When a new bookstore recently opened at 625 Monroe St., N.E., in the Brookland section of Washington, D.C., it wasn’t a store designed only for the needs of the local university, it was also a store designed for the community. The Barnes & Noble at The Catholic University of America bookstore is part of the Monroe Street Market complex, a new development that includes retail stores, restaurants and residences. The Catholic University of America (CUA) has always had strong ties to its Brookland community and the new store opening was seen as another dynamic opportunity to further develop that bond.
Like most good ideas, the new gateway development has been a project in the making. Barnes & Noble College has been working with CUA on the project since their partnership began in 2012, and the idea of taking the store off campus and into the community was a priority for the University. “The store was really designed to be part of the community from the outset, and while serving the needs of the university, they really wanted it to be a visible bridge with the neighborhood and bring those two entities even closer together,” explains Barnes & Noble College Regional Manager, Len Scoggins.
The new store also includes a 60-plus seat café, proudly serving Starbucks coffee along with grab-and-go snacks, sandwiches, and baked goods — all of which are expected to bring in more customers from the Monroe Street Market area. There are also operational changes more in keeping with a downtown store, with more shopping days and longer store hours. A bigger store also means an increase in staff. Two new management level employees and 30-plus student and part-time booksellers have been added the team.
Just in time for the start of the fall semester, the new store offers plentiful floor space devoted to CUA logo spirit apparel, which is likely to appeal to more than just current students. “There is a greater selection across the board,” Kyra Lyons, executive director of alumni relations said in an earlier press release. “It’s a full one-stop shop and I’m happy for it to be open. All of the changes on Monroe Street Market are providing a great reason for alumni to come back to campus and see what’s new.” Reflective of its dual roles, the store features two distinct graphic interior designs with the university-related part of the store decorated with images more reflective of the campus, while the café and Monroe Street side of the store displays images celebrating the local district and Brookland community.
Scoggins is quick to credit CUA with much of the drive and success behind the new store. “It’s been a very collaborative process, from paint colors to flooring choices to how we would stage the grand opening celebrations,” he says. And that momentum is likely to continue; the opening ceremonies included everything from a book signing by Fox anchor and author, Bret Baier, a performance by a string quartet, a Potbelly lunch break with the neighboring Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and generous discounts for faculty, staff and students off CUA gear and gifts.
The new community development is the latest expansion of CUA, an institution founded in 1887 and is today home to 3,694 undergraduate and 3,144 graduate students. “Catholic University and Brookland, we both grew up together,” pointed out Larry Morris, general counsel at Catholic University in an earlier press release. “We have matured together without boundaries,” he said, “This bookstore is great for both of us. Scholars need books, but books are not just for scholars, so this store will be a natural mixing point — which is good for both of us.”