Sun Magazine Readers' Choice Awards [Pictures]
Shopping: Bookstore( Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun photo / February 26, 2014 )
Barnes & Noble
Various locations, 800-843-2665, barnesandnoble.com
With Barnes & Noble's vast inventory of hundreds of thousands of titles, its comfy upholstered chairs and its in-store cafe, the bookseller combines the best parts of a giant chain with the relaxed ambience of a neighborhood gathering spot. "We're not just a retail store," said Jessica Harper, who manages the Power Plant branch. "We think of ourselves as a community center. We're a place where people can gather and make connections over books." That vibe takes the form of author readings (a recent draw was former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell), children's story hours and fundraising drives for local charities. One shy little boy, Harper said, had to be prodded by his father before he could ask for a book suggestion. Now, when the boy sees Harper in the store, he runs right up to tell her about his newest discovery.
"The most magical part of our job," she said, "is watching a child get excited about reading."
--Mary Carole McCauley