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Living above the Store: Building a Business That Creates Value, Inspires Change, and Restores Land and Community Hardcover – May 7, 2009

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Living Above the Store breaks the mold on business writing. This is a tale of three generations of the Melaver family, the purported end of the world, and the true nature of enterprise. It is a book about the greening of business to be sure, but it is literature first, brilliant disquisitions and narratives that place commerce within the broader context of history, culture, and the cherished human values that bind us together. Martin Melaver has enlarged the vocabulary of commerce and restored it to a place of honor, a timely gift in an era of disillusionment. You may put it down to absorb what has been written, but you will not forget the stories of courage, the humility of reflection or the import of what has been said, and you will want to read it straight through to the end."--Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce

"Living Above the Store is the right book for these difficult times, when business needs to regain trust. Melaver starts with specific stories of running a family business, sharing successes and failures, frustrations and joys, and then broadens out to illuminate general principles for running a sustainable business. These stories still stick in my mind, long after I have put the book away."--Marc Gunther, contributing editor, Fortune

"At long last, a visionary work that reminds us what businesses once were, and can once again be. Martin Melaver has shared with us the story of his remarkable real estate company, eloquently teaching us how to run a business that is not solely about making a buck, but about building a sustainable society. Mandatory reading for leaders from all sectors--business, NGOs and government--who believe that our work should make the world a healthier, kinder and more prosperous place."--Eilon Schwartz Director, The Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, Tel Aviv

"There is a third century teaching that says, 'Do not separate yourself from the community.' Commentators since have interpreted this to mean that even if one can accomplish more alone, distancing oneself weakens the entire community. The unique contributions of every individual are critical to the dialogue and discussion which nourish the community. Martin Melaver offers his own commentary on the building and sustaining of community. Each chapter is multi-layered and engaging. Not only does Melaver aspire to connect his actions to a vision of 'building a business that creates value, inspires change, and restores land and community,' but he inspires others to do so as well."--Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Director, Pritzker Center for Jewish Education, Jewish Community Centers of Chicago

"The most sustainably growing family business leaders, I find, are philosophers of management. Living Above the Store is a compelling example. Further, it is a wonderful story built on wonderful stories. All business leaders will be inspired by the power of connecting driving values with convincing stories."--John L. Ward, Clinical Professor, Kellogg School of Management and Principal, The Family Business Consulting Group

"How would a business operate if people and values mattered as much as profit? Melaver's exploration of this question is so compelling not because he knows, but because he is so frank about his quest to find out."--Nadav Malin, President, BuildingGreen, LLC

"Martin describes the evolution of his ideas and practices with refreshing candor and humility. He is a role model for me, my students, and anyone interested in building a values-based, sustainable business."--John Vogel, Adjunct Professor, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

"A truly superb work, Living Above the Store has challenged my thinking about management, and Southface will be a better organization as a result. Martin Melaver is smart and articulate, and has the courage to be honest. Creating a sustainable economy requires a transformational shift in the thinking of business. Melaver embraces this challenge and his book is a compass not only for businesses, large and small, but also for government, non-profits, and even individuals."--Dennis Creech, Executive Director, Southface Energy Institute

"Engaging and informative, Living Above the Store is a story of remarkable change through Martin Melaver's thoughtful, collaborative dialogue of discovery with his family, colleagues and community. He challenges conventional tenets and offers a business plan utilizing diversity, shared values, common purpose and a land-community ethic that is restorative for humankind and nature. Living Above the Store is for readers interested in realizing a business' highest potential and regaining a more authentic sense of themselves or for anyone wanting to develop a life plan for the 21st century."--Bob Berkebile, BNIM Architects

"This is a heartwarming and inspiring story of how business ought to be conducted at the intersection of community, common sense, and caring."--David Orr, author of Design on the Edge and Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College

"Martin Melaver's beautiful retelling of his family and business experience provides valuable professional management directions for realizing ethically based business practices that are crucial to our society's health. General readers will also be inspired by the author's advice, personal journey, and approaches to the challenges he's taken on."--Michael Singer, artist/designer

"Martin Melaver has expressed the deepest aspirations of what it means to be a developer. He's done so in the most purposeful and important sense of the word--to create added value and new potential in the whole system of life. If all developers can work towards achieving this purpose we actually have a shot at what's required of us to achieve a sustainable and thriving condition."--Bill Reed, Principal, Integrative Design

About the Author

Martin Melaver has been CEO of Melaver, Inc., since 1992. Never content with the welltrod path, he has a PhD in literature from Harvard University and an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He is actively involved with numerous community organizations in and around Savannah, Georgia. Melaver splits his time between Savannah and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Ray Anderson has become one of the nation's leading spokespersons and advocates for sustainability. He is currently co-chairman of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, and was named the Georgia Conservancy's Conservationist of the Year in 1997. His warm and eye-opening account of the mid-course correction for himself and his company should be required reading for every CEO in the world. Anderson lives with his wife, Pat, in Atlanta. He has two children and five grandchildren.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; First Edition edition (May 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603580859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603580854
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,284,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While Living Above the Store pertains most particularly to builders and real-estate development businesses, it contains valuable strategies and lessons for creating a values-oriented business. If you are interested in creating a "flater" management structure in which all of your employees define and implement a vision for your business, Melaver describes a variety of techniques for doing so. I found the discussion of the "5 Whys" particularly intriguing as a method of getting to the root cause of a problem that usually forces oneself to admit one's own initial mistake or careless error. This book offers an alternative to the usual "maximize shareholder value" goal of contemporary capitalism, suggesting that other values such as environmental quality and employee meaning and satisfaction can be added to create a better, more meaningful business that can not only remain profitable but grow in a more orderly, natural pace. It should be added to your shelf of classic revisionist business books along with Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, and E.F. Schumacher.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Many writers have written about how businesses can do well by doing good. In this addition to the literature, Mr. Melaver gives us his own take on the connection between doing good and doing well.

Early in his tenure as the new CEO of a 70 year old family-owned business, Mr. Melaver was confronted with this question: Does it matter what our business does (especially if we're only doing what others in the industry are or have been doing), as long as we're giving back to the community? Mr. Melaver's answer to this question is yes, and he tells us the whys and hows in this book.

According to Mr. Melaver, doing good and doing well are inseparable concepts; a business that takes into heart the principles described in this book will do well without having to sacrifice its core values.

Mr. Melaver's world view is an integrative view: Every person is the sum of many diverse parts -- land (place a person lives in), community, etc. -- and each of those individual parts is recursively the sum of many other diverse interconnected parts; the challenge for each of us is to reflect on our values and how we want to conduct ourselves so that we can grow to our highest potential at a thoughtful pace, while simultaneously giving others the same opportunities to reach their own potentials without disturbing the natural order of the integrated whole. This challenge requires, among other things, a willingness to change the way we view ourselves, competitors, knowledge sharing, partnering, etc. and is a daunting one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jason Bregman on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As I finished this book I have been thinking about it a lot and discussing it with friends and colleagues. Perhaps the best way to sum up my thoughts is that the book is much more encompassing than I had expected and really attempts to express a shift that is occurring (or hopefully occurring, or should be encouraged to occur more) in the world in general. After finishing the book I went back and re-read Ray Anderson's introduction. In his piece he mentions Dana Meadows' "Places to Intervene in a System, in Increasing Order of Effectiveness", where number 1 on the list "is to challenge the mind-set behind the system-...the mental model of how things are that underlies the system in the first place." This is what this book does, and I was taken off guard by its subtle calm writing style and modesty that is essentially entreating you to re-think everything that you do in context with everything else around you. Ray also writes "Dana said that this is the most effective place to intervene, but she also acknowledged that it is the hardest", and this is also true of the book- which Martin Melaver acknowledges in his own way. The complexity of the ideas expressed need a multi-dimensional space (hence the 3d diagrams, grids, and multi-level matrices) and it's inherently limited by any form of media/communication that is not the thing itself (ie Melaver Inc, the meeting, the Story itself).

There is something about this book that is much broader and applicable beyond what most people consider traditional business. I will continue share this book with others as a way of engaging an ever expanding audience in this evolving experiment for a more thoughtful and holistic future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By George McAdams VINE VOICE on September 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the 1960's, the book ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE was popular among those who leaned towards alternative ways of looking at the world. That book caused the reader to lose themselves in a complex, yet, simple task, of taking care of what one had.

In LIVING ABOVE THE STORE: BUILDING A BUSINESS... Martin Malevar has given us, those who long for a quality in ownership we seem to only remember in "Saturday Evening Post" ads, a true feeling that there is something more than greed and fear in American businesses. There can be life.

I was very fortunate to have been raised in small Central Western Alabama town of 3,000 after my father retired. In the early 1960's, the rampart culture of Big Business was just beginning to sweep from larger companies, via Madison Avenue, to medium size businesses in larger cities of the South. Our town only had the local businesses that depended on word-of-mouth advertising to exist upon and grow. The ethics and quality of the individuals who owned and ran those stores were a lot like those of the farmers who farmed outside our city limits. Those farmers managed their farms as if everything they did impacted on the future of their farm, because they knew it did.

Martin Malevar has provided us with the guidance on how one can, not only, restore this quality to the current business model, but must restore it if faith in our businesses is to be restored.
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