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|Outwrite pleads for customer support in light of economic downturn|
|by Ryan Watkins and Laura Douglas-Brown|
|May 25, 2011 13:22|
Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, an institution in Atlanta's gay community, sent an email to customers this afternoon expressing concern over the store's future in light of a down economy and a changing landscape in the publishing industry.
According to Philip Rafshoon, owner and operator of the gay bookstore at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, Outwrite is in the midst of operational and organizational changes that it hopes will help sustain the business. Rafshoon, however, acknowledges that increased customer support is needed to keep the doors open in the long-term.
"Everyone says, 'we love your store and we love what you do for the community,' we just have to get more people in here and get them to stop taking us for granted," Rafshoon said in an interview.
"We are doing it early so it doesn't become a crisis," he said. "We are not in danger of closing our doors tomorrow or next week or not month, but we really need to get people aware that we have great offerings here and you need to use it or lose it."
Rafshoon said that the email, which comes as Outwrite marks its fifteenth anniversary, was intended as a rallying call for people to shop at the store and on Outwrite's website, and also to offer any skills they can to help sustain the business.
"Just since I sent it out, I have already had people emailing and saying, 'What can I do?'" Rafshoon said, noting that people had volunteered everything from marketing and social media to carpentry and painting.
Volunteers are asked to contact [email protected].
"So many people are part of the Outwrite family and feel like this store and restaurant is an important part of their lives," Rafshoon said. "We want to give people the option to step up and help us out at this point."
Rafshoon said Outwrite is also making plans for changes to its product mix, new features and different types of events to continue to grow the store's customer base.
"Most importantly, we need people to shop here," he said, noting that "as the economy is starting to come back, sales are starting to creep back up, but not at a fast enough pace right now."
The email stressed the store's role in the community as well as the products and services it offers.
"We hope you agree that Outwrite is far more than 'just another business' but is truly a resource that the LGBT community and Atlanta cannot afford to lose and that we all need to help preserve,” Rafshoon said in the email. “Can we count on you to help make this happen?”
Bookstores, even large chains like Borders, have suffered during the recent economic recession. Borders filed bankruptcy in February. E-readers, like the Amazon Kindle and the Nook, have revolutionized the way readers interact with books, and traditional bookstores have had to adapt to the change in technology. E-books are available on Outwrite's website, www.outwritebooks.com.
Outwrite, however, is not just a bookstore. Just last night, television personality Starr Jones made an appearance. Earlier this year, celebrity authors Roseanne Barr, Jake Sheers and Tabitha Coffey all made a stop at the store.
Outwrite also hosts local writers and special events throughout the year.
Top photo: Atlanta activists gather at Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse to celebrate a federal judge's ruling that California's Proposition 8 was unconstitutional (by Dyana Bagby)
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