The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey on September 3, 1974 · 10
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The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey · 10

Hackensack, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Tuesday, September 3, 1974
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O t A-10 BUSINESS "- THE RECORD, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 1974 Bergen County. New Jeney i It icould zero in on psychological basis I i . i aaaaaa ' - ' i A federal bond is the inflation Rx ' 1 - Ha m.f'imim 1 1 asajiSL ,1 Stiff Photo by Al Paglion THE BOOKSTORE Murray Winters, who ensack, has spent a lifetime selling book; owns Wehman Brothers bookstore in Hack- ana magazines, new and used. By AMITAI ETZIONI Washington Port Ntwt Srvlc As economists begin packing up their ideas for President Ford's Sept 27 summit conference on the economy, one of the few things they can agree on is that the problem of inflation is, to a significant extent, psychological. What fuels the dangerous upward spiral of prices, in other words, is not only the rising cost of food and fuel and other forces, as vital as these factors may be. Also at work is the fact that several years of accelerating price increases for practically everything, from candy bars to cars, have deeply changed Americans' expectations about the economy. . Specifically, what most people now expect are ever higher price tags, and in economic matters, that was a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus the experts may argue about whether inflation will be two digit or one, whether wholesale prices will rise less rapidly than retail quotes, whether inflation may slow somewhat in the fourth quarter. But most of this is lost on consumers. They see more inflation, and they act on what they see. Be merry today Less well-off citizens, as well as those who were better off until recently, have reacted quite differently. Many not all, to be sure, but more and more people evidently have decided to eat, drink and be merry today, because tomorrow it will be worse. People first went on an appliance-buying splurge, assuming that the same refrigerator or washer would cost much more next year and even more the year after. Then those who could still af ford more than these basics went on a general "a-penny-'saved - is a "penny burned" spree. they were egged on, for example, by an airline ad which urged people to visit Europe this year, because next year they might not be able to afford it. Soon, the ad concluded, an ice cream cone would cost S5. Statisticians will point out that fewer people actually went to Europe this year than last, and that Americans are even driving their cars less than before, one of the last places economists predicted a reduction. Buying is increasing But more people did go on vacation this year to nearby places, and, despite rising prices, people across the board are emptying their savings accounts and increasing their buying. In doing so, they are obviously fueling inflation. Manufacturers have responded in kind. As long as most of what they produce can be sold even after price increases of 20 per cent and more and after diluting the quality of their product (the candy bars have less chocolate and are shorter) it makes sense to continue expanding, production and production facilities, even if they have to borrow money at even higher interest rates. As Federal Reserve Board chairman Arthur Burns has pointed out, "Factory shipments have continued their upward course, and new orders received by manufacturers of capital goods have risen further. Unfilled orders on the books of business firms . . . are enormous, and still advancing." If inflation is to be slowed to a more tolerable level, such expectations must be radically altered. People have to regain Amitoi Etzioni is a sociology professor at Columbia University and director of the Center for Policy Research. He holds a master's degree in economics. the belief that the return they will get on their savings will be higher than the increases in prices. It is a matter of anticipation, confidence, and credibility. Credibility is lacking But credibility is just What the government's anti-inflation drive lacks. The public has heard too many speeches and promises that "we are just about to wind it down" for anyone to be moved by them any more. The Nixon zig-zag in and out of price and wage controls was just one monumental object lesson in not trusting the' government to overcome inflation. And the public's faith in the government's capacity to manage domestic affairs in ' general is dismally low. Enter President Ford. You have to- be naive to believe that because he seems trustworthy, talks candidly, and has a square jaw, the public will feel sufficiently reassured to revise its inflation-fueling expectations. . The public may trust the new President as a person, but this doesn't mean it believes that he or his advisers have the know-how to reverse the inflationary spiral. So far, in fact, his advisers on eco nomic matters are Nixon appointees. Little psychological effect The first anti-inflationary acts of the Ford Administration have had little psychological effect. Reviving the Cost of Living Council to monitor prices means little, as has been widely noted. An economic summit conference means even less, and as the White House has said, no miracles should be expected from it. It is a typical pseu-doevent, created for the media, the speechmakers, the image molders. Strategies obviously are worked out in small groups meeting privately, not in mass scenes in public arenas. Cutting government spending, a step most of the public favors, in principle, will also accomplish psychologically less than one might expect. First, as officials have noted, relatively little can actually be cut. Second, the immediate effect of whatever cuts are made - will often be higher prices, such as the higher-subway and bus fares that would follow federal cuts in transit support, without, any corresponding increase in income. If food, oil. and certain other inflationary forces cannot be slowed overnight, given the special international, weather, ' and other factors involved, what can we at least do about the psychological aspects of . the problem? Two steps could be taken. First, the government could say. in effect, "We are so sure ' we can cut inflation over the next year below the five per cent level, and keep it there -for the next 10 years, that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is. We are ' willing , to guarantee that if you go along with us, saving a little more and buying less on credit, you will not suffer." . How? The most dramatic tactic would be a 10-year federal bond paying, say, 4.5 per cent interest a year for any year in which the Consumer Price Index increases less , than five per cent but, say, 12 per cent for any year in which inflation exceeds that level. The exact percentages are not at issue; maybe 3.5 per: cent vs. 11 per cent or something else would be better. The point is that such a bond would be a dramatic sign that the government this time means business. Reduce consumer buying Economists will point out that the main immediate effect of such a bond (assuming the revenue is not spent but "parked") would be to reduce consumer buying power in See BOND, Page A ll Pages of time in a Bergen bookstore By CHARLES STRUM Business Writer" What's new with Murray Winters is long gone for the rest of us. Time not only stops In the miscellaneous clutter of his store, it backs up. The air does not move, and the street noises cease, as if by command, inside the doors with the stained-glass transoms. Only the creaking of the wood floors and an occasional shuffling of papers or the scratching of a pen breaks the silence. It is not the tomb-like quiet of a library's vaulted chamber. Here, there is insulation, tons of it almost 8.000 square feet two floors piled to the molded tin ceilings with old records, old: posters, old books, and old magazines almost any title you can name. By the truckload There are books on sewing, on sex, on mathematics, on history, geology, gambling. There are law books, yearbooks, encyclopedias, atlases, plays, novels bestsellers and junk serials, nickel-dime detective stories, calendars with seminude bathing beauties on them. By the truckload: back issues of the National Geographic, Life, Look, Fortune, Jack and Jill, the American Mercury, Vanity Fair, Literary Digest, Harpers, the Woman's Home Companion, Leslie's Monthly, The Saturday Evening Post, comic books, and pamphlets on how-to-do almost anything in a half-dozen different languages. The magazines are stacked in wavy piles compacted like geologic layers to form foundations for other piles. They obscure revolving paperback book stands and floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookshelves crammed with titles sitting incongruously side by side. "Sexual Life in Ancient Rome" shares a shelf with "America's Knitting Book," A Dictionary for Accountants." "Jack and Jill and the Friendly Badger," and "Secrets of Professional Turf Betting." All this and more In the display windows out front are pamphlets and magazines on magic tricks, flower arranging, self defense, and parapsychology, automobile hubcaps, doorknobs, hinees and other hardware, and a TV picture tube and chassis (left over from the hardware store that occupied the building for its first SO years). Above it all in one corner hangs a record album cover that reads, "Music for Mixed Emotions." All this and much more is Wehman Brothers bookstore, and it took 20 large tnickloads to move it from Manhattan to 158 Main St. in Hackensack in 1953. Murray Winters, one arm draped across a carton of paperbacks in the basement talked recently about his lifetime ia books. He is a small, trim man who looks much younger than his 65 years, and he is clad habitually in a golf shirt and slacks. His hair has retreated from the top of his head to a thick, white wreath around the sides. His white mustache and eyebrows make him look even friendlier than he is. His brother, Joseph, remained upstairs on the phone, sorting invoices. He is slightly heavier, with the same pleasant manner but with more white hair. The Wehman family long ago sold its interest in the store, Murray said. He and his brother bought the business, the name, and the goods in 1936, when Wehman's was at Park Row, not far from the old New York World building. Wrote his own In those days, Wehman (pronounced Wee-man) Brothers was a wholesale book dealership which also did some of its own printing and publishing. Henry J. Wehman founded the store in the 1880s. Besides selling books and magazines, Wehman wrote and distributed his own works, largely in the mass appeal, how-to field. How to do magic tricks, how to make love, how to do this and how to do that, with such titles as "Pat Rooney's Quaint Conundrums and Funny Gags," a bestseller at the turn of the century. They were all thin paper booklets, pocket size, fastened by staples, and selling for a few pennies. They offered advice, misinformation, and things to do, and during World War I they sold in the millions especially the joke books with friends and relatives mailing them to boys overseas. Must for visitors At one time. Rand McNal-ly's tourist map of New York City listed Wehman's as a ' must for visitors. And. in the 1930s, it was on Murray Winter's list of places to visit. Winters had arrived in New York in 1931 with a Yale degree, fading ambitions for a career in medicine." and a front row seat on The Great Depression. His brother, who lived in a tiny furnished room in Greenwich Village, had been dealing in used magazines, selling most of them to other dealers, keeping the best for himself. Joe and Murray opened a book store. From 1931 until 1936, when they acquired Wehman Brothers, the Winters moved their books and magazines to a half-dozen different locations. Hole ia the wan The first was a Bohemian hangout called the Doll's House, on Bleeker Street west of 7th Avenue. It was a hole in the wall where artists and writers could relax, sip tea, and recite poetry. A mural, painted on - " ir; fgsgBBjV . fj SufT PMt by Al PaclioiM VENERABLE Perhaps the only books- caps in its window, Wehman's building in tore in the country with a display of hub-' Hackensack was a hardware store 30 years. one wall by a local artist, depicted several dolls in a playpen, hence the name. Later, the brothers moved uptown, first to 46th Street, then to 45th. then to 48th, always near Fifth or Sixth Avenue. They called their shop the Ballyhoo Bookstore, named for a popular humor magazine of the day. They bought Wehman's as it was about to be liquidated. But after years on Park Row, high rents and the tedium of commuting drove the Winters to Bergen County. What had been two floors and a basement of one of the most completely stocked hardware stores in New Jersey or New York, became Wehman Brothers. But can you make a living in old magazines? You could, even during the Depression, Winters says. People couldn't afford to pay 15 or 20 cents for good reading material, but they could afford a few pennies. Bought publisher's extras The Winters bought up and resold publishers' extras, after the magazines were recalled from the newsstands. But magazines have been a sideline since those days. Wehman Brothers was and is a wholesale book dealership. While the two top floors are cluttered with the accumulation of 40 years in second-hand books - and collectable items, the basement is a tight neatly arranged, and compartmentalized vault of new books. The titles are varied. Wehman's buys from upwards of 30 U.S. publishing houses and at least 15 overseas firms. . You can buy directly from a publishing house. But book stores, businesses, and li braries prefer a clearing house such as Wehman's be cause they can order a variety of books from several publish' ers by dealing with just one firm. The annual sales volume is in the neighborhood of several hundred thousand dollars. Winters says. Current big sellers are books about the martial arts and the occult. The basement shelves are filled with at least 60 titles on kung-fu, karate, and sumo. A long narrow hall of shelves contains secrets of tarot cards, E.S.P., and astrology. You can also buy Kurt Von-negut in paperback. This seeming paradox of old and new, upstairs and downstairs, ancient and modern has another twist urban renewal. "Moving a bookstore is not something you want to do everyday," Murray said. "It's bad for business and it's bad for your health. It took us six weeks to unpack, when we moved in here." They probably will not move again. The brothers, both in their mid-sixties, are planning to sell the business. At the same time. Hackensack is encroaching with its renewal plans for lower Main Street. Plans for development have reached Demarest Ave nue, about a block away. So Wehman's, most likely under new management, could be forced to move again. But if and when it does, the new owners will have un-catalogued heaps to contend with. There are no files, no cross-referenced indexes to the magazines and books. The Winters remember what they have. All you have to do is ask. There are no set prices on the second-hand items. "Of course, a Volume 1, No. 1 of any magazine will bring more," Murray said. "You just know what's available and what isn't and you figure a price." "These things might stay here forever. You never know." SINCE 1908 TISCHLER BROS ROOFING AND SHEfT METAL WORK 569.0076 FOR TEMPORARY HELP THAT HUPS YOU MOST, CALL: (201)845-7444 unitremp THE MERRILL LYNCH BUILDING S-10 ROUTE 17 AT ROUTE 4. PARAMOS Sears IE(D(D)fl3img anndl SMiimg SAMS IETRIEIE EMMIE S1UKVEY! Mail Handy Coupon Below! Size of House 26x32.ft. 28x36-ft. 32x40.ft. Size of House 26x32-ft. 28x32-ft. 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