In my new novel, What’s Left, her parents’ generation recognizes their family business will need to make big changes for survival. For her uncle Dimitri, that includes corporate planning and big investment, once the dust settles.

But first, he has to see exactly what they’ve inherited.


No matter how much I like the details that shape the events, some just had to be cut from the final story:

Dimitri’s frankly overwhelmed by the extent of our holdings, now that they’ve multiplied.

It’s mostly real estate near the restaurant, but there are stray loans his father made, some as out-and-out IOUs, along with scattered bank accounts and insurance.

As for the ledgers? The books? He realizes we’ll have to get it all on paper and then appoint someone to maintain an acceptable system, once we’re back on our feet. It’s quite a task.

And then, when it comes to paying the incoming bills,

Dimitri explains cash-flow realities.

All that leads them to look to a new business structure:

After heated debate on whether to include the siblings’ spouses, Graham points out that the ownership has come down through family inheritance. He feels happy to function the way Papou Ilias and Yiayia Maria have. In what emerges, he and Pia and Baba and, in time, Tito’s wife Yin will participate as family equals in the decision-making but not in the ownership itself.

The fermentation also leads to some hard thinking about the buildings at hand and their best use.

Still, as the emerging chief executive officer:

If he has a related mission statement, though, Dimitri keeps it off the table and his mouth shut. Let the image of the five-spoke wheel suffice. All the parts need to connect at a vital center, and that’s not yet in place.

As Cassia realizes decades later:

The thought strikes me, that in trying to list the identities we carry as a family, we’ve somehow left out one crucial ingredient. Our legacy as restaurateurs.


The American corporate scene has definitely gone through huge changes in the years since I graduated from college. Many of the big names – Fortune 500 companies – no longer exist, for one thing, and the idea of landing a job with one firm and staying there the rest of your working career seems to be nonexistent.

I wish I had advice for those entering the job market for the first time, but I’m thoroughly baffled by what’s happening. The small-is-beautiful, local, diversified structure Cassia’s uncle Dimitri advances still appeals to me, though. How about you?

More important, though. When it comes to earning a living, what’s most important for you? How far up the company ladder would you want to be? Would you rather be your own boss?


Ancient head of Greek woman, clay, ca. 500 BCE, Archaeological Museum of Eretria, Euboea, Greece. (Photo by Jebulon via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cassia’s roots included inspiration like this.

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