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Neighborhood Watch Around the Block: The Business of a Neighborhood takes us on an odyssey of business success, failure and survival in one New York City community.

By Tom Shachtman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Is the american dream still achievable? That's thequestion underlying Around the Block: The Business of aNeighborhood (Harcourt Brace & Co.), Tom Shachtman'saccount of a year in the life of one group of New York Citybusinesses, beginning April 13, 1993. The protagonists are notFortune 500 CEOs but, rather, local dry cleaners, shop owners andthe like. In this excerpt, Shachtman writes of one former highschool science teacher who gambles his life savings to become aneyewear entrepreneur, and a pair of struggling restaurateurs whohope their newly retooled establishment will pull in moreneighborhood patrons. It's the stuff of real-life, nitty-grittyentrepreneurship--and dreams.

1993--Sight on Seventh, scheduled to open May 15 on the eastside of Seventh Avenue, is the brainchild of a former Long Islandscience teacher. Myron Michaels retains the studious andinquisitive air of the science classroom, leavened with ebullienceand energy. Middle-aged, with thinning hair, Michaels wears crispshirts and, of course, very stylish eyewear. Before signing hislease, he recalls, "I went down to the Bureau of Records andworked the computer, calling up demographic data, foot-trafficpatterns, that sort of thing." The results of his researchexcited him: The residents in the area were for the most partmiddle class, relatively young, but with significant disposableincome. To be just a few steps from [clothing store] Barney's,he believes, will mean many potential customers already primed tobuy quality, stylish merchandise.

There is competition two blocks south, a branch of a four-unitchain called Myoptics, but Michaels considers it far enough away soas not to detract from his own business. His customer base, hebelieves, will come from the many apartment buildings andbusinesses around here. He reminds a listener that the Americanpopulation is aging and that older people need eyewear and thatyounger people are also spending more money on eyewear, conceivingof it as a stylish clothing accessory.

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