“That’s the reality of what’s going on in the LGBT book shop industry right now. It’s not pretty. People have asked me, ‘Why do this? Why put out a call for support? If you can’t figure it out and the people who work in the store every day can’t figure it, why continue?’ My answer is this: We’ve got to give the community a chance to step up and help. We can’t just close the doors,” Rafshoon said.
In May, Rafshoon sent out a letter to the community asking for help to keep the store’s doors open. At the time, he told GA Voice there was no worry the store would close anytime soon.
“We are not in danger of closing our doors tomorrow or next week or not month, but we really need to get people aware that we have great offerings here and you need to use it or lose it,” he said in late May.
Tonight, the for-profit store is hold its first fundraiser at the new restaurant, Escorpion Tequila Bar & Cantina, from 7 p.m. to close. Twenty percent of tonight’s proceeds will be donated to the store’s “Renovations and Improvements Campaign.”
“Unfortunately, bookstores are closing at an unprecedented rate,” Rafshoon said in a statement about the fundraiser.
“Outwrite is now one of less than a handful of LGBT bookstores left in the country. Although our doors are still open, our sales have not been immune to the downturn in the economy and the impact technology has on how people buy and read books. To ensure a successful future, we’re doing a lot of work at Outwrite: we’re realigning our business model, refocusing our products and services and upgrading the store to meet the changing needs of our customers and the community,” he added.
Rafshoon tried to answer critics who questioned why a for-profit business was holding a fundraiser. He told Eldredge in the Atlanta Magazine interview that the store also plays a larger role in Atlanta and Georgia’s LGBT community.
“It’s a for-profit business but we’re also a community center,” Rafshoon said. “We do something for the community that no one else does. We provide services, we provide space for the community. We function as a LGBT de facto community center because this city doesn’t have one. It’s a tough one but we’re prepared to take the heat on it. This is just the first fundraiser. We want to measure the response and see what people are willing to step up and do.”
Top photo: Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse. (File photo)