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General Book Store in Chicago, 1938‐1947: linking neighborhood to nation

Terrence H. Witkowski (Department of Marketing, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 20 March 2009




Through an account of the layout, operations, and four main product lines of a small Chicago bookstore between 1938 and 1947, the purpose of this paper is to show how a neighborhood retail establishment reacted to the sweeping events of the Great Depression and World War II.


The research is based upon multiple primary data sources including store financial records, family photographs, representative artifacts and ephemera, oral history interviews, and period retailing literature.


Located in an area of Chicago heavily populated by Polish and Jewish immigrants and their children, General Book Store was a traditional mom and pop operation. The mix of its product lines – books and magazines, model kits, greeting cards, and camera supplies and photo‐finishing – evolved over time while always connecting customers to the national experience. The store afforded its owners a modest, but upwardly mobile middle‐class life style.


Although much has been written on large‐scale retailing, marketing historians have conducted very little research on small‐scale retailing in the USA. This study documents the intermingling of a business and a household economy and how the management of merchandise assortments and maintenance of customer relationships depended upon both owner interests and the opportunities and constraints presented by environmental forces.



Witkowski, T.H. (2009), "General Book Store in Chicago, 1938‐1947: linking neighborhood to nation", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 93-121.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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