In their application for the Bookstore Make-Over Contest sponsored by the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates to mark its 20th anniversary, Kris Kleindienst and Jarek Steele, owners of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Mo., wrote, “Frankly, [the store’s] looking really tired at this point and the layout does not work for us at all anymore.”

Paz & Associates chose Left Bank from among 18 candidates as a project that would illustrate affordable solutions to problems that many bookstores share. The only trick was to create a wow factor for those entering the store, add color, designate focal point displays, and cut clutter by combining categories without going over the $2,000 makeover budget.

To update the 43-year-old bookstore, Paz & Associates began by making the stairwell more visible and replacing a bookcase and half-wall with a custom wrought-iron railing. The redesign crew also painted some tables that had been in storage and added light fixtures for more visual interest. And they relocated the children’s section to a dedicated space and transformed the lower level into “The Underground,” a space for young adults.

The results were dramatic. “With Paz & Associates’ expertise and outside perspective, we were able to finally achieve a beautifully thought-out, relevant, and gorgeous new feel to our store without sacrificing our identity,” said Kleindienst.