Notes from the Field


Northeast rep Mary Beth Barilla visits an old favorite in Providence

When I’m on the road, I often listen to news radio, and in January, the news was a bit depressing. Sure, Obama took office, but almost every broadcast included grim new forecasts for the economy. I was happy, then, to see that some bookstores are planning for growth, and at least one of them is based in the Northeast.

I have always enjoyed visiting Providence, RI, and I love calling on the Brown University Bookstore. The store is located in the College Hill neighborhood of Providence, on Thayer Street, which is lined with dozens of shops and restaurants. It’s not only near the Brown campus, but also close to RISD (RIZ-dee), the Rhode Island School of Design. The College Hill neighborhood always feels lively to me, probably because it’s full of smart, hip-looking young people. As a rep, I can’t say I wouldn’t change anything about the area—an underground parking garage off Thayer Street would be wonderful—but other than that, I can’t complain.

It’s always a pleasure to see Peter Sevenair, the general book buyer at the Brown store. Peter is a very congenial person who knows a lot about academia and academic books. He always features new university press titles on a front table, which I really appreciate.

I stopped in to sell spring titles to Peter shortly after the New Year. Planning for an arrival at 10:00 A.M. (when street parking hours begin), I scored a great parking space right around the corner from the store. This trip was also special because it at last afforded me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the “new” Brown University Bookstore. The store began a major expansion and renovation last semester, and now the work is almost completed. The expansion features the new College Hill Café, run by local favorite Blue State Coffee, and a new technology store, as well as an expanded seating area for students. There will also be more room for meetings and events. Clearly, the goal here is to encourage customers to stick around longer—to drink some coffee and have a sandwich, take a break, and maybe buy a book or two! The store’s grand opening is scheduled for February 25, and if I have the time, I may just stop in again.

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