Family spirit extends from the beloved housewares-and-curios store to the collaboration on this graphic memoir.
New York’s Fishs Eddy has become an unlikely retail institution, taking dishes and other artifacts discarded by the restaurant industry and turning them into treasures of Americana. The story of the business—how it got its name, stumbled into its stock, and developed in such haphazard fashion—is told by Gaines, the former art student who started the store with her husband, David Lenovitz, and illustrated by their son, Ben Lenovitz. The latter’s artistry would fit fine in the New Yorker, whose readers are likely among the store’s loyal customers. But Gaines isn’t really a writer, and the story lacks the structure and momentum that generally give such memoirs their punch. The perspective of her co-founding husband is conspicuous in its absence, though there’s a suggestion that he has never been as committed to dishes and design as she is—that he has more of an eye for real estate. This might seem like a vanity project for the store that has become a brand, though the author displays so little vanity with her self-deprecating sense of humor and sense of wonder at how things have worked out. It’s a tale that begins with two people falling in love and trying to figure out what they can do together to make their way in the world. On a camping trip, they stumbled across a small town named Fishs Eddy and decided it would make a great name for a store. They filled the store with finds from flea markets, garage sales, and the occasional auction and soon discovered that restaurants and suppliers were eager to unload what they were successfully selling as “an unsung part of everyday life in America.” As the business grew, their mothers insisted on working there, with comic and disastrous results, and Fishs Eddy became a brand, attracting trendy designers.
The faithful will find this very illuminating.