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Giovanni's Room was founded in 1973. Photo: Katharine Snow-Milon
Giovanni's Room was founded in 1973. Photo: Katharine Snow-Milon

Giovanni’s Room kicks off Pride Month alongside Philly AIDS Thrift for a drive-in movie night

The oldest feminist and LGBTQ+ bookstore in the U.S. has big plans for June.

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Many people who live in South Philly have walked by Giovanni’s Room, but never took a minute to explore its unique interior.

Potential customers step that enter the store will see an arrangement of LGBTQ and feminist literature, unique artwork, and comic books all stored inside the double trinity house that was once a deli.

Although many small businesses have suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Giovanni’s Room managed to survive thanks to their loyal customer base throughout the city and country.

Giovanni’s Room will soon be expanding its hours of operation by one hour and are partnering with its main store, Philly AIDS Thrift to host a drive-in movie night at the Philly Navy Yard alongside the Philadelphia Film Society.

The movie playing will be the John Waters classic, Female Troubles.

The event will kick off the many other parties and celebrations taking place during the summer hosted by Giovanni’s Room during and after Pride Month.

They mark a momentous occasion, given the struggles of all small businesses throughout the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alan Chelak, the manager at Giovanni’s room explained how difficult it was to not see regulars pay a visit to the historic bookstore.

“We were closed from March 14 until the middle of June, which is really hard on business, but also there is a psychological element, not being able to see your coworkers and friends,” Chelak said in a recent interview with AL DIA News. “ I think it was hard on everyone, a lot of businesses closed.”

Another thing that changed amid the pandemic was that customers were not allowed to send donations, which makes up a lot of what the business sells.

“We were accepting all kinds of media donations, CDs, tapes, vinyls, but because of the pandemic, we haven't been able to accept those donations,” said Chelak.

He is hopeful that they are able to accept donations again by the beginning of June.

Chelak and his employees were able to make ends meet thanks to their many customers ranging from different parts of the city.

“It was this huge outpouring of support from people not just in and around philly, but all around the country,” he said. “Instead of just ordering off of Amazon, they wanted to support small community businesses.”

Chelak is also happy with things finally getting back to the way they were pre-pandemic, when customers would come in and explore all around the store.

For him, helping customers and interacting with them on a daily basis is something he’s been able to do since their reopening last June.

“I love our staff, our regular customers, and our volunteers. It is great,” he said.

As many Americans continue to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, Chelak is looking forward to seeing the assortment of locals, tourists, and curious bystanders come in for a visit.

To support a small business like Giovanni’s Room, check out their storefront on 345 S 12th St.

For more information on their drive-in movie night and to purchase tickets, please visit their website.

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