The tourist trap and the sex-toy shop

Today’s post is about a building, at 694 Post Road (AKA Route 1) in Wells, Maine.

According to my local paper, it’s previously been used as “a paint store, pet food store, and a consignment shop.” Then it went vacant, and some other business wanted to lease it. No big deal, right?

Well, the business in question sells sex toys, and what passes for an Establishment in a town that small went Category 5 berserk.

Town manager Jonathan Carter:

“We worked with our Comprehensive Plan of 2005 and looked at what the values and visions of this community were in 2005 and going forward. We’re family-friendly. We are looking for businesses that are more towards the tourist, family-oriented side…. We have been able to do that, I think, in this community. We’ve been successful in having a great school system, having businesses that contribute to our community. We understand that and want to keep that.”

(As if no tourist ever bought a sex toy. And what does “a great school system” have to do with anything? Or is that just a stock phrase of his, something he wants his voters to constantly keep in mind, like when Obama used to drop the word “jobs” into speeches where it really didn’t belong?)

Bookstore owner Francine Tanguay:

“The people who come here and bring their children are looking for safe and family-oriented places to be. I see no reason for us to soil ourselves with this type of business…. I do not relish the fact that these businesses may move in right next door to me and I wonder how many people are going to be able to bring their children to our store. We’ve been here for a reason, because people and families come. Please do the right thing and stop this from happening.”

She claims to “have access to most books in print,” by the way. Better hope she approves of your reading choices, or you might have to put in your own Amazon order.

Emily Gallant, who owns an ice-cream shop:

“I think Wells, as a whole, we struggle a little with our character and what quaintness we still have I would really like us to keep…. Right now we have a chance to say what is our future character, what do we want it to look like…I think that we need to think right now about doing the right thing and choosing what we want the character and future of Wells to be.”

Quaint, adjective: “attractive because of being unusual and esp. old-fashioned.” There’s little “old-fashioned” or “unusual” about an artificially maintained tourist trap. There’s little “attractive” about it, either, if you get a close enough look.

Salon owner Josee Lawrence:

“We don’t want an adult store in our town. We certainly don’t want it next to our family friendly salon…. This location would be detrimental to our business and all surrounding businesses and residential neighborhoods.”

More detrimental than an empty building? I’ve lived next to an abandoned building, and the neighbors got a little grim about it, especially after a couple of years when the lack of maintenance started to show.

But that’s just a pretext, and everyone involved knows it. The most honest part of that quote, or any of the others, was:

“We don’t want an adult store in our town.”

And then town attorney Durward Parkinson had to be a killjoy and prevent the great and the good of Wells from banning the business entirely:

“Our reading is that town’s can’t totally outlaw this type of activity, it can regulate it through licensing, through limiting zones…Our goal is to position the town as best we can legally in the event that there was a legal challenge.”

So the respectable citizens of Wells got together and slapped down an “emergency ordinance” that restricted such “adult business establishments” to the “Light Industrial District.”

The Light Industrial Zone includes the Wells Industrial Park on Spencer Drive and the Willie Hill Road area where the town’s transfer station is located.

…and not much else. Here’s a map (source); “Light Industrial” is the three little pink bits in the middle.

Wells Zoning Districts

What does Post Road’s intended den of iniquity look like, by the way? Well, let’s check Google Street View…

Post Road, !Wells 2

There’s a sign, and an oversized driveway, and aside from that you might mistake it for someone’s house. That’s after having pet food and paint and so on sold there for however many years. There’s nothing special about sex toys that would mandate a drastic change to the exterior and disturb the “quaintness” that Emily the ice cream seller was whining about.

The BDN has another angle:

Post Road, Wells 1

I don’t think the children at Francine’s bookstore were going to wander far enough to see what’s going on in the next store down the road.

But that’s a moot point, anyway, because the Establishment got what they wanted:

[The Back Door’s owner] told NEWS CENTER Maine that after Tuesday’s meeting they are no longer interested in bringing their store to the area. They say they will look for another town that “will welcome their contribution to the economy that by bringing a classy, fun store that will provide jobs.”

Understandable, really. They had solid proof that the town government would do its utmost to make their lives miserable, and they probably didn’t want to wait until after the June 11 town ballot to know for sure whether they’d be able to open up in the town’s actual business district or out by the transfer station, assuming they could find any buildings for lease or sale there.

And with this example fresh in people’s minds — and, if I’m interpreting the number of on-the-record quotes correctly, deliberately publicized — it’ll be a while before any other dastardly outsiders dare try to disturb the “quaintness” of Wells’ controlling little world.


P.S. I know Wells isn’t as much of a tourist trap as, say, Bar Harbor, but since so many of the Establishment’s complaints revolve around preserving the town’s “quaint” and “family-friendly” image, I’m going to keep on assuming that tourist-trapping is the part of their town’s economy that every complainer with an economic motive is worried about.

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