House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby's Cafeterias by Carol DawsonHouse of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby's Cafeterias by Carol Dawson

House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby's Cafeterias

byCarol Dawson, Carol Johnston

Paperback | March 15, 2015

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Winner, Violet Crown Award, Writers League of Texas, 2007
Citation, San Antonio Conservation Society, 2009

Scarred by the deaths of his mother and sisters and the failure of his father's business, a young man dreamed of making enough money to retire early and retreat into the secure world that his childhood tragedies had torn from him. But Harry Luby refused to be a robber baron. Turning totally against the tide of avaricious capitalism, he determined to make a fortune by doing good. Starting with that unlikely, even naive, ambition in 1911, Harry Luby founded a cafeteria empire that by the 1980s had revenues second only to McDonald's. So successfully did Luby and his heirs satisfy the tastes of America that Luby's became the country's largest cafeteria chain, creating more millionaires per capita among its employees than any other corporation of its size. Even more surprising, the company stayed true to Harry Luby's vision for eight decades, making money by treating its customers and employees exceptionally well.

Written with the sweep and drama of a novel, House of Plenty tells the engrossing story of Luby's founding and phenomenal growth, its long run as America's favorite family restaurant during the post-World War II decades, its financial failure during the greed-driven 1990s when non-family leadership jettisoned the company's proven business model, and its recent struggle back to solvency. Carol Dawson and Carol Johnston draw on insider stories and company records to recapture the forces that propelled the company to its greatest heights, including its unprecedented practices of allowing store managers to keep 40 percent of net profits and issuing stock to all employees, which allowed thousands of Luby's workers to achieve the American dream of honestly earned prosperity. The authors also plumb the depths of the Luby's drama, including a hushed-up theft that split the family for decades; the 1991 mass shooting at the Killeen Luby's, which splattered the company's good name across headlines nationwide; and the rapacious over-expansion that more than doubled the company's size in nine years (1987-1996), pushed it into bankruptcy, and drove president and CEO John Edward Curtis Jr. to violent suicide.

Disproving F. Scott Fitzgerald's adage that "there are no second acts in American lives," House of Plenty tells the epic story of an iconic American institution that has risen, fallen, and found redemption—with no curtain call in sight.

Carol Dawson is a writer in Austin, Texas. She is the author of the novels The Mother-in-Law Diaries, Meeting the Minotaur, Body of Knowledge, and The Waking Spell. She has also written for Texas Monthly, Southern Living, Oxford American, and a number of other publications. Carol Johnston is the only granddaughter of Lola Luby Johnst...
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Title:House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Luby's CafeteriasFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:March 15, 2015Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292726015

ISBN - 13:9780292726017

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Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Blood Sacrifice in Texas
  • Chapter 2. Planting Seeds
  • Chapter 3. Growing Season
  • Chapter 4. First Harvest: Portrait of a Budding Magnate
  • Chapter 5. Recruiting New Hands for the Second Crop: The Band Begins to Gather
  • Chapter 6. The $60,000 Incubator
  • Chapter 7. Salad Days
  • Chapter 8. The Worm in the Apple
  • Chapter 9. Cutting the Jell-O
  • Chapter 10. Haddock Almondine and Chicken-Fried Steak
  • Chapter 11. The Worm Gnaws Deeper
  • Chapter 12. Scalloped Squash and Spinach Pudding
  • Chapter 13. Yeast Rolls, Biscuits, and Two Kinds of Cornbread
  • Chapter 14. Cherry Cobbler and Coconut Cream Pie
  • Chapter 15. Deviled Eggs and Stuffed Jalapeños
  • Chapter 16. Hot Coffee, Iced Tea, Pink Lemonade, or Just Plain Water
  • Chapter 17. Condiments on the Side
  • Chapter 18. Dirty Dishes
  • Chapter 19. Over, Fork Over
  • Chapter 20. Leftovers
  • Afterword by Carol Johnston
  • Acknowledgments
  • Sources
  • Index

Editorial Reviews

"Who knew that the key to American success and salvation could be found on the cafeteria line? Only Carol Dawson. In crystalline prose, she tells a morality tale that is both as compulsively readable as a mystery novel and as illuminating about the American psyche as anything published in recent years. The death Dawson ultimately investigates is business ethics with a body of evidence that is utterly fascinating and utterly convincing." - Sarah Bird, author of The Flamenco Academy, The Yokota Officers Club, Virgin of the Rodeo, The Mommy Club, The Boyfriend School, and Alamo House