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ROYAL OAK – Boystown in Chicago has them. So does DuPont Circle in the nation’s capitol. And San Francisco? New York? Of course they do, silly.
And now, so does Royal Oak, thanks to a familiar face in Metro Detroit’s LGBT community, Gary Baglio. “In every major – and in a lot minor – cities throughout the world, there are stores like this,” Baglio said of Five15, his new independent book, music, movie and gift store that marries his passions for the arts, theater and politics.
Set to officially open Sept.15 at 515 South Washington Street, Five15 brings a west coast-east coast-European atmosphere to the city’s downtown district that he believes will attract a broad range of clientele – and not just from the LGBT community. “It’s a store for everybody,” Baglio said. “I’m a gay man, but that’s just a small part of me. And ‘gay’ is just one part of the whole community.”
Existing in the shadows of a popular Barnes & Noble store doesn’t worry the entrepreneur. He knows he can’t compete with them, so he won’t. Instead, Five15 will set itself apart by stocking “eye-popping and thought-provoking” merchandise that can’t be easily found anywhere else locally. “We’ll have videos, but not the mainstream blockbusters,” Baglio said. “You won’t find ‘Spiderman 3’ here. But we WILL have documentaries, independent films and arts and entertainment sorts of things.”
How those videos will be delivered to the customers will be rather unique, as well: a membership-driven, electronic kiosk. “There’s nothing like it in the area,” Baglio noted. Customers can search the kiosk by title, director or star and view the results, choosing which movies they want to purchase or rent. The movies will then be picked up at the counter. “Or you can do it from home, and your movies will be waiting for you when you get to the store.”
An eclectic collection of hard-to-find music CDs will also be available, plus magazines from around the world. “We’ve got French Vogue, Italian Vogue – things you can’t find at Barnes & Noble.” And book titles will cover the entire political spectrum.
Plus, he’ll stock a wide array of gay publications from across the country. “By offering all those newspapers here, we’re now connected with everyone else,” Baglio explained. “We’re part of the bigger community.”
A world traveler, Baglio saw the need for such a store in Metro Detroit, and seriously began working on the concept two years ago. Although he and a business partner searched throughout the area for the perfect space, Royal Oak was always their preference. “Royal Oak is a hub. It’s ‘happening.’ This street comes alive after five, so our business hours are geared towards that,” he said.
Baglio and his partner took possession of the building in mid-May, “and literally tore it apart. It’s taken us this long to get it ready. Construction always takes longer than it’s supposed to.”
Another headache for Baglio was product placement within the store – especially such items as condoms and lube. “How was I going to marry them with gift items, and make this a place where not only the elder members of my family would be comfortable coming to, but also members of my community?” He did – and very tastefully.
The location will help create a synergy between the store and several local businesses, including Pronto! across the street and nearby Stagecrafters. Plus, as publicist Judith Slotkin of The Slotkin Agency pointed out, “You can get here from anywhere.”
Which is what Baglio and Slotkin are counting on, since Baglio sees the Five15 as a “creative clubhouse” for authors, book signings, performance art and poets. Plus, he plans to partner with larger organizations to schedule events that normally bypass Metro Detroit. “We can be a destination place,” he said.
The entrepreneur’s dreams were validated one night last week when, without any publicity, he simply unlocked the doors. Among the 35 people who wandered in was Affirmations’ Leslie Thompson and some of her friends. “She made me turn the Shock game on. I didn’t know what the Shock was, but they sat on the sofas and hooted and hollered and drank coffee drinks,” Baglio laughed. “It was cool. And that’s the atmosphere we’re trying to create: a place where people can just hang out.”
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