or at least manageable. B&N has tons of books that I’m not interested in and also a lot of other stuff that doesn’t really belong in a bookstore.

  • This wouldn’t be the first landlord in DC whose delusions of grandeur B&N refused to fund. The space they vacated in Georgetown sat vacant for a few years before Nike came in and decided they were willing to pay the sharply increased rate the landlord wanted. Given how little of that space is now dedicated to product, that probably tells you what the going markup for Nike is.

    Glad to know B&N plans to get another location in the District, though.

  • Don’t forget Bridge Street Books, which quietly has the best selection of obscure/underground literary fiction, foreign fiction, literary criticism, cultural theory stuff, and other noodle fodder.
    It’s still on M where Georgetown seeps into Foggy Bottom.

Comments are closed.