In 2012, partners Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum founded The Bureau of General Services-Queer Division in New York's Lower East Side. With their move to the newly renovated LGBT Center in the West Village last fall, they've been greatly helped along in their mission to provide the city with a queer cultural center, bookstore, and event space. Steven Cordova of Lambda Literary, the nation's leading LGBT literary organization, recently sat down with Newton to chat about the Bureau, as it's affectionately (and practically) called. Here are just a few of the many things they discussed.
On their move to The Center:
Our move to The LGBT Community Center has done wonders for the Bureau! We’re getting many more visitors, making more sales and receiving more attention and support. We’re very happy to be housed in an institution that is dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT people. The administration and the staff at The Center have been wonderfully supportive of our work. It has felt like home from day one.
On maneuvering the challenges faced by indie bookstores:
It was the closings of both of those stores [the Oscar Wilde Book Store and A Different Light] that later inspired us to launch the Bureau. We just couldn’t believe that New York City, of all places, could not sustain a queer bookstore. ... We continually heard from indie bookstore owners that events and social media play vital roles in sustaining their businesses, and we took this to heart. Even before we began researching, we knew that this would need to be much more than a bookstore. Our goal was to found a social and cultural space for queers that included books.
On their decision to label themselves "queer":
We see the term “queer” as having great potential to draw attention to all people who are vilified, demonized, criminalized and ostracized, and to all people who have been relegated to positions beyond our societies’ circles of empathy.
On their upcoming events:
We have a full calendar of events for the next few months, including off-site events with photographer and author B. Proud for her book First Comes Love. We’re also planning exhibitions with artists David Lavine, Adriana Varella and others.
On how the community can help:
Thank you for asking! The Bureau’s most important need is the active participation of local queers and allies. Buying from the Bureau is certainly one important way to support us, but we also need people to participate by booking and attending events; proposing collaborations and art exhibitions; spreading the word about the Bureau, what we do and why that’s important; and volunteering.