The bookstore that became an unofficial community center for LGBT Atlanta and also attracted visitors from around the world to its landmark location in the heart of Midtown officially closed today. Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse will not reopen and is filing for bankruptcy.
In an interview Wednesday morning, owner Philip Rafshoon said he knew it was a long shot that the store located at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue would find a place to relocate because of the financial duress the LGBT bookstore has faced over the past five years.
Fighting back tears Thursday morning, Rafshoon said the hardest part of knowing Atlanta would no longer have an LGBT bookstore like Outwrite was that it leaves a void in the city where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can come to be safe and gather — and buy books targeted especially to them.
In an interview at the store, Rafshoon, fighting back tears, said he thought Outwrite had a bit more time before it closed. He said he is filing for bankruptcy today.
“It’s been a great run, but we’re closed for businesss. For good. We’re not able to relocate. We thought we could,” he said. “It just didn’t come together. it was a long shot to begin with and we wanted to cling to hope that we could find new place.
“We’re in a big financial hole that it’s just impossible to come out of. This morning we’ll be filing for bankruptcy and Outwrite as a company will cease to exist,” he explained.
Rafshoon’s partner, Robert Gaul, sat with Rafshoon, also fighting back tears.
On Tuesday, the store held its “Last Tango” and Rafshoon indicated he had no news about the store’s fate to share. Watch video of Rafshoon speaking at “Last Tango” here.
At the “Last Tango” event, Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan presented Rafshoon with a proclamation signed by the entire council thanking him and Outwrite for its support of the community, noting it has been a landmark for LGBT people. View a photo album of the event here.
“I’m sad,” Rafshoon said. “I’m fairly emotional, but you know, it’s been a battle we’ve been fighting for about five years.I think just harder knowing what its going to do the community.”
Rafshoon announced in November the store would have to move because the rent was too high at its prime Midtown corner. He announced plans to relocate, even starting a Save Outwrite Books campaign.
It wasn’t enough, Rafshoon admitted.
“In the past nine months, as we first started talking about our financial problems, we have heard from so many, people who talked out how important the store has been to them. That it was the reason why they come to Atlanta, or moved to Atlanta,” Rafshoon said.
“We know this is a light to so many people in very, very red state — in a very red part of the country — and is one of the things that makes Atlanta great,” he added. “That’s been the hardest thing.”
“We had to stay positive,” Rafshoon said, adding he learned last week that the landlord wanted the business out of the store by today.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine doing something in the future. I’d love to do it all over again and learn from my mistakes, but I’m very proud of what we did here. We did this for 18 years,” he said. “I think we had a pretty good run for a place people couldn’t say happen.”
Rafshoon’s letter to the community, also taped on the windows of the store, states:
Dear Outwrite Community,
We regret to inform you that effective January 26, 2012, Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse is closed for business. For over 18 years, we have been privileged to serve Atlanta residents and welcome visitors from across America and around the world. We sincerely thank you for your patronage.
As an independent bookstore and coffeehouse focused on the LGBT community, Outwrite has served as a symbol of strength and diversity in this city; and we have helped create a vibrant, pedestrian environment in Midtown. Our community has made an incredible amount of progress in the past 18 years and we are proud to have been part of that progress.
Since we shared our financial struggles with you nine months ago, we have been very encouraged by the strong show of support. We have listened to your insights and your desire for us to stay in business. So many of you have generously stepped up, shared your ideas and volunteered your time in an effort to transform Outwrite to meet the changing needs of our customers and our community.
Unfortunately, we have run out of time and money to make that transformation. We have examined and exhausted all possibilities for continuing this company given our financial situation.
All of us at Outwrite believe in the strength of our community and you will continue to see us working to strengthen and enrich it. While it is a challenging economy and the bookselling industry is rapidly evolving, there is still a need for neighborhoods with a strong LGBT presence and independent bookstores serving communities throughout the world.
Thanks to all of you who made Outwrite the special place it has been over the past 18 years. Thank you to all who came in on a regular basis, showing your commitment to supporting independent, local businesses. And thank you to all of the authors, poets, artists, musicians, volunteers, and activists, who have entertained, educated and energized us: your contributions have highlighted the strength, beauty, vitality, and creativity of our lives and changed the face of Atlanta. Thank you for making our community a better place.