The Ulster Barnes & Noble was doing steady business on a recent sunny afternoon. A group of teens sat in the café discussing their teachers, lone masked customers browsed the latest hardcovers, while parents did their best to corral their children in the games and kids’ sections.
In some ways it seemed like a normal day, but it wasn’t. The week before, the news had broke that the store would be closing at that location and its future in Ulster County was uncertain. Management posted a sign addressing the topic and providing the limited amount of information available for the moment, but staff were still steadily peppered with questions from regulars. Why is this location closing? Where could the store move? Are staff looking for new jobs?
“We have truly enjoyed serving our customers from this location for the past 16 years and appreciate their loyalty and support,” read a statement from Barnes & Noble provided by Amelia Mulinder, senior manager of corporate communications. “However, the landlord wanted to go a different direction with the space and chose not to renew the lease.”
Burlington Coat Factory, currently located about a half-mile to the north, will be taking over the space occupied by Barnes & Noble for the last 16 years.
The last decade has been tough for the big box stores that sprawl along Route 9W in Ulster, just north of Kingston. Feeling the pinch from online shopping, many large retail stores that formerly had locations Kingston/Ulster and Poughkeepsie/Wappingers have opted to consolidate their Mid-Hudson presence in the latter, a more populous area. Apparently that isn’t the plan for Barnes & Noble. Town of Ulster Building Inspector Warren Tutt said the store has “made it abundantly clear that they want to stay in the area.”
He imagines that Barnes & Noble will “take a slightly smaller space” when relocating.
“We have quite a few vacant spaces they can have,” said Tutt.
Tutt said that lately he’s seen a number of stores downsizing, mentioning Old Navy’s 2019 move from the Hudson Valley Mall to Kings Mall.
“In the forefront of all of this online shopping, having large spaces doesn’t make sense to them,” said Tutt.
In fact, Burlington had already downsized in its 1375 Ulster Avenue location, moving its back wall up to minimize the square footage. According to Tutt, Burlington has received its necessary approvals to move into the 1177 Ulster Avenue, 24,636-square-feet space now occupied by Barnes & Noble. Tutt said there is a six-month timeline for Burlington to relocate.
The news has been greeted with a variety of reactions in the community, as witnessed in various social media postings. Many seemed sad and resigned, fearing that the store would not find a new location and Barnes & Noble would take its place with JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears, and Best Buy in the list of departed stores, further contributing to a hollowed out feeling in this area of the county; “Soon Kingston will have nothing left.” For others, the potential loss of another corporate retail store was nothing to shed a tear over; they pointed out the area had several locally-owned independent bookstores worthy of support.
Barnes & Noble urged its customers to visit the Poughkeepsie location while it searches for another location in Kingston.
The corporate office of Burlington could not be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Will Dendis.