“The Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village, which is believed to be the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country, will close on March 29, its owner announced on Tuesday, citing economic troubles.
The store nearly closed six years ago, only to be sold and given a last-minute reprieve.
It was opened in 1967 on Mercer Street by Craig L. Rodwell, who was influential in the gay rights movement. It later moved to 15 Christopher Street. Mr. Rodwell, who inspired owners of gay bookshops around the country and who helped organize the city’s first gay pride parade in 1970, died of stomach cancer in 1993.
A store manager, Bill Offenbaker, bought the store, which was then sold to Larry Lingle in 1996.
In 2003, after Mr. Lingle said he could no longer afford to keep the store open, Deacon Maccubbin, the owner of Lambda Rising Bookstores in Washington, agreed to buy the store and keep it afloat. In 2006, Kim Brinster, the store’s manager since 1996, became the store’s fifth owner.
The bookstore, which occupies a storefront not much bigger than a typical Manhattan studio apartment, became a popular place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.”
Oh it was a lot more than a “popular place.” Back in the day it was an oasis of sanity in a hostile world. When the closet was the rule and bars a furtive refuge even those not moved to join the movement would find themselves drifiting into the Oscar Wilde — ever so cautiously. I used to see guys circle the block and walk back and forth in front of the story coutless times before mustering up the courage to open te damn door.
The store said it would continue to take orders through e-mail and through its Web site until mid-March. Ms. Brinster said the store would extend special offers and discounts to liquidate its inventory.
“What a shame,” said Martin B. Duberman, an emeritus professor of history at Lehman College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, when he heard of the store’s closing.
Professor Duberman knew the store’s founder, Mr. Rodwell, and wrote about him in his 1993 book “Stonewall.”
“Craig struggled very hard,” Professor Duberman recalled in a phone interview. “He had no real backing from other sources. It was pretty much always hand to mouth. In the early years, some people objected because he refused to carry any pornography. He eventually relented, though I can’t tell you how long it took, but I’m sure that helped him move from a marginal life to at least a semiprosperous one.”
Porn, like it or not, was always an essential element. We found out who we were by looking at what the “models” did. And then we’d try it ourselves. Often failing, but that was life — an attempt.
The current owner, Ms. Brinster, 51, started as a manager at the store in 1996 when Mr. Lingle was the owner. Raised in Texas, she moved to New York City in 1979 to get a master’s degree in religious education at Fordham University and later worked as a letter carrier until moving into the book business.
In a phone interview, she cited declining sales figures and said that on Tuesday, the store had only two paying customers.
LOVE to talk with them. Or sing to them.
(Needs more rehearsal but he’s awfully cute.)
“People are hemorrhaging, and we’re no exception,” she said.
Ms. Brinster said she paid $3,000 a month in rent, which she said was already below market value.
“Even if we were rent-free, it wouldn’t be enough for us to cover the bills we have,” she said. “This is one instance in New York where it’s not a case of the landlord gouging the tenant. Our landlord has always been remarkable with us.”
What’s next? “Embryo Concepts”?