Minding the Store
A BIg Story about a Small Business
Thursday, January 24, 7pm
In 1986, a young couple living in New York City had a dream of running a store together. When Julie Gaines and Dave Lenowitz first opened Fishs Eddy (named after a small town in upstate New York), they had no idea that, some 30 years later, their small shop would be both a New York institution and a nationally celebrated brand. Today, Fishs Eddy’s unique dishware—including product collaborations with high-profile celebrities like Amy Sedaris, Cleo Wade, Adam J. Kurtz and Cynthia Rowley—is beloved by fans nationwide, and can be found in over 1000 stores across the country.
In the graphic memoir Minding the Store: A Big Story about a Small Business, Fishs Eddy co-founder Julie Gaines recounts the ups and downs of starting a family business, starting a family, and trying to make it in the Big City.
Called “charming” by the New York Journal of Books, Minding the Store is told through the clever and charming four-color illustrations of artist Ben Lenovitz (Julie and Dave’s son), and is filled with humorous characterizations of opinionated relatives, nosy neighbors, quirky employees, and the eccentric foibles of the founders themselves. Despite their shop’s humble beginnings, Julie and Dave struck gold when they discovered huge stashes of unwanted or surplus dishes from restaurants, cruise ships, and famous hotels, all left to collect dust in abandoned basements and warehouses. With a bit of elbow grease, the dishware became like new, and before long people from all over the world flocked to Fishs Eddy to buy them. But the store grew quickly—too quickly. To accommodate their customers, Julie and Dave employed their own mothers (that went about as well as one can imagine) and, later, their kids. The business continued to expand and collapse, Julie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the store went bankrupt, and Julie and Dave hired a series of short-lived CEOs. In the end, saving Fishs Eddy required a return to its owners’ core values: creativity and family.
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack says, “Minding the Store is just as charming as the lovably idiosyncratic store itself. Filled with humor, humility, poignancy, and love, it tells the story of how she and her husband took an early gamble on an unlikely retail neighborhood and willed their personal vision into existence with persistence and grit… Entrepreneurs will learn a thing or two about translating a dream into thoughtful business growth.”
For fans of Roz Chast or Alison Bechdel, Minding the Store is a heart-warming, behind-the-scenes look at the hard work, determination, and love that go into making a small business work.
About the Author
Julie Gaines grew up in Staten Island and studied painting and art history at Syracuse University. After college Julie moved back to New York City where she opened a small shop with her husband Dave. Their love for each other, and a chance discovery of vintage dishware in the basement of a restaurant supplier in the Bowery, resulted in a prospering business. With no previous experience in retail, Julie’s on-the-job training gave birth to a very unique point of view in the world of retail. Her store, Fishs Eddy, has been featured in numerous publications, on many television shows, and is a New York City staple. Julie lives in downtown Manhattan with her two “grown” children, Ben and Susie. Susie is a spoken word poet and Ben is an artist. Neither of them are interested in doing dishes (at least at home).