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Prude Awakening: Retail Report Calls the Castro's Sex Shops a "Turnoff" 

Wednesday, Jul 22 2015
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At last count there were five adult stores in the Castro, and according to a February broker focus group, the shops "can be a turn-off to family-focused retailers and larger brands concerned about their corporate image."

That concern, included in the recent Castro Retail Strategy report, could be dismissed as a conservative business line, except it jibes with the neighborhood's ongoing transition. With 33 vacant storefronts, the Castro is struggling to keep pace with booming retail corridors such as Valencia Street and Hayes Valley. It's also struggling to assimilate an increasingly diverse community. Although the Castro is still an LGBT mecca, the report suggests it's time the neighborhood think about its future branding.

Will adult stores still play a role?

James Smith, manager of Rock Hard, says adult stores are "important for people's sexual needs," noting that his shop sells condoms and lubricants in addition to novelties. "We were here before all these families," Smith adds, but says he's happy to babysit at the front counter while mothers dash in to browse.

For Lisa Blenky, an environmental attorney who's lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, the Castro's sex shops represent a colorful link to the community's history. "Valencia used to be a lesbian corridor — now look at it," she says. Blenky says sanitizing a community at the expense of its legacy is a mistake, even if it means new retail.

"I'm not saying there should be a dildo shop on every corner, but they also shouldn't be in some ghetto," Blenky says. And while nobody is yet proposing a moratorium on sex shops, the idea that what's good for business is good for the neighborhood may prove hard to resist.

About The Author

Jeremy Lybarger

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