Behind the counter at Muddy's Bakeshop in Memphis, TN.

The cost of designing and decorating the interior of your retail space can range from very cheap to very expensive. Ideally, you want to spend the exact amount that gives you the best chance of more sales and customer attraction while maintaining the largest profit margin. Every bakery is different and finding that number involves a trial and error process. However, making your space attractive and customer friendly on the cheap is doable and guarantees you won’t break the bank.

The furniture

Kat Gordon, owner and president of awesome at Muddy’s Bakeshop in Memphis, TN, started her bakery on the most shoestring of budgets. “When I opened the business, I was 26 and only had the money that I had. Everything, the whole business had to fall within that. I didn’t go for outside funding,” she says. While that route made things tight, it also eliminated extra payments on loans or to partners.

Garage sale chairs, repurposed items and low-budget, basic furniture spruced up by Gordon and the staff, give Muddy’s its unique character. “We do have a great little kitchen island that I think is very 50s,” Gordon says. “I found it on the side of the road and a very nice neighbor helped me load it. It’s just very eclectic.”

Some of the furniture in the bakery did need to be purchased, but Gordon got the basic pieces and made them into something specific to Muddy’s own vibe. “Our tables are just the very basic tables that you can get at a restaurant supply store,” Gordon says. “They’re just a wooden top and base that you bought $10 worth of paint and painted.” Other pieces of furniture, integral to the store came from Gordon herself. “The sideboard that we have our coffee service on is from my house. It was a garage sale purchase for $50.”

The design

Muddy’s Bakeshop occupies a fairly small space so there weren’t as many design decisions as a larger space would have. With pros and cons for large shops and small shops, Muddy’s took what it had and made it work. “The tighter your boundaries are, the options that go with that,” Gordon says.

Before Muddy's Bakeshop opened, a coffee shop occupied the space.

The form vs. function battle didn’t cause a lot of problems for Muddy’s smaller retail space. Gordon made the initial decisions of the design easily according to the existing blueprint of the space when she opened. “It was, ‘we need to have bakery cases and we need to have a register.’ We figured out how to put that stuff in without having to completely re-dig,” she says.

Before Muddy’s opened the space had been a coffee shop. Floor drains existed so Gordon worked around that rather than trying to redesign the existing layout. “I wasn’t going to dig new floor drains just to put the bakery case on the other side of the space,” Gordon says. “So we kind of had to follow what was there, again, to stay on budget.” Sometimes with parameters already set, you can create a customer friendly environment with a little more ease and less money than when you are starting from scratch.

Time to accessorize

Once laid out and furnished, a space generates its character through the items used to decorate it. Pictures, posters, and in the case of Muddy’s Bakeshop, decorations hanging from the ceiling, put the finishing touches on the shops overall friendliness. Maximizing unused space helps Gordon and Muddy’s convey the feel of the bakery without sacrificing useable retail real estate.

“We have shelves that go up to where an average person can reach using a step stool, but then there’s still about five feet of wall space,” Gordon says. “So that’s where we’ll have plates hanging on the walls and some framed items to really use the space and pull it together, where it’s not really convenient to store mixing bowls or other supplies and equipment.”

Muddy's Bakeshop decorated for the winter season.

The seasonal decorations hanging from the ceiling of the shop provide the most fun and creativity in terms of the interior design for Gordon and her staff. “We do our seasonal decorations hanging from the ceiling,” Gordon says. “We try not to marry it to a holiday theme so much, we’re just changing it out when we feel like it.”

Muddy’s designates days for staff to come in when the shop is closed to make the decorations and put them up, but the shop will also invite customers in to do the crafts. “We’ll send out an invitation or put it in our newsletter,” Gordon says. This is not only fun, but draws customers into the store as well.

Customers will come in to the store and show their friends the decoration they made. One year for the winter decorations, the shop invited customers in to make snowflakes. A staff member leads the craft and at the end, customers take some home with them and leave some to decorate the store. “It was really fun to see those little girls come in throughout the winter and say, ‘oh look, there’s the one I made,’” Gordon says. “We had so much fun doing that.”