by Joey Hood
Compared with its older neighbor, the renovated Outloud! Books and Gifts carries the semblance of a small-scale Barnes & Noble with its categorically grouped sections and adjoining Bohemian coffee shop.
Located at 1703 Church Street, the new Outloud! is only two doors down from its former location, and employs a knowledgeable cavalcade of staffers including Out & About Newspaper’s very own Joseph Brant. Below are brief summaries of Outloud!’s various employees.
Ted Jensen and Kevin Medley
When Medley and Jensen started this bookstore in 1996, the gay presence on Church Street was summed up with a single gay bar. Now with their expanded store wooing unconventional customers, the new Outloud! has tripled in size. In an interview with the Lambda Book Report, Jensen attributed the store’s success to Nashville’s supportive GLBT community and regulars from outside the area.
“They like to visit and be a part of the community because they can’t be as ‘out’ in the small towns where they live,” Jensen said.
As mentioned before, Joseph Brant is a general assignment reporter for Out & About Newspaper. Armed with a business administration degree from Belmont University, Brant services book-reading gays with his vast knowledge of the latest queer tomes.
“An important thing is that in our book section we have a case of historical titles and new releases. One thing we are doing here is bringing more liberal thinkers in who are not necessarily part of the community,” Brant said.
Brant points to current autobiographies from Hillary Clinton to illustrate his remark about Outloud! attracting heterosexual, progressive thinkers. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is also a top-seller for Outloud! Other popular authors include Edmund White, Rita Mae Brown, David Sedaris, Christopher Rice and Margaret Atwood.
This self described “all-around guy” moved from the recesses of East Tennessee and had a rocky relationship with his parents.
“There have been problems in the past, but my family is very accepting now,” Shelton said. At the time of the interview, Shelton manned Outloud!’s check-out booth with a pleasant demeanor and easygoing personality.
He talked extensively of the store’s upcoming unveiling of the side coffee shop. According to Shelton, the coffee shop will weigh heavily with soy-loving vegetarians.
“We are going to have raw food. It’s like organic, but not processed,” he added.
The aptly nicknamed Leg Bone deals in the adult video and rental department. Leg Bone is a prominent face in the GLBT community, recently making the cover of 2005’s Nashville Pride Guide under the heading: community activist and musician. Of course, Leg Bone isn’t a stranger to Nashville Pride.
“I worked a [previous] job closeted and was fired for being on the local news in the Pride parade,” she said. Also of note, Leg Bone helped jump-start Nashville’s One-In-Teen program which provides help for gay teenagers. In the works is a Nashville-based helpline for teenagers struggling with sexuality issues or contemplating suicide.
Ridley is the jovial woman with a welcoming smile plastered on her face. Each week, Riley sorts mainstream and adult magazines for the bookstore. (Top-sellers include The Advocate, Out, Lesbian News, Bitch!, Girlfriends, Curve and Diva.) Riley resides in Franklin and started working at Outloud! as a casual volunteer.