by Louise Chernin -
Special to the SGN
A group of Gay men gathered together more than 32 years ago with the goal of finding a way to identify other Gay-owned businesses. They knew that they were not the only Gay professionals in town, but the challenge was how to bring everyone together and support one other. One of the first acts of the newly formed Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) was to publish a Guide. The GSBA Guide was first created in 1981, GSBA's founding year, and has been published every year since.
The Guide then became the Guide & Directory, and for a short time was known as the Seattle Gay Guide (1983-1985), but then went back to being referred to as simply the Guide. Its purpose was always to support Gay-owned businesses and thus keep the pink dollar circulating within the community. It was so popular that many in the community simply referred to it as the 'Gay bible' - it was where you went first to find an attorney, accountant, printer, bar, or nonprofit organization serving the Gay community. Started by Gay men, the organization reached out to the Lesbian community and Harley Broe, CPA and owner of City Peoples Mercantile, was one of the first women who advertised in the Guide. Needed an insurance agent? Everyone knew that Brydon Insurance Services, owned and operated by Charlie Brydon - father of the Washington State LGBT civil rights movement - was not only Gay-owned but the best insurance agency in town. Three decades later, the organization's membership is broad and diverse, including Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals, and the Trans community, as well as our allied businesses who stand with us in support of equality.
Guides are only useful if they get distributed, and with this came another tradition: passing out the Guide during Pride. Before there were vehicles in the Parade, GSBA members pushed grocery carts down Broadway and passed out hundreds of GSBA Guides. This tradition and the vision of hundreds of outstretched arms continue to this very day. As a member, if you were not pushing a shopping cart, you were strutting your stuff in the nationally famous Briefcase Brigade. GSBA members, dressed in khaki Bermudas, white button-down shirts and ties, carried briefcases and became our professional Gay drill team - kicking legs, swinging briefcases, and showing the world the playfulness and creativity of Gay and Lesbian business owners. And, this year is no different - look for our funtastic briefcase brigade marching down Fourth Avenue once again.
That first 45-page black-and-white edition of the Guide has grown to 342 full-color pages filled with over 1,000 business listings, more than 225 display ads, and a Community Resource section listing several hundred nonprofits promoting services that offer counseling, theater, sports teams, welcoming faith-based organizations, and health care services. In 1982, former Mayor Charles Royer took the bold step of writing a welcome letter to be published in the Guide; today, the Guide includes letters from 21 elected officials including our Governor, U.S. Senators and Congressional leaders, State Senator and Representatives, Mayor, City Councilmembers, and even the Sheriff. The GSBA Guide is open to all, whether you are a business owner, corporation, individual, retired, or a student. The only requirement is that you must be a GSBA member, abide by a code of ethics, and support equality for all. Equality is Good Business. It was in 1981 and it still is in 2013.
Louise Chernin is president and CEO of GSBA.
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