Oldest LGBT bookstore in the US closing in May

'I know that thousands of people have used and cared about this store'

Oldest LGBT bookstore in the US closing in May
29 April 2014

The oldest LGBT bookstore in the US will permanently shut its doors next month.

The owner of Giovanni’s Room, located in the US northeastern city Philadelphia, made the announcement today (28 April).

Ed Hermance, the store’s proprietor for 38 years, told the Philadelphia Gay News the store was to be sold, but the potential buyer could not come up with enough funds. When the deal folded, Hermance decided to close shop.

Since the new year, the owner claims he’s lost between $10,000 to $15,000 (€7,000 to €11,000) to keep the store open.

The business’ last day is 17 May.

In his interview, Hermance blamed online book sellers for making it difficult for independent bookstores to be profitable.

‘The government is allowing Amazon to tighten their fingers around the throats of the publishers and drive their retail competitors out of the business by clearly monopolistic methods,’ he said.

A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, 29 April, to make the announcement official.

‘It has been a wonderful life for me and it combines my best skills with my deepest interests, so it certainly is going to be a lifetime’s work,’ Hermance said to Philadelphia Gay News. ‘I know that thousands of people have used and cared about this store. It is very emotional for me.’

Queer writer and comedian Ali Davis noted to GSN that places like Giovanni’s Room serve a vital function for young people realizing they are LGBTI.

‘Finding that bookstore is so important when you’re young and queer,’ Davis wrote in an email to GSN. ‘A search through an online store isn’t the same as that first bricks-and-mortar browsing where you may not know what you’re looking for until you see it there on the shelf.’

‘Once you’ve first stepped into that store, into that safe space, there’s a few moments where you feel like you have to be nervous, like when you tried to browse the tiny gay & lesbian section at the big chain bookstore and anybody could walk by and see you in that aisle,’ Davis continued.

‘And then you realize that it’s different, that you can own that space instead of sliding around the edges, and that the clerk is smiling because he just might be happy to see you finding your way in there,’ she added.

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