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.
“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.
Hermance said there is a possibility that Giovanni’s Room could be resurrected in some form, but said ideas would have to change in order for it to be successful.
“Whatever it is that they do, it will have to be something different than what we are doing now. If won’t survive if it isn’t different,” he said.
A press conference is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 29. Beginning Wednesday, the store will offer 25 percent off all merchandise through the closing.
The store, at the corner of Pine and 12th streets, has an inventory of more than 48,000 books and also offers five million books online and 3.5 million eBooks.
Hermance had been hoping to sell the business for $100,000 and the buildings for up to $750,000.
He said he still intends to give proceeds made from the rental or sale of the buildings to Delaware Valley Legacy Fund upon his death.
The bookstore moved twice before inhabiting its current Gayborhood location, originally located on South Street before moving to the 1400 block of Spruce Street.
Giovanni’s Room had events scheduled after May 17 and Hermance said he will try his hardest to find another venue for those events. The store has four employees, including Hermance. The one fulltime employee, who has been with the bookstore for 35 years, will be eligible to collect unemployment.
Hermance said the loss of the iconic store will be hard for him, as well as the community.
“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. I know that thousands of people have used and cared about this store. It is very emotional for me.”