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On the closing of A Woman’s Prerogative

By |2005-07-07T09:00:00-04:00July 7th, 2005|Opinions|

By Amy Blake

Closing A Woman’s Prerogative Bookstore was a multi-layered and tough decision. Now that the deed is done, I can breathe a little easier and take a moment between packing boxes to say, “Thank You.” My gratitude goes out to the supporters, customers and friends of the bookstore.
I know some of you are bewildered, hurt and angry that I have closed the store. I know this because even with the windows covered in paper, people are still knocking on the door to ask if the store is really closed, and to tell us we suck, and to ask where they can find another store like this in the metro-area.
My hope over the past seven years had always been to deliver the store to new owners. I am sad that it didn’t happen that way. Small independent bookstores are a rare breed and mostly a labor of love. In my case, I can know that I personally gave up at a minimum $60,000 a year in wages and benefits in order to have time to give what I could to the store. That there was no one willing or able to step up to the plate for that kind of “opportunity” should not be surprising, nor should it be judged.
The success and celebration is that the store did exist for 13 years and did its best for the community – always with room for improvement.
The success is that A Woman’s Prerogative found a way to be welcoming and safe for people who span the range of sexual orientation and gender identity. The store even provided a friendly queer face for the non-queers, which proved, at times, to be not only a joy but also a stretch for me in my attempts at embodying the full meaning of inclusivity.
The business challenges of keeping a small independent afloat were a snap compared to the personal challenges of providing a service to our community. Quite frankly, we’re ruthless with one another. I’ve been told that I didn’t support the community when there were times I chose not to give merchandise or money to some organization or another looking for donations. My private life has been held up to enormous public scrutiny. There was a period of time when some lesbians refused to shop at the bookstore because they didn’t like the fact that I was dating a man.
Perhaps we’ve got some work to do on that inclusivity thing within our own community.
Other challenges had to do with the fact that no matter how you slice it, owning a store puts you in the midst of the retail experience. Watching people mistreat my store was a tough one for me and made me really cranky at times. As a matter of fact, one of the things I hope to do in my time off is to get that bitch designation removed from my drivers license. Even in the queer community, people will look you in the eye and write a bad check or steal merchandise and then challenge you to do something about it. That I had to spend time to learn more about shoplifting and security rather than getting to focus on bringing new books and programs into the store was one of the things that wore me out.
For the people who care, I give you my heartfelt apology for taking away such a valuable resource. I want you to know that closing the store was essential for me to have the time and space necessary to attend to my own life, which for many years has been desperately neglected in service to the bookstore. Thank you to those who understand and have supported me in my decision.
It has been a good life and a good closing for this little independent bookstore and her owner.
Now, to answer those desperate pleas of where am I gonna get my books?
First stop is your local independent merchants. Ask them to stock the items you want. This community is still blessed to have at least three stores dedicated to various aspects of LGBT living: Just 4 Us in Ferndale (which by the way picked up some of our books, cards and toys), Chosen Books in Royal Oak and Common Language in Ann Arbor. For the nearest store that is kind of like A Woman’s Prerogative, check out People Called Women in Toledo. Stores that are not so close but worth the drive are Women and Children First in Chicago, A Room of One’s Own in Madison and Amazon (the original, not the Internet retailer) in Minneapolis.
One of the best places to get great information on what’s current in lesbian and gay publishing is through “Books to Watch Out For.” This is an Internet and print publication created by Carol Seajay, formerly of Feminist Bookstore News. You can reach “Books to Watch Out For” and subscribe at http://www.btwof.com.
If you must order your books online, please try and do so through an independent. Many of the stores identified above have e-commerce sites. http://Booksense.com is also a great site to get more information about independent bookstores and you can redeem your Woman’s Prerogative gift cards there if you were not able to get into the store before closing.
If you came to A Woman’s Prerogative for those implements of pleasure – try Good Vibrations and Toys in Babeland.
Through the ups and downs, this has been a most fascinating journey and with any luck you will all show up in a book I would like to write about my experiences here. Seriously, my life has been enriched beyond measure through all that has happened during my time as a bookstore owner in Ferndale. My hope is that the presence of A Woman’s Prerogative has been of benefit to you as well.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.