Talk about "snatched from the jaws of death." Scheduled to close on January 23, New York City's Oscar Wilde Bookshop was purchased just the day before by Lambda Rising owner Deacon Maccubbin, who will keep the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country open.
"It was hardball negotiations right up to the end," Maccubbin told PW. "We anticipate losing $20,000 the first year. But I thought it was just too important to keep that store running, and if it costs me $20,000 to do it, we'll do it. Hopefully we will get it back in the black again, but there's no guarantee."
According to its previous owner, Larry Lingle, the bookstore had lost money all six years he'd owned it. Maccubbin noted that the store's inventory, as of a week ago, had dwindled to $30,000 at cost. But he plans to double that inventory within the next week, and hopes to bring it up to more than $75,000. He also plans to triple the magazine selection. Although many of the Lambda Rising bookstores carry a large amount of sidelines, Maccubbin told PW, "This is a literary bookstore, and will remain a bookshop, not a gift shop."
Along with reinvigorating the store's inventory, Maccubbin has already started advertising in the city's two GLBT newspapers, Gay City News and the New York Blade. He also has plans for the bookstore's small size (600 square feet), which has always made in-store events problematic. "We're going to cut back drastically on the back office, since the paperwork that used to be done there will now be done in Washington, D.C.," explained Maccubbin. Under Lingle's ownership, the bookstore's second room was primarily for used and rare books. Those collectibles were not included in the sale of the store, so Maccubbin is now free to expand his book and magazine selection into that area.
"It's been an amazing adventure," said longtime manager Kim Brinster. "I'm extremely pleased that the store will continue, and I expect it to do well with the support it will get from Deacon. He has made the Lambda Rising stores into finely tuned machines—they've learned how to make a bookstore run really well. We had worked so hard for the last six years to bring the bookstore into the black, and we are so close to achieving that. I'm confident that with Deacon and the support of Lambda Rising, we will achieve that."
"It's been incredibly gratifying to hear the outpouring of support from New Yorkers," Maccubbin added. "Every single person I've spoken to has not only been supportive but enthusiastic. I think this is a case of people not appreciating what they had until they nearly lost it."