It is sad, sad news, indeed. The New York Times reports that the Oscar Wilde Bookstore at 15 Christopher St. in Greenwich Village, New York, will close March 29. The current owner cites the economy.
Opened in 1967, the bookstore has changed ownership several times. The current owner, Kim Brinster, took the reigns in 2006, after D.C.'s Lambda Rising owner Deacon Maccubbin swooped into save the store from similar circumstances in 2003. Brinster says the store will offer discounts and specials to move out its inventory, and continue to take online sales through mid-March.
And, no jumping to conclusions, y'all... it isn't the god-awful New York rent pushing them under. "Even if we were rent-free, it wouldn't be enough for us to cover the bills we have," owner Brinster said.
The Times has a great piece, with some historical perspective. My reminiscences of my first and only visit to the store as a high school sophomore after the jump...
In 2002, right after turning 15 years old, I went with my high school honors choral ensemble to New York City. We had practiced for months on end, readying ourselves for the time we'd get to join a chorus of close to 200 students from around the nation inside the country's premier performing venue, Carnegie Hall.
The trip was full of firsts for me. It was the first time I'd ever traveled to New York City. The first time I'd been so far from home. My first time experiencing life outside of the American South. The first time, ever, that I saw almost all of the general community and society be accepting and embracing of LGBT people.
To be sure, I was a flamer. Actually, flamer really doesn't give my naive, youthful queerness the justice it deserves. Visiting New York City, watching same-sex couples walk down the street hand-in-hand, seeing rainbow flags flying atop office buildings and stores -- it was the first time I'd ever been in a place as accepting and as gay.
During one of the many days where we either didn't have rehearsal for our Carnegie performance or didn't have a pre-planned toursity trip to places like the Statue of Liberty, two of my best friends from high school, David and Cameron, agreed to go with me to Greenwich Village. My aim was to see the Stonewall Inn, the "birthplace" of the modern LGBT equality movement. We had no clue as to where it was headed and only new an address, 53 Christopher St., but addresses really don't help high school-aged NYC strangers on the subway.
We eventually found Greenwich Village. We stopped in a Starbucks coffee at the five point intersection Christopher St. runs through. And, eventually, we found the Stonewall. It was about 11 a.m. and the Stonewall was closed. After all, the Stonewall's happy hour didn't start until much later, I'm sure. Not that I could have gone inside anyway.
After reading some of the historic plaques and seeing the statues in the park across the street, we walked down Christopher and saw Oscar Wilde Bookstore. I desperately wanted to go inside. David and Cameron wanted to go do something fun. But they stuck with me. I was amazed that a gay bookstore even existed. Looking back, I can say my naivete was astonishing.
While the very straight David and Cameron enjoyed the (ahem) lesbian-oriented materials, I quickly immersed myself in the store, skimming through magazines and books. Not having all that much money, I just bought a little bracelet; something, at least, to say I had been there. I think I kept the tiny Oscar Wilde gift bag for months, maybe a year after my New York trip.
I wonder if New Yorkers know or appreciate the value of their historic gay establishments? Do they ever see the wide-eyed 15-year-old queer kids from the South who come to New York in amazement and leave with empowerment?
It's sad. There will be another 15-year-old kid like the one I was. She or he might get to see the Stonewall. Maybe they'll see other parts of the Village. They'll no longer have the chance to see the bookstore. That little, cheap rainbow bracelet and brown Oscar Wilde gift bag meant and symbolized a lot for me. What will future youths find? Will little tokens of a gay world outside their own communities even be needed in coming years and decades?
Farewell to Oscar Wilde. Good journeys to its owner. I only visited once, but I'll remember it the rest of my life.
Cross-posted from Q-Notes' assemBLOGe