The Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will take time to honor the creator of one of Atlanta’s iconic gay landmarks, Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, at its annual Community Awards Dinner on Aug. 26.
The AGLCC Awards will also celebrate other business leaders who help their companies not only survive, or turn a profit, but go out of their way to help the community. Chamber Vice President Geoff Bieger said the awards, given in six categories, focus on those who use their positions productively.
“I think historically businesses haven’t taken the active role in the community that I think they should. So, I think it’s important to take one night a year to sit back and recognize the work that we’re doing,” Bieger said.
Bieger said the chamber also wants to recognize businesses and organizations that advance LGBT causes. That’s why the AGLCC has nominated big Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, Home Depot, SunTrust and UPS for the Corporate Ally Award. The chamber also recognizes non-profits and activists, and members have nominated Actor’s Express, Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, East Point Possums, Out On Film and attorney Dan Grossman for the Guardian Angel award.
This year’s awards dinner has undergone a number of changes. Bieger said it is still a great place to network, but this year there won’t be a celebrity guest, or presenter, as in the past.
“It is a community awards dinner, so the programming focuses around that,” Bieger said. “The attendees are the full spectrum of our membership; so we’ll have everyone there from small businesses, individuals and some of the larger companies will have a full table.”
While winners in other categories won’t be announced until the ceremony, the chamber will present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Philip Rafshoon, the owner and founder of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, the independent bookstore that ties down the corner of 10th and Piedmont, often considered the heart of gay Atlanta.
“When you think of this award, you look into the community, and you ask who are the leaders in our community? Not so much during one specific year, but over time. I think the recognition with Philip is that yes, he is a small business owner, but he’s involved in our community in so many ways,” Bieger said.
Rafshoon has won almost every award the gay community has to offer for his efforts in building Outwrite, but said the chamber’s recognition is different.
“It’s really special, because this is being recognized by people at my own level who run their own businesses, who understand the hoops we jump through,” Rafshoon said. “Running a business like this takes hours and hours and hours every day. I was talking with somebody last night. He was starting up his business and working 16 hours a day, and with a business like this that never changes.
“It’s always reinventing, it’s always changing… running a business is tough and I appreciate the awards,” Rafshoon said. “I appreciate it on behalf of our staff; we have a great team who put in a lot of hours, and a lot of hard work.”
Outwrite has become both the unofficial living room of the LGBT community, and often one of the first stops on someone’s coming out journey. Rafshoon was almost at a loss for words when asked how many people his store has touched in its soon to be 18 years in business.
“Oh my god,” he said, followed by a large pause. “I’d say over a half million people, if not more. I think we’ve changed a lot of people’s lives. We’ve changed the community for the better. Every day we help someone find something here that helps change their lives.
“Just the other day we had a woman in here whose son was gay, but not out yet. Her husband was anti-gay and we were able to help her find some books that would help her.”
Tickets to the event start at $110 with VIP tickets available for $150, which includes an open bar.
AGLCC Community Awards Dinner
Friday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.
188 14th Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30361
Tickets: $110 general, $150 VIP