Show me great articles/books about running restaurants, stores and more
January 15, 2022 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I love reading about the practicalities and experience of running physical stores, restaurants, etc. and would love your favourite articles or books written by people who have done so.

I was reminded of this by the answers to a recent Ask about taking over a toy store business, something I know nothing about, and have no desire to do, but found fascinating.

I remember Gabrielle Hamilton writing about shutting up her restaurant last year, and I remembered Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, as two other examples.

But I would love to read more about the practicalities, finances, unseen difficulties, and joys of running bookshops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and any similar places.

(Or if you have or do run such a place yourself and have the urge to share anything about the experience here I’d also love to read that!)
posted by fabius to Work & Money (14 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
A used bookstore: Shaun Bythell, The Diary of a Bookseller

A kitchen for a Zen monastery and later a vegetarian restaurant: Deborah Madison, An Onion in my Pocket

posted by mostly vowels at 11:00 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

I have really enjoyed following Nick Kokonas of Alinea fame on Twitter. He also wrote about founding Alinea on the eGullet forums.

Life, On the Line by Kokonas and Grant Achatz got mixed reviews but I found plenty of interesting stuff in it.
posted by BibiRose at 11:52 AM on January 15

if you have or do run such a place yourself and have the urge to share anything about the experience here

(All links that follow are self-links.)

I run a very unconventional store out of my loft in Toronto, though I've managed and owned traditional brick and mortar stores before. I sell records (which I've been doing for 18 years), books, magazines, pens, bags, charging cables, and anything else that I find interesting. (Coming soon: bed sheets, linen clothing, nail clippers, and more bags.)

Last month I wrote a short essay which you may find interesting. It's about the time that I put question marks on my products instead of prices. I'll try and update the journal section of my site once a month talking about all the odd experiments I've done over the decades (35 years retail) -- that's the first entry so far.
posted by dobbs at 12:21 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]

Check out The Secret Life of Groceries.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:53 PM on January 15

My Love Affair with the State of Maine is a wonderful read about two women from NYC who impulsively decide to buy a general store near Kennebunkport in the late 40s. The general store leads to a soda fountain, then take out meals, then a restaurant, then a guesthouse to house their employees plus tourists, then a dance hall to entertain them and the townsfolk during the evening. Etc. Not recent but written with great good humor.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:55 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

One Night At Kachka is an article about one night at a Russian restaurant in Portland, OR that I've always enjoyed. (It's from 2015 and some of the embedded videos seem to no longer be available, but the text and pictures are still there.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:07 PM on January 15

MeFi's Own Ghidorah wrote a series of articles based on his experience opening, running, sadly closing, opening again, and then finally closing restaurants in Tokyo. (I don't think he reads The Green very much, so posting this for him.)
posted by Gotanda at 4:30 PM on January 15

The Japanese novel Convenience Store Woman is fiction, but the author worked at a convenience store, and one of the things I particularly enjoyed about it was the focus on the little details of the daily running of a corner shop (which is something the main character really enjoys too).
posted by theatro at 5:27 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Spotted Dick Sil Vous Plait is the amusing story of an English couple opening and running a (successful) English restaurant in Lyon, the culinary capital of France. There's lots of details about dealing with French bureaucrats, and French tradespeople. There's also helpful tips on dealing with French diners - most of whom think the entire concept is a joke.

The restaurant survived more than 25 years!
posted by monotreme at 5:35 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Shopping at Sunshine by Susan Orlean.
posted by ovvl at 6:07 PM on January 15

I've enjoyed The King's English: Adventures of an Independent Bookseller, by Betsy Burton.
posted by applesurf at 6:24 PM on January 15

Pancakes in Paris, by Craig Carlson, was a fun and fascinating read about him opening an American diner in Paris.
posted by Clustercuss at 9:35 PM on January 15

Here are two from mefi
posted by lalochezia at 10:21 AM on January 16

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for these! I can’t pick one good answer - they’re all much appreciated.
posted by fabius at 5:03 AM on January 17

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