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 dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Map of Northeastern Pennsylvania ix
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
Notes on Sourcing 331