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Quick and Dirty

Lambda Falling

Trailblazing GLBT Bookstore Lambda Rising to Shut Its Doors

Frank Klein
Lambda Rising's Ian Gilmore

By Laura Laing | Posted 2/27/2008

Mount Vernon is about to get a little less queer. Deacon Maccubbin, owner of Lambda Rising, announced last week that the GLBT bookstore would shut its doors sometime this spring. Slow sales and a decline in customer traffic pushed the trailblazing GLBT retailer into closure.

"More than half of independent bookstores in the country have closed in the last 10 years," Maccubbin says. "It's not just bookstores. It's retail in general. Everybody is hurting, especially now in this recession."

Still, GLBT bookstores in particular have really suffered. Twelve to 15 years ago, Maccubbin knew of nearly 200 queer bookstores across the country. Today, he says he can name eight to 10.

Book lovers have found a new home on the internet, but Maccubbin says that this ultimately hurts publishers and authors. Browsing bookstore shelves and talking with retailers is often how new books and authors are discovered. "The internet is great when you know what you're looking for," Maccubbin says.

Lambda Rising opened on West Chase Street in 1984, 10 years after Maccubbin launched his flagship store in Washington, D.C. In 1990, the 300-square-foot store expanded to its current size. Maccubbin also brought Lambda Rising to Norfolk, Va., and Rehoboth Beach, Del. The Norfolk store closed last year, but the Rehoboth Beach store will remain open, he says.

It's unclear when the doors will be locked for the last time, but a liquidation sale is under way, and fixtures and equipment are up for bid.

Maccubbin admits that his age and health also play a role in his decision to close the store. At nearly 65 years old, "I don't have the energy or time to devote to running back and forth between Baltimore and D.C.," he says.

"It's going to be a loss for the community," says Craig Wiley, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, which owns the building where Lambda Rising is located. "We always had really good synergy with the store," Wiley adds.

The mainstreaming of gay culture is at issue here, Maccubbin and Wiley agree. "Ultimately, isn't that what we want?" Wiley asks. "But on the other hand, we want to hold on to what makes us different."

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