Barnes & Noble headed for Santa Fe Place

Feb. 12—Window signage proclaims Barnes & Noble will open a bookstore in the spring in the Santa Fe Place mall space once occupied by Bed Bath & Beyond.

Santa Fe has not had a large national bookstore chain since Borders went out of business and shut its Sanbusco Market Center store in 2011.

Barnes & Noble has never had a bookstore in Santa Fe, other than its Barnes & Noble College division, which operated the Santa Fe Community College bookstore from 2022 until summer 2023.

The company has three stores in New Mexico, two in Albuquerque and one in Las Cruces.

Neither Barnes & Noble, Santa Fe Place nor Kohan Retail Investment Group, which owns the south side mall, responded to calls from The New Mexican.

The 25,289-square-foot Bed Bath & Beyond space did not remain vacant for long after the company closed at the end of July as part of a shutdown of all remaining stores in bankruptcy proceedings.

Santa Fe apparently is part of a Barnes & Noble push to open 50 new stores this year. The company opened 30 new stores last year to reach 609 outlets, according to media accounts.

Barnes & Noble is on a rebound after laying off 1,800 people and closing some 150 stores in the years leading up to 2018, with speculation it could follow Borders' fate.

Hedge fund Elliott Advisors in 2018 acquired Barnes & Noble, made numerous changes, and the pandemic spurred book sales, leading to the most store openings planned this year in 15 years, CEO James Daunt told Publishers Weekly in January.

Kohan Retail Investment Group, based in New York, moved quickly to fill the Bed Bath & Beyond vacancy after acquiring Santa Fe Place in late 2022.

Previous mall owner Spinoso Real Estate Group had a solid run in filling long-term mall vacancies with Hobby Lobby taking on the Sears space in 2019 and Conn's HomePlus going into portions of the former Mervyn's/Sports Authority.

2nd & Charles, an Alabama bookstore chain where customers can buy and sell books, was slated for 2022 for another portion of the Mervyn's/Sports Authority space. The "2nd & Charles coming soon" banner remains up at Santa Fe Place but the company's was not immediately known.

Two independent Santa Fe bookstore owners believe existing bookstores will survive.

"I'm very much of the opinion that the more books are sold the better for readers," Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse owner Dorothy Massey said in an interview. "I'm certain that Barnes & Noble is aware that there are currently 18 independent bookstores in the city, all of which we work with closely and I am certain they will continue with success."

Garcia Street Books owner Jean Devine said she accepts the new competition. She describes her bookstore as a "curated selection of books."

"Wow, that's a surprise," Devine said in an interview. "Being an independent bookstore, it's one of those things. People here really love their local stores. I hand pick all the books. I buy according to what my customers like to read."