Rags-to-riches stories a fairytale in present-day America?

Bureaucracy overshadows American ideals of homeownership, entrepreneurship

Learn the New Luxury Playbook at Luxury Connect | October 18-19 at the Beverly Hills Hotel

Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series. Daniel Ludwig, his wife and four children arrived in New York Harbor in 1955 with little more than a homemade wooden crate containing his most valuable hand tools.Ludwig had been trained as a master woodworker in his homeland of Romania, having come to the United States by way of a German refugee camp. Within two years of arriving in America, he'd saved enough money to buy an old house with a big backyard in a suburb of Oakland, Calif. As soon as he'd achieved the American dream of homeownership, Dan Ludwig turned his attention to setting up his own shop. He filled his first cabinet and furniture orders from a cramped one-car garage that stood along one edge of his property. Ludwig's business quickly outgrew those tight quarters, and in 1961 he took out a building permit and, with the help of his friends and neighbors, began adding a brand-new workshop onto the rear of his old garage. It was a spacious, 10-foot-hi...