Review and Photos: The New Giovanni’s Room Ain’t the Same

There were a lot of questions surrounding the announcement that Giovanni’s Room, the famed LGBTQ bookstore on the corner of 12th and Pine, would be operated by Philly AIDS Thrift: would the store maintain the same kind of merchandise? Would it feel the same as it did when it operated as a bookstore? The answer to both of these question is pretty clearly “No.”

The iconic institution re-opened this weekend, and, from the exterior, looked quite like the old store was back up and running. However, upon entering the building, it becomes quite obvious that this really isn’t the Giovanni’s Room we all knew.

The assortment of products is mostly used, which is obvious given that a thrift store operates it: there are rounders of used clothes and a display of old Halloween costumes. A rack of records in one of the middle rooms is filled with typical gay-loving titles (pieces from Joan Rivers, Barbra Streisand, and and Cher jumped out). There’s a used children’s book section, and upstairs is a collection of second-hand Christmas decorations peppered around walls of random plates, glasses, and trinkets for sale. The stairway which leads to the second floor is lined with artwork (called a “gallery”) that is available for purchase.

Although I applaud the efforts of Philly AIDS Thrift for trying to operate the building in as authentic a way as possible, the end result really feels more like you are picking through a flea market or a garage sale. I can understand why they kept the “Giovanni’s Room” name, but it is a tad bit deceiving: it really isn’t the same brand or concept.

I hope that the store, even in its new form, can drum up enough business to keep afloat. However, they’ll have to sell a lot of second-hand Mickey Mouse Christmas decorations and faded copies of Streisand’s Love Songs in order to do that.