Barnes & Noble

 The fireplace and reading area is one of the most popular spots in the Fairbanks Barnes & Noble book store. Barnes & Noble was voted the best local book store in the 2018 Readers’ Choice poll. Photos by David Jones/News-Miner

FAIRBANKS - Where do you go if you want a good cup of coffee, some conversation, and a good read? If the answer’s not Barnes & Noble, then you’re missing out.

Though Barnes & Noble may have won the honor of being Reader’s Choice for best bookstore two years in a row, the business is more than just a place to buy books.

Located at 421 Merhar Ave., the store has strived since its 2006 opening to be both a store and a place where people want to gather, a place where people feel welcome, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We really want to be a destination where families and friends can hang out,” said Nicole Galagan, community business development manager for Barnes & Noble. “A place where you can come and grab a coffee, meet with a friend, use our free WiFi.” One of the store’s biggest draws is the large fireplace situated next to the cafe, surrounded by comfortable chairs that are almost always occupied, chairs that beckon you to take a seat and get lost in a grand new adventure — or reminisce over stories of long past.

A bookstore is nothing without books, however, and Barnes & Noble has those in spades, touting their “endless bookshelf.”

“What we like to say is if we don’t have it in the store, that’s OK — it’s probably in stock, and we can get it shipped to the customers,” Galagan said.

Customers can browse an extensive product lineup: books, games, magazines, toys, music and DVDs. If you can’t make a decision on what to get, Barnes & Noble can help with that too, with booksellers across the store — which includes the baristas — offering personalized recommendations on that next piece of entertainment.

“We really try to have personal conversations when we’re making those recommendations, not just ‘Here’s a book that’s on promotion,’” Galagan said. “We really want to make that connection with the customer. And if I’m not an expert in something, there’s going to be someone in the store who is.”

Barnes & Noble has also given back to the community over the years, attempting to increase literacy and education throughout the state. The store has given more than $80,000 back to the community in the last 2 1/2 years through book fair fundraising programs, along with supporting schools all the way up to the North Slope with textbooks and curriculum.

David Jones is an editorial assistant at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.