The Perils of Working with Family / by Anne Kreamer

Candice Rainey's New York Times profile of couples who quit traditional 9 - 5 jobs to partner in the start-up of  passion-driven retail stores provides great insight into the all-in challenges of reinvention as a couple venture.

And the Boutique Makes Three

Robert Wright for The New York Times

Melissa Murphy and Chris Rafano at Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Park Slope.


GILLETTE AND ZAK WING vividly remember the day in 2009 when they were walking down Atlantic Avenue on the cusp of Brooklyn Heights, peering into an abandoned store front and casually fantasizing about opening an antiques business. A local real estate agent was walking by and noticed the couple. “He basically said, ‘You want it? It’s yours.’ ” Mrs. Wing said.

Three years and two babies later, they are now the proprietors of Holler & Squall, a meticulously edited furniture and oddities shop capitalizing on the neighborhood’s old-is-cutting-edge aesthetic (the store’s name is from a Jimmy Martin bluegrass song).

Mr. and Mrs. Wing are part of a new generation of mom and pops that has thrived in regentrified Brooklyn, doling out attainable indulgences (freshly baked vegan cookies, American-made chinos, really good cheese) to customers who prefer to know their proprietors by name. On the surface, these “co-preneurials” seem to be living a new American dream.

But not so fast. Behind these perfectly imperfect facades, there is often mold on the cheese, wrinkles in the chinos.

“Merchandising is probably where it gets the hardest because it’s more sensitive,” Mrs. Wing said. “It’s one thing to tell the other person they did the accounting wrong. But taste is a little bit different. I don’t think either of us is very delicate about telling each other we think something looks like ...” Well, let’s not stir up any more trouble.

“We’re both the bosses and we butt heads a little,” said Adele Berne, 32, who with her husband, Michael Kuhle, 35, owns a Smith Street clothing boutique, Epaulet, and a second store in Manhattan. “I’m like: ‘We should be happy. We’re working together!’ ”

In 2005 Dawn Casale, a former buyer at Barneys New York and founder of One Girl Cookies, decided to open a cozy bakery in Cobble Hill with Dave Crofton, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. The two had met and married in a whirl of flour worthy of a Nancy Meyers movie.

But what Ms. Casale dubbed an “urban Mayberry” in the company cookbook soon became a thoroughly exhausting endeavor.

“We actually had a really great lifestyle before the shop opened,” said Ms. Casale, 41. “Because it was Monday through Friday. Then the brick and mortar happened and we were working like animals. We were a slave to the business.”

Mr. Crofton, 42, said it took the couple five years before they could take a three-day vacation.

“All we know is spending every day together, and

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