Over 100 residents on Madison’s southwest-side attended a community meeting Monday night to discuss a new adult store opening on Maple Grove Drive.
Romantix is a nation-wide chain of adult toy and entertainment stores, with over 60 stores across the county and over 30 in the Midwest alone. This new Romantix will be the company’s first store in Wisconsin.
Josh Porter, a representative with Romantix, spoke at Monday’s meeting.
“We offer an experience for men, women, couples, people of all styles to explore the opportunities out there and explore their sexuality,” Porter says.
Monday night’s meeting started out civil, as Alder Nasra Wehelie led community leaders and Porter in explaining to residents how the store came to that location, and what the store will actually look like both inside and outside the store.
Katie Bannon is the Zoning Administrator for the city of Madison. She said that a store is classified as an Adult Entertainment Establishment if more than 10% of its stock is adult movies, magazines, or books. As Romantix will not sell any of these, it is classified as a general retail store under city code. And Bannon says these kinds of products are not even new to the neighborhood.
“…and the Family Video, which used to be here, had an area in the back with adult videos, which as far as zoning goes, was under that 10% threshold, and wasn’t listed as an Adult Entertainment Establishment,” Bannon says.
After a short presentation by Porter about the company, and what the inside of Romantix will look like, came the public comments from concerned neighbors.
“Before you answer that question Josh, why don’t you move your fat face in front of that poster?”
That was neighbor Patrick Whaley, referencing a poster of a cat in a blender with a word, which references genitalia as well as felines, in bold red letters that hung behind Josh Porter.
Porter says that the poster was a regretful oversight on his part, and admits he should have had a more tasteful poster behind him.
The new store will be in an old Family Video on the corner of Maple Grove Drive and McKee Road. It sits about 500 feet from a residential neighborhood. Nearby there’s a Walgreens, Kwik Trip, and just up the road from the store, the Wonderland Family Daycare. .
Some neighbors are not happy about the location of the store – and the fact that it’s close to a residential area. While some voiced their support for the shop, others said on Monday that they’re concerned about minors entering the store, its proximity to the bus line, and safety.
Those safety issues were brought up by Rita Sheffield, who lives in the Maple Grove neighborhood.
“As a neighbor in this area, I have felt that this was a very family-friendly, safe area until I heard this store was coming in. I have concerns about the people it will bring in, and I know that it will be a limited number of concerning people but that’s still there, and I’m concerned about what you see just walking by, driving by, or waiting for the bus,” Sheffield says.
Captain Kelly Beckett is with the West District of the Madison Police Department. She says while she doesn’t have much life experience in policing an area with an adult store, she will work to make sure that everyone is able to co-exist peacefully.
“I know that if there are problems as a result of this business coming into the neighborhood, we will look into those problems as we do and approach any other business in the city, or with residents in the city, or anyone causing a high volume of calls for service. As of now, I don’t have any indication that that would be the case with this business,” Beckett says.
Ellen Bernard is the owner of A Woman’s Touch, a woman-owned sexuality boutique on the city’s near east side. She says that, when they first opened, they didn’t receive any backlash from the community, though they went about things a little differently.
“Here’s the thing: we lived here. We knew Madison, we had relationships with people. Also, the other owner at the time was a doctor and I’m a social worker, so we had a lot of credibility in the community where a chain store doesn’t. So we walked into this with some things that served as an advantage, but we went to the daycare center that was right by where we used to be. We said ‘is this going to be an issue with any of you or any of the parents?’ They told us ‘no, we can’t wait to shop,’ that was the response we got. There is residential around there, but not significant amounts,” Bernard says.
Bernard also said that people should be open-minded about Romantix.
“I’m not sure what (people) are expecting. I think what they see in their minds is the old style adult entertainment, with video booths and things like that, lots of explicit imagery. I don’t know that Romantix has that, (but) I haven’t been to this particular store. Usually they have everything in packaging, and they smell kind of plastic-y and usually have a lot of boxed lingerie, the sort of thing you would see in lots of different places,” Bernard says.
Romantix has already cleared all the legal hoops with the city, and is expected to open on August 19th.