- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (September 15, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802716059
- ISBN-13: 978-0802716057
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,105,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of the American Economy Are Surviving and Thriving Hardcover – September 15, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Spector (Category Killers) offers a love letter to American small-business people, in particular his beloved, hardworking father, a neighborhood butcher. A tribute to local merchants, depicted as independent, passionate and persistent and the guardians of our most basic and enduring commercial bond, the book presents a broad, intriguing history of the 90% of all modern-day U.S. businesses, which are family-owned or controlled, and their neighborhood-defining, community-building, ethics-based contribution to the American way of life. Spector touches on such examples of small-business successes as Rob Kaufelt of Murray's Cheese in New York's Greenwich Village, but his book truly sings when the author recounts his childhood spent in his family's butcher shop and the practical wisdom he gleaned at his father's knee. Cheerful and charming, this is a heartfelt look at life on the other side of the counter. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“The stories that Spector has gathered are cheering testimonials to the value of hard work and creative retailing, heartwarming in this day of conglomerates…. Readers who enjoy Capra-esque stories about plucky general merchandising outfits run by colorful individualists will enjoy Spector's book.” ―The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Spector offers a love letter to American small-business people...his book truly sings when [he] recounts his childhood spent in his family's butcher shop and the practical wisdom he gleaned at his father's knee. Cheerful and charming, this is a heartfelt look at life on 'the other side of the counter.'” ―Publishers Weekly
“The most intriguing parts of the book chronicle the struggle of each business to survive in a retail environment in which small businesses must adapt or fail…. Lively lessons about business ethics and practices that Fortune 500 companies, the author suggests, would be wise to follow.” ―Kirkus Reviews
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Top customer reviews
Let me begin by telling you what this book is not. First, it is not a history nor a background study of mom and pop stores. One reviewer at Amazon.com commented on precisely this aspect: "If you're looking for a book to give you some background, data and understanding of small businesses, how they operate and how they fit in and affect the US economy, unfortunately this is not it. It will not tell you, as its title suggests, how mom & pops are `surviving and thriving.'"
Second, it is not at all concise. Rather, it rambles a bit.
Third, it is not the least bit analytical. He has no interest in writing a rational, logical, or organized approach to the topic. He has, instead, put together a love story (or love stories) that reveal the passion, creativity, and tenacity small business owners demonstrate -- in the Studs Terkel tradition -- in order to survive.
One reviewer at Amazon.com, A. Westerman, writes, "Robert Spector has written a homage to the small, family-owned business -- the type rooted in the American psyche and as iconic as a Norman Rockwell illustration. Spector hopes to combat the notion that the family store is, much like The Saturday Evening Post, fading from the contemporary scene.
"The book, part memoir of the author's childhood at the family butchershop, part tribute to others family-owned businesses, Spector seeks to make the case that family shops aren't leaving the retail landscape. He does this with varying degrees of success: the profiles of business owners and their family members are heart-warming and interesting, but he also makes claims that are not supported by evidence. I can't say he's wrong when he talks about the unique characteristics family-owned businesses, such as old-fashioned values of hard work and community. Yet he doesn't have any other evidence but anecdotes to support him."
This 291-page book includes five pages of notes, two-and-one-half pages of "selected bibliography," and a 12-page index. However, the book is a series of stories (including his own at the family's butcher shop in Perth Amboy, New Jersey) -- anecdotal in nature -- that tends to meander (a bit) as he pieces together a portrait of mom and pop stores in the U.S. today. I found it somewhat interesting but tedious.
The book is a great read. Spector takes us through the history of retailing--which all began with little family stores--in all places of the world, from medieval fairs to eastern bazaars. He threads through his narrative abiding memories from his own life, including many of his contacts in cozy neighborhood establishments across America. He cites the reality that most U.S. stores were imbedded in the immigrant experience--the store was a way to relate to and provide for the community, and ultimately provided people like Spector with a way out into the larger world.
Reading it causes one to reflect on what it was we loved about the little hardware store where all the guys used to hang out, the corner drugstore where the soda jerk knew what you were going to order, the man slicing the meat at the butcher shop with one of those fascinating slicing machines. It taps into a well of nostalgia, while at the same time reviewing dozens of up-to-date stores based on the principles of the original mom-'n'-pops. Spector is unabashedly sentimental about his subject while at the same time imparting a wealth of information and inspiration to enterprising entrepreneurs.
He may be the one voice in retailing today who preaches love above techniques taught at business schools. It's a refreshing approach, totally authentic, and it's time we took a look at the obvious through such a book.
Any reader looking for a calm and rational analysis of the place of small family businesses in our economy will be disappointed. This book is highly anecdotal. Robert Spector begins with his youth in the family butcher shop in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and ends with a walk through his current Seattle neighborhood. In between, he profiles a myriad of small stores around the country - and the world - pausing occasionally to dredge up a bit of retail history or to reminisce about some aspect of his grandfather's shop.
It's true, the author does ramble a bit. But that's part of the charm. Concise? Well, no. Analytical? Uh, no, not that either. But fascinating, charming, and totally convincing? Absolutely yes!