July 21, 2014
Gay landmark Giovanni’s Room to reopen
by Nick Davies
Back in May, we reported on the sad news of the closing of Giovanni’s Room—the oldest LGBT bookstore in America—and the frustrating revelation that it could have been saved. The Philadelphia institution’s owner Ed Hermance had said that the store was losing thousands of dollars, placing the blame squarely at the feet of Amazon and other retail giants, and the announcement of the closing was lamented by the gay community in Philly and beyond.
But now, Judith Rosen writes for Publishers Weekly, Hermance has found a buyer for the store and it’s looking very likely that it will reopen its doors by this fall. Giovanni’s Room has had a circuitous path to get to this point, with, as Rosen puts it, ” almost as many plot twists as the James Baldwin novel for which it is named.” Hermance had announced a possible closing in January, only to keep it open through May; and the company Queer Books LLC formed with the goal of buying the store, was in talks to do so, and only found out about the closing via Hermance’s May press conference.
Per Rosen’s report in PW, the buyer interested in Giovanni’s Room is a local LGBT organization, so it very well could be Queer Books; though Hermance has declined to name names until the final papers are signed.
When he announced the closing in May, Hermance said, of the possibility of new owners coming in, “Whatever it is that they do, it will have to be something different than what we are doing now. It won’t survive if it isn’t different”—advice that the new buyers seem to have taken to heart. For one thing, the store will be stocking more used LGBT titles than it has in the past, and “new sidelines, including fine furniture in one of the store’s five rooms.”
If all goes according to schedule, the new owner will take over as of August 1, and open for business by the fall.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.