The man behind Giovanni’s Room, the nation’s oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bookstore, is ready to move on. That leaves the fate of the beloved store and gathering place in Center City in jeopardy.
A lot has changed in Philadelphia, and for the LGBT community, since 1976. That’s when owner Ed Hermance took over Giovanni’s Room.
Now he’s making it official that he plans to retire this winter.
“I’m hoping to sell the store. I’ve been looking for a partner, a successor for 25 years, and I think I’ve come close several times but it’s never actually happened,” he said.
Hermance said it’s been emotionally rewarding to run the business.
“I’m hoping somebody’s going to find a way to keep it going, because we certainly do serve an awful lot of people,” he said. “For example, just a minute ago, a young man was here who’s trying to help his mom, who’s coming out.”
If he can’t find a new owner, Hermance said he will have to close Giovanni’s Room. The store faces financial challenges, he said. And he’s looking forward to having the time to do other things.
Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said the closure of Giovanni’s Room would be a blow to the city and its LGBT community.
“For Philadelphia’s LGBT community, which has worked for 37 years along with Ed to keep that building and that bookstore open and in good shape, it’s sad,” Segal said. “It means a lot to us.”
Hermance said people interested in continuing the store are invited to submit a proposal.