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Sad Day for Glad Day Bookshop
Judith Rosen &Kevin Howell -- 6/26/00
There was sad news at gay-lesbian bookstores on both coasts. Boston's real estate market managed to do what a fire 18 years ago could not--close Boston's oldest gay and lesbian bookstore, Glad Day Bookshop. The 21-year-old store, located in tony Back Bay, will close its doors at the end of June. And in San Francisco, Richard Labonte, who has been the general manager of three Different Light Bookstores, has decided to leave that position after 21 years.
Glad Day, which had been thriving, ran into trouble in April when its lease expired and its building was sold for $2.6 million to a developer of luxury condominiums. Glad Day owner Jearld Moldenhauer has been looking for a new site for the store in Boston or Cambridge for the past three months, with no luck. He made half a dozen formal requests, all of which were rejected. One realtor, he relayed to PW, told him, " 'No one in the Back Bay will rent to people like you.'"
"Some realtors had no idea what a gay/lesbian bookshop was about," said John Mitzel, who has managed the bookstore for 16 years. "One said: 'Don't you have those peep shows that cost a quarter?' One realtor said: 'An independent bookseller. How quaint. D sn't everybody simply buy their books on Amazon.com?'"
Moldenhauer opened the first Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, Canada, in 1970 and sold it in 1991. In 1979, he opened Glad Day in Boston, and three years later it was torched by arsonists, who also burned down the offices of neighboring Gay Community News and Fag Rag. The store quickly re-opened a few blocks away in downtown Boston. In 1987, a larger space became available in Back Bay and the store made its final move to what Mitzel called "an ideal spot with great customer traffic."
For now, Moldenhauer will continue consulting with the Canadian Glad Day store as he considers plans for maintaining the Boston store's antiquarian business.
A Different Light's Richard Labonte wrote a letter to industry friends alerting them to his amicable split with the gay and lesbian bookstore, which will take place in July. He wrote, "After 20 years of scant vacations, of many seven-day weeks and lots of long days, of a few accumulated health problems," he had decided to relax, enjoy life with his partner and "eventually move back to Canada from whence I came in 1979 to help open A Different Light in Los Angeles."
"It was a hard decision because, aside from the problems of being overworked, it's incredibly fun and it's a very social life working in the bookstore," Labonte told PW. I've been thinking about this for several months, but I didn't feel right about leaving the store if it would cause problems. Like all stores, we've had our ups and downs, but now that it appears that investors interested in the store are in the final stages of negotiations, I felt less guilty about leaving."
Commenting on the changing of hands at Nancy Bereano's Firebrand Books and Carol Seajay's Feminist Bookstore News, Labonte said, "Both of them are passing on their respective torches for exactly the same reasons I am: we're bone-tired, we want to age gracefully and we're aware that the passions and the politics which fueled us from the '70s into the '00s have cooled--not personally perhaps, but politically and culturally."
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