Philly AIDS Thrift to keep Giovanni's Room running

Posted: August 25, 2014

PHILLY AIDS Thrift in Queen Village has always been about preserving precious items, their reps say. And, of course, supporting local AIDS organizations through sales of donated items.

Now, the nearly 9-year-old establishment will be preserving something much more significant - Giovanni's Room, the iconic touchstone of the LGBT community and the country's oldest LGBT bookstore. The organization has signed a two-year lease with the former Giovanni's Room owner to open Philly AIDS Thrift store at Giovanni's Room.

The store will have a soft opening in late September and open officially Oct. 10, in time for OutFest and National Coming Out Day. The iconic "Giovanni's Room" signage will remain, the new leasers said.

"What can be more precious than Giovanni's Room? What better thing to try and keep alive?" asked Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou, co-founder of the Philly AIDS Thrift and manager of the Queen Village store. She added that it was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

The Center City bookstore, which opened in 1973 at 12th and Pine streets, was shuttered earlier this year by its owner, Ed Hermance, who sought retirement and planned to put the building up for sale.

However, Hermance couldn't secure a buyer. Enter Philly AIDS Thrift, which had been thinking about opening an outpost in addition to its main store, on 5th Street near Bainbridge. The new store will be a different configuration of Giovanni's Room. It will continue to sell LGBT books, stocking 2,000 titles, both new and used, as well as housewares, tchotchkes and "higher end handpicked items" such as vintage clothing and selected pieces of furniture, Kallas-Saritsoglou said.

Philly AIDS Thrift raises $20,000 a month for the AIDS Fund, which distributes the money to 29 AIDS organizations. Since 2005 when it opened, the store has raised $891,000 and hopes that figure will hit $1 million before year's end, said Alan Chelak, who will manage the Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni's Room.


On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

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