PHILADELPHIA — The owner of nation’s oldest surviving LGBT bookstore said that he is retiring after 37 years and is putting the shop and its building up for sale, potentially ending four decades of operation.
Ed Hermance, 73, has been running Giovanni’s Room bookstore since 1976 after he assumed ownership three years after its 1973 opening. He has been the sole proprietor since taking over from his partners in 1986, reported the Philadelphia Daily News.
“From the very beginning, when people crossed that threshold, they were coming out to themselves,” said Hermance, nodding toward the store entrance.
Over the past 40 years, the store has been a constant hub for LGBT and ally authors, and has acted as an impromptu community and outreach center for the LGBT community.
Hermance hopes to find a buyer for store, which boasts a current physical inventory of more than 48,000 books and a website which offers more than 5 million titles, including 3.5 million ebooks.
“I know it’s possible for independent bookstores to thrive in the current environment,” he said, hoping that someone will come forward with the “resources and the passion” to take over the store before he closes.
During Hermance’s first three years as owner, Giovanni’s Room was 100-percent volunteer-run. The store hit its highest number of employees — four full-timers and four part-timers — in 1992.
It now has three paid employees and volunteer labor drives about 40 percent of the operations.