Ann Franquiz, the store manager of the new Barnes & Noble location in Woodbury, knows bookstores aren't necessarily as convenient as ordering a book online and having it arrive at your door within a few days. What the bookstore chain wants to emphasize, though, is community.

"The store is really focused on gathering community and engaging customers with books," Franquiz said. "You can buy books in other places, that's all very exciting, but what we offer is that connection."

The store, located at 375 Radio Drive in the CityPlace development, officially opens Wednesday, July 24, with grand opening festivities including book signings, storytimes and face painting beginning Friday, July 26. It will open to the public just hours after the former location at 7020 Valley Creek Plaza closes its doors for the final time.

The new Woodbury location is the 15th version of the company's "prototype" stores, which focus on new features and experimentation in things like store layout and programming. One of the first prototypes opened in Edina in 2016.

"CityPlace is the ideal location for one of these new store prototypes when you look around and see all the growth and the newness of this area," Vice President of Stores Frank Morabito said.

Book clubs, self-serve kiosks among new features

A detail at the new CityPlace location customers are likely to notice is the minimalist shelf design, meant to be partially see-through to better showcase the books while helping the store feel more open.

"We wanted to create a bookstore with a contemporary feel with a strong focus on books as the heart of the store," Morabito said.

In addition to updated exterior and interior designs, the Café will serve Starbucks drinks, sandwiches and snacks. The "gifts for readers" section was expanded based on feedback from other stores, and self-serve kiosks will allow customers to search for a product without the help of an employee. A designated space for kids' storytime accompanies a LEGO table and seating.

Among new programming is two monthly book clubs, one for adults and another for young adults. People can sign up in advance but are also encouraged to just show up, Franquiz said.

Debbie McLoughlin, who lives in Woodbury with her wife and two young children, attended a grand opening tour of the store to learn more about the programs for kids. She said her 6-year-old daughter is reading now and "just loves it."

McLoughlin hopes to bring her kids to storytime at 11 a.m. on Saturdays. She also said she's interested in "working from home" at the store, which offers several seating areas and charging stations.

"That's definitely a huge plus," she said.

Franquiz was the store manager at the former Barnes & Noble location at 7020 Valley Creek Plaza. She wanted to reassure loyal customers that a new location doesn't mean fewer books to choose from.

"I think what they need to be confident of is that the selection that we had in the other store remains," she said. "But the big difference, I think, is going to be the cafe and the community spaces."

Franquiz said all of the booksellers, Barnes & Noble employees who provide book recommendations and assist customers, will follow her from the former Woodbury location.

"The heart of it is still here," she said.