Photo essay celebrates America's disappearing family businesses by @Carey Dunne via @FastCoDesign

Johnson Logging, Springbrook. Taylor Johnson is pictured with a pair of horses.

Leithold Music, LaCrosse, established in 1888. John, pictured, is an instrument repairman.

Drees Electric, Marinette, established in 1946. Bill Meyst remembers when TVs were repaired instead of being dumped in landfills.

Globe House Furnishing, Marinette. This photo was taken in 2010, two weeks after the store’s liquidation auction. Here, Mary McCarrier holds portrait of her grandfather, Tobias Kirmse, who established the furniture store in 1888.

Lauerman’s Home Furnishings, Marinette, established in 1890 by Joseph A.J. Lauerman and Frank Lauerman. Henry Lauerman Jr. and his son, Scott, both pictured here, run the store.

T.H. Stemper Company, Milwaukee, established in 1911 by Thomas H. Stemper. The Stemper brothers, John, Joe, Peter, Dan, and Jim, run the business their grandfather started in 1911.

Glorioso's Sausages, established in 1946. Bill, pictured, is an employee.

Sprecher’s Bar and Gun Shop, North Freedom, established in 1900 by Edwin Sprecher Sr. Junior Sprecher, 90, was born in the apartment attached to the bar. He still lives there.

Panka Shoes, Prairie Du Chein. Theresa Mezera, shown here, is the founder's grandniece.

AO Johnson and Sons Hardware. Employee Brady tattooed the company's founding year on his knuckles.

Gorgen Funeral Home, Mineral Point, established in 1916 by Phillip and Mary Gorgen. Greg Gorgen (center) and sons Grant and Mike run the company started by Greg’s grandparents. Mary Gorgen was one of the first licensed women funeral directors in Wisconsin.

Evanoff's Variety Store, Keil.

Peoples Pharmacy, Superior, established circa 1933 by John Olsen. Both owner Jeff Eliason (left) and employee Art Haugen are pharmacists.

The Kitchen, in Superior, Wisconsin.

Superior Lidgerwood Mundy, Superior, established 1895 as Superior Iron Works by Frank Hayes. SLM makes hoists and cables for the marine industry. Machine lathe operator Brent is pictured on his last full day of work before retirement.

Anderson Fishery, Gills Rock, established in 1941 by Alvin Anderson. Anderson (right) was the first deckhand on this boat at age 8. A generation later, his son Dan slept in a net box on the boat while his parents worked.

Satin Wave Beauty and Barber Shop, Milwaukee, established circa 1955 by James "Flip" Flipping. Ronnie Sherrill, pictured here, is Flip's nephew.

Satin Wave Beauty and Barber Shop, Milwaukee, established circa 1955 by James "Flip" Flipping. Ronnie Sherrill, pictured here, is Flip's nephew.

Photo Essay Celebrates America's Disappearing Family Businesses

Photographer Carl Corey captures the barber shops, furniture stores, and funeral homes in a world dominated by big-box retailers.

For his new book, For Love and Money: Portraits of Wisconsin Family Businesses, photographer Carl Corey captured portraits of families who have owned their businesses for 50 years or more. He spent two years visiting 100 business in towns across his home state of Wisconsin, during which time he developed an appreciation for the kind of work ethic he consistently saw, given the hardships of maintaining a family business in a world dominated by big-box retailers and globalized brands.

The interiors of these fisheries, combination bar and gun shops, home furnishing stores, barber shops, funeral homes, and pharmacies have touches of the people who run them, whether it's family photos hung on the walls or a plaque painted with a chicken that reads "No Fowl Moods Here." And there are long, curious histories behind most of these establishments. Junior Sprecher, the current owner of Sprecher’s Bar and Gun Shop, opened in 1900, was born in the apartment attached to the bar. Now in his nineties, he still lives there.

Some of these businesses are struggling to survive. Corey photographed the owner of Globe House Furnishing, established in 1888, two weeks after the store’s liquidation auction in 2010. "I didn't want the book to be more somber than celebratory, but I learned a lot about this and it did become more of a historical document than a social or cultural document because of the fact that these businesses are disappearing," Corey told Slate in a recent interview. Many of the owners’ children have opted not to go into their family's line of work, and their parents know that their businesses will close once they retire.

[H/T Slate]

[Photos by Carl Corey]

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  • Serene Lewis

    I was sad to see so few people of color captured in this beautiful, moving photo essay. Blacks do more than cut hair and shine shoes. Asians and Latinos have been in the U.S. long enough to have long-standing family businesses that are now at risk. Lovely photos. They were just missing something.