Almost nine months ago, Glad Day Bookshop, Canada’s first bookstore targeted to the gay community, was about to close its doors—until it was saved by a group of citizen investors. They’ve since turned a chapter in Toronto queer history, making Glad Day a place for very memorable nights.
Last December, when former owner John Scythe announced that the shop would be put up for sale, high-school English teacher Michael Erickson started a campaign to engage friends and allies from every corner of his Toronto network to invest in the project. “Since it’s an institution and an incredible resource for the community, [Erickson] decided that we should save the bookshop,” says Andy Wang, who needed little persuasion to became one of the 22 people (from white collar to creative class) who bought shares in the company. Wang also acts as the shop’s CFO and event booker. Since this re-incarnation, Glad Day has become a fiercely community-driven initiative, says Wang. “Having a lot of people involved is good for having connections all over.” With so much added outreach, the social calendar has become the backbone of its new direction.
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Erickson, Wang and co. wanted desperately for the shop to survive, and, in keeping up with the Indigos, the idea of holding events and launches became crucial to the business model. It was a way of enticing new customers to get acquainted with and raise the profile of the shop—fast. Erickson asked the landlord, who was renovating the unused third floor at the time, if the team could rent the space. “It was modelled after our specifications,” Wang proudly explains, as he walks me through Glad Day’s vast collection of everything from thoughtful memoirs to DVDs to vintage erotica.
Upstairs, I overhear a woman say, “Like, what is this? Are we in Trevor’s apartment?”
It’s easy to see why she says that. The result of the renovation was a charming multi-use loft space, with a bathroom, a kitchenette, and glorious hardwood floors. It’s like the most perfect bachelor apartment you’ve ever seen, with standing room for up to 100 guests, making it expansive, yet intimate. And with rentals starting at $20 per hour, it’s a bloody steal. Its availability spread quickly by word-of-mouth. Campbell says he immediately thought of using the space after visiting for a friend’s launch.
Under the new Glad Day collective, the third floor has hosted countless talented minds. The Toronto Gay Gamers (the “Gaymers”) meet here regularly. There was an AIDS Sunset Service, and a night of remembrance upon the passing of Maurice Sendak. During Pride 2012, Glad Day revived the Proud Voices reading series, a program that lasted for three years before it vanished from Pride programming in 2010. There was the debut of the Kickstarter-funded Human Canvas Project. Last Friday night, they hosted the revue-style Loft Cabaret. (Watch a performance below.) The week before that, it was a caBEARet, a night of bear artists and creators.