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Monday, May 20, 2024

Barnes & Noble hosts grand opening at Butler Plaza

The bookstore’s opening attracted more than 100 people Wednesday

Customers gather at Barnes & Noble at Butler Plaza during its opening day on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.
Customers gather at Barnes & Noble at Butler Plaza during its opening day on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

Generations of book enthusiasts lined up down the block outside Barnes & Noble on Wednesday morning, some jumping for joy in anticipation. As the clock struck 9 a.m. and the ribbon was cut, more than 100 people rushed into the brand-new store and got lost in the rows of crisp, colorful books for sale.

The grand opening of Barnes & Noble marks the second time the national bookstore comes to Butler Plaza, at 3217 SW 35th Blvd. Butler Enterprises shut down the store in 2013 after 20 years.

New locations of Barnes & Noble are chosen based on the community’s needs and as the availability of real estate grows, Janine Flanigan, the Barnes & Noble senior director of store planning and design said.

“We're so excited to bring bookstores back to communities,” Flanigan said. “[Barnes & Noble] wanted to fill that spot again.” 

As an employee at Barnes & Noble for more than 40 years, Flanigan has witnessed many stores open and close. Under new leadership, the company has seen tremendous growth during the last four years, despite many locations being shut down, Flanigan said.

“We were closing more stores than we were opening, and the book business was not as successful as it is now,” Flanigan said. “[Now], we have gone back to our identity as a bookseller [and] as fabulous and expert booksellers in our stores.”

New York Times Bestselling Author Ginny Myers Sain headlined the event, signing copies of her mystery novels that were available to buy in-store. Her newest novel, “One Last Breath,” which was released March 5, is loosely based on High Springs, a town northwest of Gainesville.

“I've always been, as a writer and as a reader, a big fan of Barnes & Noble, so it's super fun to be here,” Myers Sain said. “Any day there's a new bookstore in the world is a good day.” 

The opening attracted book lovers of all ages and several groups of families and friends.

Noelle Montoya, a 29-year-old UF Shands registered nurse, attended the event with four generations of her family present to celebrate her son Maximus’ birthday of 7 months.

“I'm just happy to have another location for a bookstore, and it is a very good location,” Montoya said.

Montoya invited her parents 62-year-old Manny Padron and 58-year-old Christine Padron, as well as her 84-year-old grandfather Phil Berndt for the outing.

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As recent Gainesville residents, the Padrons appreciate having a local Barnes & Noble to buy books they stock their home library with.

“We're delighted Barnes and Noble is back in town because it is another place to go and hang out,” Manny said.

The Padrons have attempted to foster a love for books in their family. Now, their daughter — Montoya’s sister — works at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Washington, D.C.

“Anything you can do to encourage reading starting early is the best thing you can do for a lifetime of happiness,” Christine said.

Some came to the opening with a mission in mind. 

Sydney Ray, a 20-year-old UF microbiology junior, said she could not wait to get her hands on the “Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J. Mass, which is not available in other local bookstores. 

“I wanted to get that book… and I saw that they had it here,” Ray said.

Ari Zurita, a 22-year-old UF digital arts and science senior, scouted out the bookstore to add to her study spots. The location makes travel to the bookstore easily accessible for Gainesville residents, she said.

“I just thought it was kind of crazy that there wasn't one in Gainesville considering how big the student population is,” Zurita said. “It's great to have another bookstore so close by.”

The Barnes & Noble is open to the public every day, with store hours varying.

Contact Molly Seghi at mseghi@alligator.org. Follow her on X @molly_seghi.


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Molly Seghi

Molly Seghi is a first-year journalism major at UF and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When not writing or journaling, she can be found at a live music event or working on her podcast “An Aural Account.”


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