The Gay Mart store on Halsted and Cornelia, an institution in gay Chicago for the past two decades, closed earlier this month.
Owner Shelly Rosenbaum told the Windy City Times that business has been weak for the past four or five years, thanks to online shopping and a lack of enthusiasm for Pride merchandise. Thankfully, many of Gay Mart's items — which include not only LGBT gifts, but pop-culture ephemera like Star Trek and Marvel action figures — will be available at a smaller version of the store, to be called Boystown T's and Collectibles.
Gay Mart's former manager, Chris Howard, will become the owner of the new store, which will occupy one-third of Gay Mart's former space (the other space will be absorbed by a neighboring store). Howard is more adept at online sales, Rosenbaum says. "He understands the Internet in ways I don't."
Gay Mart opened in Chicago around the time of the third march on Washington for LGBT rights. It was the first store in America to use "gay" in its name, according to Rosenbaum.
"The community was fun, everyone got along, everyone supported one another," he says. "But people aren't as friendly as they used to be. I think the internet has changed the way people interact."
Similarly, New York's LGBT gift shop, Rainbows and Triangles, closed last year.