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Left Bank Books Leaves Downtown
Its flagship store in the Central West End at 399 N. Euclid remains open.
Left Bank Books the 45-year old independent St. Louis bookstore, announces that it is closing its downtown location by May 31, 2013. Its flagship store in the Central West End at 399 N. Euclid remains open and continues to operate its robust schedule of author events and school services. Its corporate sales program also remains unchanged.
“We loved being part of the revival of downtown St. Louis. There is a lot happening downtown that is promising and it will continue to grow,” says Kris Kleindienst, who co-owns Left Bank Books with her husband, Jarek Steele. “We were in negotiations for several months with our landlord, but ultimately could not reach an agreement.”
Kleindienst and Steele will continue to evolve Left Bank Books’ operating model to meet the changing needs of the community it serves. A few of the plans under consideration include: expanding the CWE location, opening a second store either downtown or in another St. Louis neighborhood, and adding a coffee or a wine and beer bar to the Central West End location.
“We depart our downtown location with respect for our landlord and his vision," says Kleindienst. “He is a great advocate for a livable downtown, and while we will no longer be in this space, we wish him the best.”
Left Bank Books employs 21 people, both full and part-time, including the owners Steele and Kleindienst. There are no current plans to make significant reductions in staff levels. “Our walk- in traffic, online store, growing author event programming, institutional, and school services require a dedicated staff in the backroom as well as on the floor,” says Kleindienst.
Left Bank Books has a membership-based loyalty program and also operates the Left Bank Books Foundation, a 501c3 corporation. The Foundation’s primary program is River City Readers, a project to bring books and authors to St. Louis Public School students. “River City Readers is one of the programs that we are proudest of,” says Kleindienst. “We are excited to be able to involve our customers to make real changes in the lives of St. Louis kids.” Left Bank Books also hosts several in-store fundraisers for area schools and non-profits.
Left Bank Books was founded in 1969 and collectively run in the Delmar Loop neighborhood by a group of Washington University graduate students. Kleindienst was hired as a bookseller in 1974. In 1977, the store moved to its current location in the Central West End and Kleindienst, along with Barry Leibman took ownership. Steele, who has worked at Left Bank Books since 2002, assumed co-ownership in 2006. Leibman retired in 2010.