Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mom and Pop Store

By Robert Spector

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

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 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, 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.

This book is available at The mom & pop store: How the unsung heroes of the American economy are surviving and thriving

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