I heard the sad news tonight on Facebook. One of the key locations I associate with my teenage years is closing its doors for good. As a teenager in Bucks County I took SEPTA down into Center City every Saturday for the meetings of the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Youth Group that met in the Dignity space on 12th street between Locust and Spruce.
This was in 1985-1986, so the meetings tend to run together in my head now. What I remember more than the meetings was the walk down to Pine Street Pizza after the meeting where some of us would hang out and talk for an hour or two over a couple of slices for lunch. When lunch broke up I always – and I mean always – walked across the street to Giovanni’s Room. I saved my money all week so I could spend it there. The store was full of amazing things for sale from (to my youthful eyes) the raunchiest prose on earth to some of the most beautiful art and photography books I have ever seen. I’ never had enough money to get everything I wanted between the novels and music and comic books I needed to own.
Despite moving many, many times since those days, I still have a few things I bought there. I still have my anatomically correct Billy doll (It was the cowboy version) that, according to eBay, would be worth 100-200 bucks had I left it in its original box. I also have one of my all time favorite collections of comics: Howard Cruse’s Wendel on the Rebound.
I’ll be traveling to New York for Streaming Media East the week the store closes, so I hope that this weekend or next I can get downtown to grab a few more mementos to keep those quasi-closeted 1980s memories alive.
From the Announcement
A longtime staple in the Philadelphia LGBT community is closing its doors.
The country’s oldest LGBT bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, will close May 17.
Ed Hermance, who has owned the store for 38 years, announced his plans for retirement in the fall, planning to sell both the business and the two buildings it encompasses. He announced a potential sale agreement several weeks ago, but told PGN this week the buyer could not come up with enough money to finalize the sale.
Hermance said he made the difficult decision to close the store several days ago. Since the beginning of the year, Hermance said he had lost between $10,000-$15,000 in keeping Giovanni’s Room open.
He blamed retailers such as Amazon for the tough environment independent bookstores are currently facing.