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US: Oldest LGBT bookstore in country could close if no buyer comes forward

'People don’t need us as much as they used to,' says Giovanni's Room owner

Giovanni's Room, the oldest queer bookstore in the United States, is in danger of closing. Credit:

The oldest LGBT bookstore in the United States could close in January if a buyer doesn’t come forward to take over the 3,000-square-foot Philadelphia space, proprietor Ed Hermance says.

Hermance, 73, who has been running Giovanni’s Room for 40 years, says it’s time to move on.

A Publishers Weekly (PW) post quotes Hermance as saying that he hasn’t been on salary since 2007, when he went on social security, and that the store has been losing money.

Hermance says online retail giant Amazon’s sale of books at below cost and its offer of free freight have contributed to the challenges Giovanni’s Room is facing, PW notes.

He estimates that the bookstore’s revenue was $280,000 last year.

Founded in 1973, Giovanni’s was initially volunteer-run.

“The founders weren’t entrepreneurs. It took a community,” Hermance says. The hope is that a group of buyers will purchase the space, as happened with Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop, whose new owners celebrated their first anniversary in the book business earlier this year.

When Hermance needed money to rebuild a wall three years ago, the community in Philadelphia came up with the funds, PW says. But Hermance says people’s connection to the store is an emotional one.

“People don’t need us as much as they used to,” he says. “It’s true we give unique services, but not to as many people.”