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Yellow bins, tall shelves, and an assortment of books line the floor of a mysterious, yet-to-be-opened store in an upscale Seattle shopping center. Is it possible that Amazon, the company with a reputation for killing off small booksellers, could be preparing to open a physical bookstore of its own?

Shelf Awareness, a site that publishes a newsletter about books and the book industry, wrote a post on Thursday titled “Amazon Opening Bookstore in Seattle?” — with several clues suggesting that the online retailer could soon be opening a bricks-and-mortar store at Seattle’s University Village.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The site reported that Amazon is reaching out to local booksellers around Seattle for mysterious job openings that have “very restrictive nondisclosure agreements.” The site quoted an anonymous source at University Village saying that the shopping center’s management “has been unusually secretive about the new tenant.”

Permit filings list the occupant as “Ann Bookstore,” as noted by Shelf Awareness, and one planning document uncovered by GeekWire describes the owner as “Project Anne.” Records show that no such business has registered for a license in Washington state or Seattle.

One vendor involved in the project declined to comment when contacted by GeekWire this morning. Another said she didn’t know who the tenant was, other than “Ann Bookstore,” but didn’t believe Amazon was involved.

The store is located in the southwest corner of University Village, an upscale shopping complex north of downtown Seattle where companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Verizon also have stores. Renovations are underway on the space, which was previously occupied by Blue C Sushi.

GeekWire stopped by the building on Thursday morning and caught a glimpse of what was going on inside the building through a small opening in the windows, which were mostly covered by white construction paper.

projectanneThere were employees inside carrying books and other boxes around. One man was holding a smaller white box, which looked to be some sort of electronic device like a tablet or e-reader. Numerous bookshelves were already installed in the space, and we noticed two books: The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas and Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula, both of which are available on Amazon.com, although that’s not a surprise. 

One construction worker said, “They won’t tell me what it is even though I’m working on the building” when asked if he knew which company would be operating the shop. Another said that he “heard through the grapevine” that it was an Amazon store, but didn’t have first-hand knowledge.

University Village has been rumored as a potential site for an Amazon store as far back as 2012. Amazon has a history of testing out new projects first in its home region, from the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service to the new Amazon Flex crowdsourced package delivery network.

Amazon has dabbled in physical retail stores with projects including pop-up locations in major malls, college campuses, kiosks and Amazon Locker delivery locations. However, creating its own bookstore would take things to a new level.

We’ve contacted Amazon and will update this post if we hear back.

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