Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Giovanni's Room Closing

On May 17, the nation's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore will close its doors for good. Its owner, Ed Hermance will be retiring and is selling Giovanni's Room and its buildings at 12th and Pine.

It's not clear yet if any potential buyer would attempt to resurrect the bookstore in some form or fashion but it's unlikely to remain as-is.

Independent bookstores have been struggling for decades, first due to competition from big box retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble, then Amazon.com.

Interestingly, eBooks hit the big box retailers hard enough to breath a little life into the forgotten independent book sellers that lingered, but many have had to retool their business model to adapt to a broader audience or offer other items has cafes, boutiques, or entertainment venues.

Some might say that progress within the gay community and broader acceptance has made gay bookstores obsolete. At one time gay bookstores served as social spots, alternatives to seedy bars and bathhouses. Times have changed and gay bookstores are now just bookstores with a limited inventory.

But niche bookstores dedicated to religions, ethnicities, and cultures still survive with good reason. There's still a market for bookstores dedicated to a community with a storied history and unique interests, but it will need to rebrand its image, expand its offerings, and appeal to a broader age range. Hopefully it sells to someone with both a vision for the future and a respect for its history.

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