Barnes & Noble Builds Recipe for Success at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute

September 17, 2012


You might not expect to find a wire whisk, a knife roll, or even any pots and pans at your local Barnes & Noble, but then the Barnes & Noble at Niagara Falls Culinary Insititute is no ordinary store. As an integral part of a new 90,000 square-foot facility housing the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute (NFCI), the store is designed to serve a wide variety of customers.

“We have a totally different merchandise mix from most Barnes & Noble stores,” admits Barnes & Noble College Regional Manager, Debbie Parker. “It’s a college store with a retail feel, and we’ll be serving different communities who’ll use it in many different ways.”

Key among those communities will be the students and parents of Niagara County Community College’s Culinary Institute. In its first year of operation, college officials expect at least 500 students to enroll in hospitality disciplines as diverse as pastry arts, tourism, winery operations and casino management. The new store is designed to cater not just to their traditional course material needs, but also to provide them with required culinary tools and equipment. “We’ve worked very closely with the college to ensure we’re bringing in exactly the kind of merchandise to meet the needs of the students,” Parker explains.

Windows to a Culinary Workshop

Niagara County Community College second-year student Charles Miller looks over the assortment of pots and pans at the new Barnes & Noble store.

Although the store isn’t the company’s first venture into the culinary world ─ Barnes & Noble College also has a store located at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) campus ─ the NFCI store takes the idea of the college bookstore several steps further. Located in downtown Niagara Falls, and just walking distance from the falls itself, the store design offers windows facing onto busy Old Falls Street to entice passers-by with cooking demonstrations and the opportunity to watch guest chefs at work. Also included in the building will be a student-run restaurant, European pastry café and a New York-style deli.

“One of the great features of the school is that all students will have the opportunity of practical experience – actually working in these kitchens,” explains General Manager of the Niagara County Community College store Bob Puma, who adds that the facility will also include classrooms, cooking areas, and an ice-sculpting lab on its upper two floors.

Designing a Community Store

The excitement surrounding the new store validates a lot of hard work for the Barnes & Noble team and underscores a deep commitment to working with both the college and local community.

“This is brand new – both for us and for the school,” explains Puma. “From its inception five years ago, the project has grown well beyond our expectations.”

Barnes & Noble at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute’s employee Angela Chandia looks over wine glasses with the college logo etched in them.

Contained within the $30 million development is a purpose-built cooking auditorium, complete with fully operational kitchen and state of the art television equipment, to be used for major cooking demonstrations. “We’ll be a sponsor of these events and use them as a showcase for the College and another opportunity to bring the public into our store,” Puma says.

The location of the complex will also provide plenty of opportunities to interact with the community and the estimated foot traffic of 400,000 people, which includes visitors from the nearby convention center and casino. During the summer months, Niagara Falls holds a concert series along with a fireworks display just steps away from the store. Veteran Barnes & Noble staffer Dawn Everett, who was previously a community manager for the region, is the new Niagara Falls Culinary Institute store manager and is looking forward to the challenge.

“It really is second nature for us to work with a community as vibrant as this one,” Everett explains. “It’s a really special store and we’re so excited we’re finally open.”

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