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Originally published Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 12:54 PM

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Room & Board will replace Barnes & Noble at U-Village

Room & Board will take 27,000 square feet on the second floor — or a little more than half of the space formerly occupied by Barnes & Noble.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Room & Board, a Midwest home-furnishings chain with 11 stores across the country, will replace Barnes & Noble at University Village in Seattle.

Barnes & Noble recently closed its store at U-Village after 16 years as the shopping center's largest retail tenant, disappointing many customers who had come to regard it as a community gathering spot.

Room & Board, of Golden Valley, Minn., will take 27,000 square feet on the second floor — or a little more than half of the space formerly occupied by Barnes & Noble. U-Village has not said what will become of the rest of the space.

The new store, which is to open this fall, will be Room & Board's first location in the Northwest.

The privately held company says it already has about 5,800 customers in the Seattle area shopping from its catalog and e-commerce site, and half of them live within five miles of U-Village.

"It's a very desirable location for us," Chief Financial Officer Mark Miller said Thursday. "They have many of our competitors, and we're always looking to be very close to our competitors. We welcome the comparison."

Shortly after news of Barnes & Noble's departure broke last fall, U-Village General Manager Susie Plummer said she had been talking with independent bookstores about opening there.

"Of the emails I received about Barnes & Noble leaving, probably 80 percent were from parents saying, 'Please, if you do anything, bring back children's books,' " she said in October.

Conflicting reasons were given at the time for Barnes & Noble's departure. Plummer said the New York-based company declined to exercise a five-year option on the final portion of its 20-year lease. Terry Foster, then community-relations manager at the store, said Barnes & Noble could not come to terms on a new lease.

Plummer said in an email Thursday that she's still talking with independent bookstores, but for space elsewhere at U-Village. She said additional tenants for the old Barnes & Noble space will be announced soon.

Founded in 1980, Room & Board has stores in California, Minnesota, Illinois, New York's SoHo district, Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C.

It says it partners with small, family-owned businesses to sell mostly American-made couches, tables, chairs and other types of furniture. Prices tend to be in the same range as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware, all of which have stores at U-Village.

Room & Board, which will employ 19 at U-Village, also is looking to put a distribution center in the area to serve local customers.

The company reported sales last year of $263 million, a 15 percent increase from 2010. President Bruce Champeau said it has continued to grow despite a sluggish economy because demand is strong for American-made furniture that can last a lifetime.

"People today, if they're going to invest in something, they want it to last."

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or

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