The bookstore was originally located in 300 square feet (28 m2) at 1724 20th Street NW. It moved to a 900-square-foot (84 m2) retail space at 2001 S Street NW in 1979 and, in 1984, moved to a 4,800-square-foot (450 m2) space at 1625 Connecticut Ave NW Connecticut Avenue, N.W., in Dupont Circle, one of Washington's neighborhoods popular among the gay and lesbian community.
A second store in Baltimore, believed by the Baltimore Sun to be the only gay bookstore in Maryland, opened in 1984 and closed in the spring of 2008. Director John Waters declared that store's closing "very, very sad". Waters, a long-time customer, said the Baltimore shop was "a seriously good bookshop, with the added touch of porno. ... I always went in there to find books that I didn't know about and couldn't find anywhere else." A third store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware opened in 1991 and closed in December 2009.
In February 1975, Lambda Rising ran the world's first gay-oriented television commercial; it aired on WRC (owned by NBC) and WTOP (the local CBS affiliate, now WUSA). Also in 1975, Lambda Rising organized Gay Pride Day, the forerunner to Capital Pride, Washington's first annual gay pride celebration, and continued to host the event for the next four years before turning it over to a non-profit organization.
To support LGBT literature, Lambda Rising created the Lambda Book Report in 1987 and the annual Lambda Literary Award, also known as "the Lammys," in 1989. In 1996, Lambda Rising turned those projects over to the new non-profit Lambda Literary Foundation.
In February 2003, Lambda Rising bought the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the country's first gay and lesbian bookstore, and saved it from closing. The store was founded by Craig Rodwell in 1967 at 15 Mercer Street in Greenwich Village, later moving to the corner of Christopher and Gay Streets in Manhattan. After working with the New York staff for three years and getting the store on solid financial footing, Lambda Rising sold the store to the long-time manager in order to return the store to local control.
In December 2009, Maccubbin announced that Lambda Rising's two stores would close by January 2010. In his statement, Maccubbin said:
The phrase 'mission accomplished' has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but in this case, it certainly applies.
When we set out to establish Lambda Rising in 1974, it was intended as a demonstration of the demand for gay and lesbian literature. We thought ... we could encourage the writing and publishing of LGBT books, and sooner or later other bookstores would put those books on their own shelves and there would be less need for a specifically gay and lesbian bookstore. Today, 35 years later, nearly every general bookstore carries LGBT books.
We said when we opened it: Our goal is to show there's a market for LGBT literature, to show authors they should be writing this literature, to show publishers they should be publishing it, and bookstores they should be carrying it. And if we're successful, there will no longer be a need for a specialty gay and lesbian book store because every bookstore will be carrying them. And 35 years later, that's what happened. We call that mission accomplished.
Facing competition with online book stores, the store closed its doors on December 31, 2010. It was part of a spate of LGBT brick and mortar bookstores closures in the early 21st century, including the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York and A Different Light in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Sue Levin, In the Pink: The Making of Successful Gay- and Lesbian-Owned Businesses", Haworth Press, 1999. ISBN 978-1560239413; Frank Muzzy, Gay and Lesbian Washington D.C., Arcadia Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7385-1753-4
- Schwartzman, Paul (December 8, 2009). "End of the story for gay-oriented bookshop: Lambda Rising to close within weeks; owner proud of impact". The Washington Post. washingtonpost.com. pp. B02. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
- Rona Marech, "City's Gay Bookstore Closing After 24 Years," Baltimore Sun, February 29, 2008. Archived July 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Connor Adams Sheets, "Lambda Rising to Close at the End of the Month," The Virginian Pilot, June 19, 2007.
- Will O'Bryan, "Firmly Rooted," Metro Weekly, June 9, 2005.
- Rhonda Smith, "Bracing For Change," Houston Voice, July 8, 2005; Nomi Schwartz, "Lambda Literary Foundation Announces Major Changes," Bookselling This Week, June 16, 2005.
- Chibbaro Jr., Lou (December 4, 2009). "Lambda Rising bookstores to close". DC Agenda. dcagenda.com. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
- Marc Santora, "Plot Twist for a Gay Bookstore: The Last Chapter Actually Isn't," New York Times, February 4, 2003; Lisa Neff, "The Importance of Being Open, " The Advocate, March 18, 2003.
- Karen Schechner, "A Greenwich Village Landmark Turns 40," Book Sense, October 10, 2007; "Lambda Rising Bookstores Announce Sale of Oscar Wilde Bookshop," Echelon Magazine, March/April 2006.
- "How Deacon Maccubbin's Lambda Rising became an unexpected launchpad for Capital Pride - Washington Business Journal". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
- Lambda Literary Foundation, sponsor of the annual Lambda Literary Awards
- "Places in Our History: 1724 20th St NW - The Community Building", by the Rainbow History Project