Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19

Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19

by Gary Rivlin
Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19

Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19

by Gary Rivlin


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A veteran journalist follows an inspiring ensemble cast of small business owners fighting to keep their businesses alive through Covid-19, while exploring the sweeping trends and government policies that had brought small businesses to the breaking point long before the coronavirus hit.

There is a tendency to fetishize small business even as it shrinks before our eyes. Americans extol the virtues of small, local, often family-run shops, yet buy from big-box retailers and chains that dominate the competition. Even before the pandemic, small businesses seemed endangered. When Covid-19 hit, the resounding question was: How will they be able to survive this?

Saving Main Street is an unfiltered, up-close examination of a small group of business owners and their employees, their struggles, and their strategies to survive. It is an eye-opening tale of grit, perseverance, and entrepreneurial spirit that follows three businesses: a restaurant owner and his rambunctious staff, an immigrant running her own hair salon, and the owner of a “non-life sustaining” gift shop—alongside a larger cast of vividly drawn characters. 

Gary Rivlin focuses on the first days of the Covid lockdown and the ensuing eighteen months of chaos, including the personal and financial risks, a contentious presidential election, and contradictory governmental guidelines—all which compounded the everyday challenges of running an independent business trying to attract and retain customers who expect low prices, convenience, and endless choice. Rivlin keenly observes small businesses from all angles, examining commonly held “myths”; contradictions in government policy; enormous racial and class fissures; a national self-identity intrinsically connected to the ideal of small business, and how the decline of this American way of retail impacts our notions of American exceptionalism, community, and civic duty.

As Rivlin reveals, there’s something enduring about small business in the American psyche. Life will have changed in unprecedented ways on the other side of this pandemic, yet hard times will also create opportunities, offering hope and survival.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780063065963
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/18/2022
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,071,912
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Gary Rivlin is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter and the author of nine books, including Katrina: After the Flood. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, Fortune, GQ, and Wired, among other publications. He is a two-time Gerald Loeb Award winner and former reporter for the New York Times. He lives in New York with his wife, theater director Daisy Walker, and two sons.

Table of Contents

Map of Northeastern Pennsylvania ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Heavy Is the Crown 21

Chapter 2 Governor Richie Rich 34

Chapter 3 Fearless 42

Chapter 4 The Coronavirus Comes to Hazleton 61

Chapter 5 Washington 84

Chapter 6 Preexisting Conditions 95

Chapter 7 The Old Forge 113

Chapter 8 Governor Dictator 133

Chapter 9 Bikini Season 153

Chapter 10 Family Reunion 167

Chapter 11 The Corner Druggist 179

Chapter 12 Extinction-Level Threats 195

Chapter 13 People Hate Us on Yelp 205

Chapter 14 It Takes a Village 218

Chapter 15 10 Percent Capacity 228

Chapter 16 The Fall Surge 240

Chapter 17 Makersville 248

Chapter 18 The Hammer and the Dance 253

Chapter 19 Starvation Mode 262

Chapter 20 "Surviving Long Enough to Survive" 271

Chapter 21 Maxed Out 279

Chapter 22 Wait Till Next Year 290

Chapter 23 Dream Small 302

Afterword: Onward 310

Acknowledgments 327

Notes on Sourcing 331

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