Queer Bookstore Looks for Permanent Home in LES

The owners of The Bureau of General Services-Queer Division, Greg Newton (left) and Donnie Jochum (right) pose with author Edmund White (center), whose work centers on the LGBT community. (Photo by Lee Brozgol via The Lo-Down).

The Bureau of General Services-Queer Division is a pop-up bookstore on the Lower East Side’s Orchard Street that caters to the LGBT community. Traven Rice of The Lo-Down visited the co-owners Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum, who are working on opening a permanent location in the area. For now, it’s housed at the Strange Loop Gallery until the end of next month. Opened last November, the Bureau is the only LGBT bookstore left in Manhattan.

Newton says their goal was to rethink what it means to be a gay bookstore. They wanted their place to have a different connotation so they decided to go with the term “queer bookstore.”

“For us, the term queer is somehow more expansive. You could say, on the one hand, opening a queer book store is a narrowing of focus, but we see it more as a space that’s dedicated to queers and queer topics, but it’s open to allies,” Newton said. “There are people who have sex with members of the opposite sex who identify with the word ‘queer,’ so it doesn’t have rigid boundaries and at the same time it signals to people, if you don’t fit in with the gender ‘norms’ of society, or if you feel that those ‘norms’ ought to be challenged, this is the space for you.”

The co-owners purposely chose a location in the Lower East Side, Newton tells Rice.

He says the partners are determined to stay in the LES because of its diversity and the creative history here. Rent would have been cheaper in Brooklyn, but they really want to be centrally located — and in a neighborhood that has a mature nightlife and art scene. “We feel right at home here,” he said.


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