Lambda Rising bookstore owner L. Page Maccubbin recounts half seriously how Mayor Marion Barry named Nov. 17 Lambda Rising Day.
That was the day Maccubbin's gay and lesbian bookstore opened at its new location on Connecticut Avenue NW. And although District residents didn't stop work to observe a new holiday, the mayoral commemoration indicates how successful the business has become.
Lambda Rising, named for the Greek letter that is the symbol of gay liberation, recently moved into 4,500 square feet of prime retail and office space just off Dupont Circle. At the same time, it opened its first satellite store in Baltimore. Maccubbin says it will be the first of many.
Ten years ago, Maccubbin invested $4,000 and opened Lambda Rising next to Earthworks, the tobacconist shop on 19th Street near Dupont Circle that he founded in 1974 and still owns. Maccubbin says Lambda Rising, which he never expected to make money on its own, has become the largest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country.
In 1977, Maccubbin moved the store into an 800-square-foot location on S Street NW. Two years ago, Lambda Rising launched a mail-order business with publication of the Whole Gay Catalogue, which, Maccubbin says, reaches subscribers nationwide and now generates about $170,000 in revenue a year. Maccubbin and his associate, James Bennett, also formed an advertising agency, Page/Bennett Associates, which does about one-third of its business with gay clients and expects to gross between $150,000 and $175,000 for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, Maccubbin said.
In 1984, the bookstore and mail-order business grossed $650,000, Maccubbin said, and he expects revenue in 1985 to double to about $1.3 million.
The owners say their products include "anything by, for or about gays and lesbians." Customers can browse through sections on rare first editions of turn-of-the-century gay literature, mystery, science fiction, religion and self-help books. But, says James Bennett, who manages the store and is part owner, some of Lambda Rising's best sellers are games, including gay variations of popular Monopoly and trivia games.