Photo Essay Celebrates America’s Disappearing Family Businesses

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“I didn’t want the book to be more somber than celebratory, but I learned a lot about this and it did become more of a historical document than a social or cultural document because of the fact that these businesses are disappearing,” Corey told Slate in a recent interview.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]CD