Founder of state’s first gay bookstore dies

Harvey Hertz shows off two prized possessions. MPR News/Jon Collins

A pioneer of gay rights in Minnesota died late last month, according to a recent obituary in the Star Tribune.

Harvey Hertz founded A Brother’s Touch bookstore in south Minneapolis in 1983 when no other bookstore in the state catered to gay men. It closed two decades later. He died on June 27 at the age of 73.

I had the privilege of meeting Hertz while reporting on the LGBT seniors residence he moved into last year. On the day I visited his apartment, many boxes were still unpacked. It was clear that Hertz was in declining health, but he was generous with his time and with his story.

He told me that no one talked about gay people when he was growing up in Brooklyn, New York. It was like they didn’t exist.

“I hated being gay for a long time,” Hertz said. “I went through a gay men’s course out here and all my anger I’d turned inside came out the other way — I finally had the courage to get angry at other people.”

Hertz started to wonder why Minneapolis didn’t have any stores where books by and about openly gay men were available.

“There was a store downtown called Shinder’s, and they had the magazines with naked people — they were unwrapped,” Hertz said. “But if I wanted to read a novel [about gay men], they were wrapped in plastic — everything was the opposite way it should be.”

Tim Harlow does a fantastic job of profiling him in the Star Tribune, so I’ll just leave you with the audio snippet above from our conversation and this final quote about his long struggle for equal rights.

“Why shouldn’t we be as good as anybody else?” Hertz said. “In order to do it, you have to be able to get up and fight for it.”


An early Minneapolis gay pride march. Photo courtesy of Harvey Hertz