Arts

The world's oldest LGBTQ bookstore needs your help

If Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop is going to continue marching on as the world's longest-running LGBTQ bookstore, it needs your help.

Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop has big plans for its survival

Inside the current location of the Glad Day Bookshop. (Michael Erickson)

The longevity of Toronto's Glad Day Bookshop is nothing short of remarkable. For 45 years, it has been a cornerstone of the city's LGBTQ community, outliving the equally iconic likes of New York's Oscar Wilde Bookshop and San Francisco's A Different Light (which sadly closed in 2009 and 2011 respectively). But if Glad Day is going to continue, it needs your help.

The plan is basically to move it or lose it. Glad Day has zeroed in on a new, larger space that would add a coffee shop, a bar, a performance space, a wall for local art and a patio to the mix — bringing in new revenue streams like food and drinks in an increasingly difficult age for bookstores that want to just be bookstores. But all of that is easier said than done. The store will need over $200,000 for their big move — and that's why they're turning to an Indiegogo campaign to help cover some of the costs.

(Michael Erickson)

This isn't the first we've almost lost Glad Day. In 2012, a group of 23 community members pooled their funds to save it from closing. Since then, book sales have risen by 30% — which is incredible considering that the book industry as a whole dropped roughly 25% in North America during that time. But unfortunately, the store is losing money on things like magazines and videos, and inflation makes the business costlier to run as each year passes. 

"Even though we've had a lot of success, it's not enough to make rent and payroll and just basic costs," co-owner Michael Erickson tells CBC Arts. "So we've been going into debt year after year. The other thing is that the space is not wheelchair accessible. So it's not a full community space."

Erickson knows that in this day and age, books alone will simply never be enough to make rent.

"Our mandate is to be a cultural space for people to tell stories and create connections," Erickson. "So obviously something like coffee and booze makes sense."

Erickson also opted to keep the store in Toronto's most LGBTQ-oriented enclave, moving it from Yonge Street and Wellesley Street to the neighbourhood's core commercial strip on Church Street.

A sign marks the Church-Wellesley gay village in Toronto on June 20, 2014. (John Rieti/CBC)

"It's been a long time since there's been a queer-owned business open on Church Street," he says. "A lot of it has been corporations. So I think it's exciting to see a LGBTQ-owned space back on the strip. We hope to bring a little queer back to the street. A lot of people are excited about a 'back to the village' movement. After expanding to different neighbourhoods, people are into the idea of returning to the village and making it what it needs to be today — because there still are a lot of people there, but it's kind of dated. So we'll bring a new vibe with our space." 

Glad Day's mandate will continue to devote itself to showcasing diverse and marginalized voices and experiences. Erickson hopes the space will continue to be somewhere where everyone feels comfortable.

"A lot of the LGBTQ bars and clubs feel very segregated," he says. "We want this to be a space for everybody. We're thrilled that we're going to have a space that's wheelchair accessible and can be a gathering point for people across ages, genders and ethnicities — something we built at the current location over the past four years. But now we can expand it to the whole community without a barrier."

Visit Glad Day's IndieGogo campaign by July 13th to make a contribution.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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