Posted By on April 7, 2009

Penny Stetz, a tech whiz I met through Macintosh guru Spike, is coming over to help me update technologically. Blogs take feeding; Facebook takes even greater attention. I have both, and I don’t use them enough.

Penny Stetz

Penny Stetz

I’d write more for my blog if I could embed links in it, along with photography. I’d do more on Facebook if I knew how to work it better. If it seems I haven’t been busy for more than three weeks—the last time I blogged—that’s deceptive.
Here are things I haven’t written about:

  • My trip to Burlington, Vermont in early March to see my old friend Eric Lazarus, pictured here sitting on his couch
  • my trip to Hawaii for a La Quinta conference in February, and
  • my trip last week to the Schantz Organ Company in Orrville, Ohio, a family business I’m considering for the nucleus of a possible book.

Writing a book is a commitment of time and thought and sweat, so I want to make sure that a book I write has an audience, fills a need—and tells a good story I want to tell. I think the Schantz-centered book has those elements: It would be about a fourth-generation, continuously family-owned business that has been one of the pillars of its community for more than 125 years (Orrville’s also home to Smucker’s). So it would be about family values, faith, and tradition.

Orrville is in Wayne County, which, like Holmes County to the south, is known for its Amish and Mennonite populations. These rural counties feature fast tracts of farmland, landscapes where you can see an Amish father and his son tilling the field with mechanical implements (the Amish don’t use electricity). Word is some of these people are very rich, which can happen if you work sunup to sundown, your crops fetch a tidy yield, your kids are home-schooled, and you buy only what you need. Vic Schantz, president of Schantz Organ, tells me it’s about keeping life simple. The society in Orrville (and to a greater extent, among the Amish and their more conventionally attired relatives, the Mennonites) is to a great degree closed. Not only does that preserve traditions and provide cultural continuity, it to some extent immunizes the area from the economic downturn affecting more urban populations.

I’m thinking this would be great material for a university press, but I’d like to think wider. I believe there’s a big picture here, and I want feedback. Would you read a book about family business and family values? Should it include “lessons” on how to run a business? I think not. I think stories about business successes, from a largely rural, faith-based point of view, will resonate on their own. I need input.


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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: