Visiting the New Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek

Barnes and Noble recently opened a new store in downtown Walnut Creek, California. The popular book chain had a location in Walnut Creek before, but it closed several years ago.

Now, Barnes and Noble is back with a nice-sized bookstore located across the street from the Cheesecake Factory at the Plaza Escuela shopping center.

When the new Barnes and Noble was under construction, we visited to see what the new store might look like.

Now that the store is officially open and open and running, the Bay Area Telegraph went back to visit and see how it looks. Here’s a look inside.

Is Barnes and Noble returning to Walnut Creek?

Yes, Barnes and Noble is returning! In fact, the new store is already up and running, and you can visit it today.

Barnes and Noble had a storied history in Walnut Creek, with a large store on Main Street that was a popular destination for locals. That store was two stories tall and had a cafe and extensive collections of books and music.

Unfortunately, the original Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek closed down. At the time, the owners said that the rent was too high, especially after Broadway Plaza was renovated and Walnut Creek became a pricier retail destination. 

Now, though, the store is back. As we’ll explore, the format is different, and the new store is smaller. This likely will allow it to thrive despite the changing conditions in Walnut Creek.

What the New Barnes and Noble Is Like

The new Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek is very different from the old store in some ways but very similar in other key ways.

Several of the new Barnes and Noble stores in the East Bay have adopted a very different style than the chain originally used. The store in Concord, for example, feels more functional–almost like a warehouse filled with books.

They have a ton of inventory, but it’s not a very inviting space. The Walnut Creek Barnes and Noble is different. It feels more like the interior of the original style of store, with wooden shelves, bright lighting, and the books front and center.

Interior of Walnut Creek Barnes and Noble

It also has a lower ceiling, more of a meandering layout, and less of a warehouse feel. That’s good news for people who crave the original Barnes and Noble experience or who miss the original Walnut Creek store.

How Big is the New Store?

The new Barnes and Noble store in Walnut Creek is much smaller than the original one. It feels more like a large independent bookstore than a massive big-box store, or the two-story Barnes and Noble that once graced Walnut Creek.

One surprising thing–the new store doesn’t have a cafe! We asked a staff member about this, and they said that since there are so many Starbucks locations and other cafes nearby, there was no reason to include one.

That’s a big departure from Barnes and Noble’s original model of encouraging people to browse and have a drink. It also substantially cuts down on the size of the store.

Interior of Walnut Creek Barnes and Noble

Now, the idea is that you’d browse and buy a book, and then head to a nearby coffee shop to read it. We like the Coffee Shop on Main Street, and Peet’s Coffee nearby is also a neighborhood hangout.

Sections at the New Barnes and Noble

The new Barnes and Noble store has several sections. Here’s a look at each.

Main Browsing Area

The main browsing area occupies the first level of the Walnut Creek Barne and Noble. It has the usual shelves with different kinds of nonfiction books, fiction bestsellers, and books organized by topic.

The new store has a nice selection of cookbooks and other books relating to specific hobbies.

There are also helpful tables that call out specific kinds of books, like New and Notable books or books related to upcoming holidays.

Children’s Section

One of the nicest aspects of the new Barnes and Noble is a comprehensive children’s book section. The children’s section is down a half level from the entrance.

One annoyance is that there’s no ramp to access the children’s section level–you have to either go down about four stairs (tough for a stroller and impossible for a wheelchair), or use a small wheelchair lift.

The best way to get into the store for the children’s section is to enter via the side entrance, which takes you right into the lower level of the store.

Once you’re there, you’ll find both children’s books and a nice selection of toys. Barnes and Noble clearly realized that it can’t survive on books alone, so the store is offering toys, games, and other items for sale.

Music Section

In the old Barnes and Noble, most of the music was on CDs! Today, the music section primarily includes vinyl albums. You’ll find a good number of these, also on the lower level of the store. You’ll also find plenty of hipsters browsing.

Visiting the New Barnes and Noble

The new Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek is located at Plaza Escuela 1192 Locust Street Unit D400-500 Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

The store is open Sun 10-8 Mon-Sat 9-8, but has some special holiday and other hours–check the Barnes and Noble website for details on a specific day before you head over.

You can also check out the store on Twitter to get up-to-date information on events and hours.


The new Barnes and Noble in Walnut Creek maintains much of the character and feel of the original, albeit in a much smaller space. The lack of a cafe is unfortunate, but the inclusion of more toys, games, and children’s items is a nice update.

We will definitely be back to visit the store again, and we encourage you to stop by and check it out.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button