The Trouble With Gumballs: The Story of an Expensive Venture

| June 25, 2014


The Trouble With Gumballs: The Story of an Expensive Venture into the World of Private Enterprise


This portrait of a gumball entrepreneur’s life in 1950s America is a slice or retail business history and a funny freelance memoir all rolled into one.

When James Nelson decides to move his family out West to California in 1952, he takes the leap into entrepreneurship by buying a slew of gumball machines. The ad guaranteed quick profits and easy money, but comic frustrations were what he got. Savvy modern readers will laugh at Nelson’s charming naiveté while millennial freelancers will identify with his determination to keep on after endless setbacks. The gumball machine is an iconic symbol of 1950s Americana, and while the story chronicles Nelson’s foibles with gumball entrepreneurship, it’s the funny characters he meets along the way that are the true stars of this funny memoir. His larger-than-life descriptions of the characters of San Francisco and Sonoma county paint historic California as a fun scene—even for a man who makes his living one grubby penny at a time.

A fun read for fans of humorous travel writing, Sonoma County or San Francisco narratives, or anyone wanting to get an insider view of start-up from the days before Silicon Valley.


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