Outwrite Books to Leave 10th and Piedmont Location
(APN) ATLANTA — Outwrite bookstore, Midtown Atlanta’s iconic gay bookstore, will be leaving its 10th and Piedmont location within the next few weeks, signaling a key milestone in Midtown’s second-wave gentrification process. The store opened eighteen years ago, in 1993.
“It’s part of the story – as we move into neighborhoods and fix ’em up, we get forced out,” Phillip Rafshoon, owner, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Since we’ve moved in, the rent’s gone way up. A few years ago was a big jump. There’s no way we could afford this space. I’m not angry with the landlord; it is what it is,” Rafshoon said.
Rafshoon said he’s seen a lot of changes in Midtown.
“When we moved in, we realized the neighborhood was predominantly gay. Even though there was gentrification, it was still gay,” Rafshoon said.
“Ten years ago, every gay bar and business was centered around Piedmont Park. It was extremely gay. It was the center of the community,” Rafsoon said.
“When we took this corner, there was nothing else here. It’s been exciting to watch the neighborhood grow around it,” Rafshoon said.
“I’m so sad,” Katie Graham, 30, a customer, said.
“For my own personal sake, I live right across the street. It’s great to have this place to walk to. I love independent bookstores. I don’t know where I’m gonna go,” Graham said.
“I enjoy interacting with staff. I like the atmosphere, people I meet. It’s a good spot – it’s kind of our spot,” Larry Doyle, 40, who has been coming to the store for fifteen years, said.
“Places matter more than people think. People say, oh, it’s just a store, it’s just a house… oh it’s all on the Internet now. But places do matter,” Doyle said.
“What other gay location is there like this? What kind of hangout spot? There’s this. There’s gay bars. I don’t want to hang out in a bar all the time,” Doyle said.
Rafshoon has not decided yet where he is going to move to, and while he prefers to stay in Midtown, he may have to move somewhere else.
Currently the store is having a twenty-five percent off sale through Sunday, November 20, and other sales will be announced.
Recently, Midtown also lost a Borders bookstore location on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Monroe Drive, when Borders went bankrupt.
But Rafshoon said there is still a viable business model for small bookstores. In fact, he said, in other cities, small bookstores are opening now because there is a greater need with the closure of Borders.
Outwrite functioned not only as a bookstore and coffeeshop, but also a gathering place for several civic and cultural events.
Within just the past six years, speakers have included Roseanne Barr, Lance Bass, Chelsea Handler, former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, and Ru Paul.
APN covered McGreevey’s appearance in October 2006, shortly after he had come out of the closet as homosexual while married to a woman and having an alleged affair with a male poet.
When religious bigots came to Atlanta to picket non-heterosexuals, they often targeted Outwrite. APN reported on a period of several weekends in June and July 2006 when protesters held signs outside of Outwrite, such as, “Men with Men and Women with Women it is an abomination.”
In November 2008, when activists wanted to protest in support of same-sex marriage, they gathered in the parking lot across from outwrite, in front of Nikimoto’s, with protesters on all four corners of the intersection.
Nikimoto’s was a sushi restaurant which also featured a drag show called Dragamaki; it too closed in recent months, to be replaced by Five Napkin Burger.
The 2008 protest was unusual for its juxtaposition of a candlelight vigil with club music, blasted on speakers rented by the protesters.
And in recent months, when Mayor Kasim Reed wanted to hold an illegal closed meeting with the LGBT Advisory Board, it too was held at Outwrite, after City Attorneys wrongfully advised the Board that the meeting could be closed. APN’s Editor is currently suing the City of Atlanta over this and other violations of Georgia’s Sunshine Laws.
Also, when APN had a print edition in 2006 and 2007, copies were available at Outwrite, except for the first issue, which, we were told wasn’t “glossy enough.”
Overall, “We’ve been a very important asset to the Atlanta community,” Rafshoon said. “It’s one of less than a handful of LGBT bookstores in the country. It’s been the reason the Atlanta community has thrived, especially in the South…To see people out and not ashamed and in the streets, and there’s a big sign on the door.”
“I’m at peace with the decision to move but I know it’s going to be hard for the community.”