HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
FEBRUARY 20, 2004
| .cal news
Lobo Bookshop and Cafe closes after 30 years
Owner blames closure
on internet sales and
'Wal-Marting of America.'
By BINNIE FISHER
For more than ISO years. Larry Lingle has
devoted his life to selling books and videos
to the gay community in several cities,
including Dallas, New York and Houston.
Last week, the last remnant of his one-
tiim' gay literary empire fell when the
Lobo Bookshop & Cafe closed.
Lingle blames the demise of the store
on booming Internet sales, competition
with his vendors and what he calls "the
Wal-Marting of America."
Lingle said he started in the book business more than 30 years ago. He was married then and was primarily interested in
"Originally, I was doing business as an
out-of-print book dealer," he said.
In 1973, Lingle got a divorce from his
wife and came out of the closet. His interest in books changed to the then limited
genre of gay and lesbian literature.
"I ended up in Oak Lawn in Dallas, and
there was absolutely nothing there back
then." he said. "In 1973,1 opened a book store
there. There wasn't much available then."
Lingle was able to fulfill a need that
very few book dealers could fill.
Eventually, he said, he purchased the
Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York City. In
1986, he opened Lobo in Houston's
Lingle and his partner, Bill White, operated the bookstore empire together. White
died in 1995, and Lingle said, he found it
difficult to continue alone.
He sold the Dallas store in 1990 and had
planned to close the New York store after
the attacks on the World Trade Center.
"September 11, 2001 was really the
death knell for the New York store." he
said. "Greenwich Village was closed for
two weeks, and it never recovered."
The New York Times ran a story indicating that Lingle planned to close the
store, and suddenly he found himself
being interviewed by reporters from all
over the world.
A buyer came forward after the publicity, and Lingle said he sold the store at a loss.
"I was down to this one store, basically,"
Although he maintains, "The community didn't support it as much as they used
to," Lingle said he doesn't blame his customers. If he blames anything at all, it is
the way business is conducted today
The biggest problem, Lingle said, is the
fact that the vendors who supplied his
books and videos also sold over the
Internet at cut-rate prices.
And, he said, it was difficult to compete
with the big guys like Barnes and Noble
"We had to sell at full price," he said.
"Anything we sold you could find online at
To remain competitive.
Lingle said, he added a cafe
that served a high quality
lunch. Although the cafe
business was good, he said,
the bookstore business continued to dwindle.
Market closed two years
ago, the only bump we felt
was an increase in our cafe
business." he said.
He realized that customers were coming to the
store, spending a few dollars in the cafe and finding
the books they would later
order on line.
"They could look at it,
touch it, feel it and go to the computer and
order it online," he said.
There came a point at which he had to
make a tough decision. His rent continued
to increase, and sales were not coming
close to covering the overhead.
"The payroll was $5,000 a week," he
said. "I was working to keep the store open
for my customers and my employees, but I
was losing money."
His one consolation is that when he
closed the last of his stores, the political
climate for gays and lesbians has changed
significantly for the better.
"Thirty years ago, people were still worried about getting busted in a raid on a gay
bar," he said. "Five years ago, nobody
Lobo Bookshop &
(Photo by Dalton
: Cafe at 3939 Montrose Blvd. closed last week.
believed that gay marriage would be such a
prominent issue. Ten years ago, we didn't
dream of gay and lesbian couples having
Lingle can name the gay and lesbian
bookstores nationwide that are hanging on
by a thread. He regrets that many of those
will eventually go the way of Lobo.
"I can't complain," he said. "I had some
loyal customers. There just weren't
enough of them."
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Sister: 'Convinced' Allyn murder was a professional hit
ALLYN, continued from Page 1
Houston gay community, police have called
on gays and lesbians in the city to help
solve the crime.
The Feb. 5 press conference was followed
by the passing out of flyers in the Montrose
area that evening announcing that a reward
of up to $10,000 was being offered to the person whose tip leads to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the case.
After the press conference failed to generate any phone calls, Miller said, "I'm
one hundred percent convinced it was professionally done."
During the three months since her brother's death. Miller said she has passed along
t ips that she felt pointed in the direction of a
politically motivated, professional hit.
Among the pieces of information
Miller has given to police is a tape of a telephone message left by Allyn around 9:30
p.m. on the evening before he died.
The message was to a friend and business acquaintance, and it seemed to center
on a business deal that involved the two of
them and other persons.
In the tape. Allyn said more than once,
"We're going to do this by the book." He
also mentioned that he hoped everyone
concerned could still
be friends once the
deal was completed.
Allyn said in the
message that he felt
he was being watched
and that it was not
unusual to come
home and find that
someone had been
going through his
hanging up, he
warned his friend,
"Watch your back,
Miller said she
acquired the tape
from a friend of her
brother, and she
passed it along to
Also, Miller said, neighbors on Allyn's
street mentioned hearing noises around 4
a.m. on the morning of Nov. 21. She said
the neighbors went outside to investigate
and reported seeing a green pick up truck
in the street a short distance away.
Miller said the neighbors watched as
Allyn's home suddenly burst into flames.
Mary Lynn Miller, sister of slain lobbyist Ross Allyn, and Police Detective C.P.
Abbondandolo (left) make an appeal for information during a recentpress
conference staged by Crime Stoppers.
and the truck drove away She said it was as
though the driver of the truck was waiting
to make certain the house erupted in flames.
Miller said she doesn't have all the
details regarding the deals that involved
her brother, but she said one specific case
would have meant close to a million dollars
in fees for Allyn.
"It had something to do with low-
income loans, refinancing low-income pro
jects." she said.
But, he was involved in several projects.
Miller said. In a recent deal. Allyn lobbied
for and won a 10-year, $178-million retail
contract for Paradies IAH-LLC at Bush
In 1997, Allyn, a former aide to City
Council member Ben Reyes, was snared in
an FBI bribery sting that later sent Reyes
and Houston Port Commissioner Betti
Maldonado to prison. A judge later threw
out charges against Allyn.
M iller said she feels there is bound to be
something in her brother's history or in
his recent business dealings that could
have provided motivation for someone to
want to bring about his death.
"How about starting with a short list of
people who would profit from Ross Allyn's
death." she said.
Investigators working on the case could
not be reached for comment.
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