Do you remember A Brother’s Touch? A Brother’s Touch, once located at 2327 Hennepin, was the Twin Cities’ first GLBT bookstore. It was a local landmark for many in the local LGBT community, as well as a familiar part of the neighborhood even to those who never set foot inside its doors.
Owner Harvey Hertz initially opened A Brother’s Touch at Franklin and Nicollet in 1983; at some point the store moved to its Hennepin location, where it remained until its closing in 2003. Its closing was part of a larger, national trend, a result of both competition from national chains and online booksellers as well as the changing nature of American society. By 2003 GLBT books were readily available in mass bookstores; at the time, Uptown’s own Borders branch purchased more books from LGBT publisher Alyson Publishing than any other store in the state.
I’m not gay or lesbian, and never actually went into A Brother’s Touch, but the store’s bright pink neon sign – a man with his hand on another man’s shoulder, if I’m remembering correctly – blends in with my other vivid mental images of Uptown’s changing landscape. The store’s loss is unfortunate on several levels; from a pure neighborhood standpoint it’s a sad reminder that this decade saw the departure of many good neighborhood bookstores (including the longtime and independent staple Orr Books, as well as the above-mentioned Uptown Borders).
Markets change, neighborhoods evolve, and businesses come and go. That’s the nature of life. Still, I look back at the closing of A Brother’s Touch and mourn the loss of an independent store, a store that would be unlikely to be found at a suburban mall. A Brother’s Touch is also a reminder that Uptown’s history has been (for the most part) inclusive and tolerant; while there is no “gay neighborhood” in Minneapolis, Uptown certainly has been and continues to be popular with plenty of Twin Cities LGBT residents. And while A Brother's Touch lacked any deep personal meaning for me, other than as a familiar storefront, I know that has great significance for many others. A Brother's Touch was a local institution, and as such deserves to be remembered for its role in Uptown's - and the Twin Cities' - history.