The story of ethnics and enterprise captures both the American dream and the American nightmare, since the same people who seem to be pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, seem to also find themselves in conflict with their neighbors and customers. In The Store in the Hood, Steven Gold revisits this American perennial, taking the long view to tell a surprising story about the conflicts both engendered and avoided by the past century’s waves of ethnic entrepreneurs. This deeply researched, well-written book will appeal to students and scholars alike.
The continuing political debates about immigration make clear that race, ethnicity, and economics remain at the forefront of US national discourse. This study offers a historical overview of the relations between ethnic entrepreneurs and their customers. Because the merchant was often racially or ethnically different from the customers where the business was located, conflict was a common part of the relationship. Paradoxically, the business could be viewed as both a problem and a solution. By analyzing the topic in chronological periods, Gold (Michigan State Univ.) illustrates the complexity of American social and economic development and the obstacles that confronted immigrants and native black populations. For example, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Chinese, and others encountered open and frequently violent resistance to their economic ventures during the early 20th century. The Depression and WW II eras were characterized by racial hostility and antagonism, particularly toward entrepreneurs, and the ensuing postwar civil rights movement generated its own unique set of urban economic issues. Those issues are described in a case study of ethnic merchants in Detroit, the largest black majority city in the US. Overall, Gold provides an insightful treatment of minority groups and business opportunity in America. Summing Up: Highly recommended.