The Little Gay Shop is more than a store. It’s a community.
Co-founders Justin Galicz and Kirt Reynolds’ mission is to support, celebrate and ignite the queer community. Through their shop, events and pop-ups, they’re spotlighting queer artists and bringing them the exposure they deserve.
We caught up with Justin and featured The Little Gay Shop in Issue 23‘s Community Spotlight.
You’re from NY right?
I’m originally from Florida and husband from Arkansas. But we met in New York. I was working as a graphic designer and Kirt had been there for 11 years working in photography and retail. We both come from relatively creative fields.
What attracted you to Austin?
New York City, it wears on you after a while. By the time we had met, I was excited and bright eyed about it. After a while, we were tired and Kirt had lived in Austin before and we had visited a few times. We really liked it. When we were deciding on our next steps we were looking for a slower pace of life. Something that felt more affordable with a better work life balance.
What’s the mission of The Little Gay Shop?
To promote queer artists and art. That’s been our mission through the whole process. To work with LGBTQ+ artists and carry a diverse range of makers and accessible art.
The queer community is institutional to art and culture. For too long, queer people have not received the compensation or exposure they deserve. The Little Gay Shop exists to support, celebrate and ignite the queer community by creating a larger audience of patrons and exposing local artists to different demographics.
Within the arts world and more marginalized groups of people, the best way to uplift is through money. We try to think critically to use our privilege and experience to uplift voices of people.
When did idea of shop come into play?
We moved to Austin in 2018. We had no intention of opening a shop, but we were surprised that so many of the books, magazines, art events and community that we had been a part of in New York didn’t exist in the same way here. Or at least it wasn’t widely accessible and public. We wanted to change that. So we started with small events and pop-ups, which grew into brick and mortar.
During March 2020, Kirt was furloughed so used the time to look at real estate and stumbled upon the spot we’re in now. We knew the community here was supportive and needed a spot that didn’t revolve around nightlife and could be more inclusive and open to. So we took the plunge.
“For too long, queer people have not received the compensation or exposure they deserve.”
Did you feel like there was a lack of LGBTQ+ art representation in Austin?
I think it’s because the Austin queer community is still slow and growing. We have an art core downtown but within the queer community it felt like everyone was spread out. We just have the little tiny strips on 4th street. There wasn’t a spot that wasn’t revolving around nightlife, adult entertainment and drinking.
Do you want to be that hub?
We want to be a pillar for the community, a safe space and a central meeting space to bring different people with different experiences together. But there needs to be more than one spot. I’m excited to see how Austin expands and how more businesses like us pop-up. Even in the last two years we’ve seen it.
When did you think, wow this is powerful?
I remember a pop-up pride event we were a part of in San Marcos. It was so inspiring to have teenagers using their allowance to buy products that’ve never seen before to allow them to express their identity.
You still have people sneaking out or telling stories about having to hide what they buy. But being there, they were saying, I’m comfortable with myself and my identify. We actually almost cried. It’s cool to be single handedly involved in those experiences and interactions. I don’t think either of us thought we’d have that power, not that we have any, but to be facilitating those types of interactions and community building. It’s been really eye-opening and inspiring and an emotional process.
Do you work with Austin artists?
We work with a bunch of local artists. It’s cool to see themselves and their work reflected in a physical space. At the moment, we carry about 20 local artists and makers.
How do new artists get involved?
The easiest way is to reach out is via email or social. We’re constantly looking for new artists and makers to work with and partner with. If the product doesn’t quite align, we encourage them to sign up for our market list so they get emails about events that come up so it’s easier to pop-up.
We’re still trying to navigate this niche especially in the original art realm and how we fit into that larger puzzle. It’s something I’m excited to look at and tackle.
What are your goals for The Little Gay Shop?
Our goal to be more than a shop. It’s a brand. Even when we first started we knew we wanted a cafe and book component. I would love to get into more gallery shows and original art. Also get into publishing and create content ourselves. In the long term, we will carry on retail at the physical capacity and grow our digital landscape and offerings.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs?
Don’t get discouraged because no matter what, you’re going to fumble through it. But that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t any less important or less valuable to the community you’re trying to build. We’ve been doing this for 3 years and we still don’t know what the fuck we’re doing to be honest.
Be vulnerable and ask for help, it feels daunting but it’s necessary because just starting out there are so many other variables that come up that you might not be aware of. Just finding a likeminded business or business leader to use as a mentor is something that’s really helpful. All small businesses and community leaders are here to help and continue to grow out community and uplift people.
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