The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

Community celebrates Barnes and Noble opening, regains local bookstore

Iny Li
“When my children were little, we would come to Barnes and Noble and just sit in the kid’s section and read so many books,” author Abigail Hing Wen said. “There was “Magic Tree House,” “Magic Schoolbus,” Chinese zodiac books, and so much. I just love it here so much.”

It’s not every day the city of Burlingame sees a six-foot caterpillar ambling through Burlingame Avenue, but it’s also not every day that a city gains a new book store, as Burlingame did at the grand opening of Barnes and Noble (B&N)on Wednesday, Oct. 11. The launch of the bookstore, located in the space previously occupied by Amazon 4-star, was widely celebrated by the community after Burlingame’s sole bookstore, Books Inc., closed five years ago, leaving people without a place to shop for their favorite pieces of literature. 

With festivities including  a ribbon cutting ceremony, author meet-and-greets and photo sessions with a life-size “The Hungry Caterpillar,” throngs of shoppers and book lovers stepped in to see the long-awaited, completely furnished bookstore finally open its doors. 

Community member Veronica Chun joined the streams of people who stopped by B&N throughout the day, eager to add books to their to-be-read list or check out their catalog of trending series. 

“It’s definitely a dying kind of market,” Chun said. “So it’s really exciting to see a bookstore being opened again and seeing the community coming together for the grand opening. When I heard they were opening today, I had wondered if there were even going to be any people, but it’s really cool to see so many people lining up and buying books.” 

Since the shutdown of Burlingame’s beloved Books Inc. in 2018, locals have grieved over the loss of a bookstore and even described the Ave as a “bookstore desert” due to the lack of bookshops and increase in chains selling trendier, fast fashion-esque items geared towards the younger generation. 

“In areas with book deserts, it’s noticeable that certain areas have harder access to books and is seen from the feedback of customers here,” said Danielle Cordona, the appointed manager of Burlingame’s B&N. “Because Burlingame hasn’t had a bookstore, so many were excited to just be here and find value in books again.” 

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  • Throughout the afternoon, people of all ages in the community stopped by the grand opening to take pictures with a life-sized version of “The Hungry Caterpillar.”

  • “Even though this is a corporate, big chain bookstore, I feel that the vibe of this is a much smaller, local bookstore,” community member Veronica Chun said. “The location is super convenient and even as someone who may not necessarily like buying books, this is definitely a spot where one can come and just browse.”

  • New York Times and national best-selling author Abigail Hing Wen greets customers and fans of her debut series “Loveboat, Taipei” during her meet-and-greet and exclusive book-signing.

  • Customers relax in newly implemented reading nooks for store-goers to sit down and take a peek at potential books to buy.

  • A B&N employee hands customers their newly purchased books after waiting in the long line of shoppers, all excited to visit the newest bookstore on the block.

  • Parents bring their little ones to the colorful kids section of the new B&N and read aloud their favorite books.

To revive interests in reading, B&N has been working to establish locations in book desert communities around the country. The company has made big changes in store design and branding to distinguish newly-opened book shops from the traditional chain B&N shops like the Hillsdale Shopping Center location. 

“Once upon a time Barnes and Nobles opened these really big cookie cutter locations where every single location looked exactly the same,” Cordona said. “But now they’re trying to move towards a model of being a space where the community really feels welcome and can see themselves in.”

Burlingame students who have recently visited B&N picked up on certain aspects that differentiate Burlingame’s location from Hillsdale’s.

“It’s just so much more colorful and the setup is different to a typical B&N,” senior Natalia Penaloza said. “Everything is easy to find and there’s some sections that aren’t at B&N chain stores like mental health genres and personal growth books. The Hillsdale location also looks more like a library than a bookstore while the Burlingame one is much more fun to shop in.” 

 Cordona plans to host weekly author meet-and-greets for the community to interact with their favorite, local authors around the Peninsula. On Wednesday, award-winning author Abigail Hing Wen, the New York Times and National best-selling author of the series, “Loveboat, Taipei, officiated the grand opening, participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony and hosting a meet-and-greet.. For Hing Wen, it was a memorable opportunity to interact with readers.

“Because my books came out during COVID, I only met the first wave of people who were excited about the book coming out and not those who already read it because we were on lockdown,” Hing Wen said. “So it’s special to just hear from people today who’ve actually interacted with the book, know the characters, and are following the series.” 

By inviting authors that have published books for varying ages and interests, Cordona hopes to reach more of the community. She is determined to display reads that appeal to people of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities. 

“We are a location where all our shelves essentially are curated to be tailored for what the local clientele are looking for,” Cordona said. “If customers request something, we try to bring it into our store, for example, a lot of titles and genres we have at our store are things that people specifically are looking for and have asked for.” 

Senior Misha Irfan hopes students can better understand the privilege of having a bookstore opening in such close proximity to school and hopes books can find their way to more students. 

“I think for BHS specifically, we don’t really take advantage of the resources around us, like our own school library and the public library,” Irfan said. “By having Barnes and Nobles so close by, it allows us to re-engage with our old passions and interests we had. Whether you’re a freshman or my age, everyone will still be able to find something interesting to them.” 

After the positivity and excitement from the grand opening, Hing Wen is optimistic about what the store will bring to the Burlingame community, especially given its central location.

“I love the location. It’s incredible,” Hing Wen said. “It’s right here on such a busy street where a lot of people just walk in and out and get to learn about all these amazing books they’re stocking in. This bookstore is really helping people to get back into thoughtful material and have conversations with people and trade thoughts with one another.” 

Cordona hopes B&N can become a place of refuge for the residents of Burlingame, just as local bookstores were for her during her teenage years. 

“When I think of a bookstore, it’s a place to browse, read, or hang out and a space for customers to bring their kids to storytime or a place to bring their favorite author and really embody the moment,” Cordona said. “In an unfamiliar environment, Barnes and Noble will always feel familiar.” 

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About the Contributor
Iny Li, Staff Reporter
Iny Li is a sophomore at Burlingame High School who is thrilled to explore journalism as a first-year! She plays badminton for the school team and enjoys reading, listening to music, and crocheting. Her deep interest in journaling and creative writing are what has driven her to join journalism. She looks forward to improving her literary skills and meeting new people along the way.
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