Lavender Inkwell: a place for gay voices


Syracuse City Eagle
November 9, 2006

New McBride Street bookstore modeled after shops in other cities

A new bookstore in Syracuse, called the "Lavender Inkwell," had its grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 28. Aimed at the lesbian and gay community, the store is located at 304 North McBride Street – the former site of "My Sisters' Words," a much-loved feminist bookstore that closed in 2003.

"When Scott and I moved into our house on Hawley Avenue," said Inkwell co-owner John Besaw, "neighbors would get together to discuss plans for the district. The discussion would always lead to what we need here. My Sisters' Words had just closed, and many times that loss came up in the conversation."

"Every time John and I went on vacation," added his partner Scott Henni, "we would always go to book­stores – places like Now Voyager in Provincetown and the Pride Connection in Rochester – and we kept saying 'somebody should open one of these in Syracuse.' And one day we looked at each other and said, 'Why don't we try it?' We've been planning it for about a year."

"At first it just seemed like a passing thought," Besaw said, "then it became more serious. Our conversations with neighbors went from 'should we open a bookstore?' to 'we're thinking of opening a bookstore' to 'we're going to open a bookstore.'"

Henni was working in retail for Penn Traffic, and Besaw is a Nurse Practitioner with 30 years in healthcare.

"I had always had a desire to have my own business," Besaw said.

"John's going to keep his job because one of us has to have a steady income," said Henni, who staffs the store on weekdays.

The two men have been together for nine years. They live in The Hawley-Green Historic District with two cats – Sara and Snow – and a Yorkie named Vedo.

"We had another location at the corner of McBride and Burnet that we were trying to open at, but that fell through," Henni added. "Then we were going to open on North Krause, and that fell through. So we came over here. This was the smallest of the three locations.

"We bought store fixtures back in January and have been storing them in our living room and dining room all this time."

The store carries books of interest to the LGBT community as well as gifts, note cards, and rainbow-colored gay pride items.

"Other bookstore owners we talked to told us to branch out a little, get more gift items, not just books," Henni said. "And we have. We wanted to do coffee but this location's too small to do that."

Henni sees the Lavender Inkwell Bookshoppe as just one of many exciting developments in that neighborhood.

"There's a restaurant a block away. Eventually there will be a lot more down here. Right now there's a gay bar, Tunic, on Burnet Street, for men and women. Then later on this year or the first of next year, Sugarpearl is go­ing to be opening up at the corner of North Grouse and Burnet. That's going to be a woman's bar and coffee bar. And Sparkytown, which is going to be a restaurant, is going to be opening up at the corner of Catherine and Burnet."

The bookstore is open Monday and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

"Scott and I want to offer the community a place that is their own, Besaw said. "We want it to be a place for people to meet old friends, where they feel comfortable."

"So far, the response has been very good," Henni added.

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