Giovanni’s Room, Nation’s Oldest LGBT Bookstore, To Reopen

The U.S.’s oldest gay bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, is officially reopening for business under new management after months of speculation that the store would be closing for good Publisher’s Weekly reports. Last fall current owner Ed Hermance announced that after 40 years of operation, he was looking to sell.

Screenshot 2014-07-24 13.25.21“I’ve been looking for a successor for 25 years,” Hermance told Publisher’s Weekly in 2013. “It just can’t go on like this.”

Hermance, who did not collect a paycheck as proprietor of Giovanni’s Room, ran the business at a loss and ultimately opted for retirement. Hermance alluded to being involved in talks to sell the bookstore late last year, but details and a timeline as to the store’s future were few and far between.

The name of the LGBT organization responsible for the purchase of Giovanni’s Room has yet to be released, pending the signing of agreements transferring ownership of the organization, but the store is scheduled to reopen this fall.

1973 Tom Weinberg, Dan Sherbo, Bern Boylethe founded Giovanni’s Room in the heart of Philadelphia. In the years since its opening the bookstore has become a cultural mainstay both for Philadelphia’s gay community, but also for those visiting the city and looking for a jumping off point. The 3,000 sq. ft. store is staffed entirely by community volunteers, and Hermance has expressed his desire to remain similarly involved after the lease is signed over August 1.


  1. Derrick from Philly says

    This is good news–especially for young Gay folks in Philly.

    As I said before, I’ll always remember Ed Hermance’s welcoming demeaner (creating the store’s atmosphere) to all Gay folks of all races and those of any economic/educational status…even welcoming those who came in the store with a hint of bourbon on their breath (burp)

    Thanks Ed.

  2. says

    Shouldn’t words matter even more than they usually do when writing about a bookstore? Unless it does reopen and lasts through next year, Giovanni’s Room can’t be correctly called, “the U.S.’s oldest gay bookstore.” NYC’s Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop opened in 1967 and lasted until 2009 = 42 years. 2014 marked Giovanni’s Room’s 41st year.

    Thank you.

  3. says

    This is wonderful news! I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed Hermance in 2005. He seemed like such nice man, so knowledgeable and passionate. I wish him the very best in his retirement.

  4. Scott Gordon says

    I was a volunteer at the original location on South Street in 1973/4. I think your reporting omitted an important person in the founding and continuance of the store, namely, Pat Hill.

    Best wishes to Ed! Retirement is a wonderful thing.

  5. Tatts says

    Giovanni’s Room was so dull, and the selection was just not great. Sure, they could order anything, but there wasn’t much reason to go there–even before Internet/Amazon/Kindle/Nook days, except for magazines.

    It always felt to me like a place that was “good for you” rather than a place you wanted to go. Lambda Rising in DC and Baltimore was the opposite–fun, and with a much better selection of material. Of course, that’s now gone too.

    Independent bookstores can make it–we have others in Philly that are doing well. But people have to want to go there. I just haven’t found a reason to go in a long time. Maybe new blood will revive it.

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