Market Will Determine Sex Shop’s Success

A sex shop has opened in Ocean City, prompting reactions ranging from outrage to yawns, and only time will tell whether this business is here to stay.

Most of those up in arms are folks living and doing business in the north Ocean City area. It’s understandable for the other businesses in the shopping store to have a problem with a store named SexStyle opening up in the location with the most visibility from the highway. Rather than being upset with the new store’s owners, these businesses should take their agitation to the landlord who allowed the business to sign the lease. Area residents would be wise to do the same. It’s the landlord, not the municipality, who can make that call.

Ocean City Solicitor Guy Ayres confirmed this week the city’s hands were tied as far as legislating the new adult video store. Ayres said the city explored all avenues and there was no way for the government to keep it out of the resort. However, that was not the case with the landlord, who had the opportunity to not allow the business to rent the space. The landlord at a West Ocean City shopping center did just that previously.

Nonetheless, it appears the sex shop is here to stay for the time being, barring some type of litigation. Some businesses in the shopping center have reported the condominium by-laws may be able to keep the business from continuing to operate in the shopping center. That will be interesting to see if it’s clearly stated what kind of business can operate in the shopping center. It seems the landlord felt the sex shop passed the test, but it’s unknown whether that judgment call was appropriate as far as the lease is concerned.

Donna Cefaloni, who operates Cefaloni’s Italian Deli with her husband in the same shopping center, summed up the feelings of some shopping center merchants well. “Free enterprise is one thing,” she said. “To be able to conduct business, it should have to be consistent with what the community offers – what is around it already.”

Clearly, the sex shop is out of place in the shopping center and in Ocean City. But, just like any business, it’s up to the consumer whether this operation will stay afloat. It has the right to open up in Ocean City. That much we know. It’s the residents and visitors who will determine if the business will remain afloat. The owners have apparently found success in Salisbury, but that market varies drastically with Ocean City.

We wonder: Is there enough of an interest in Ocean City in sex toys, adult magazines and videos, lingerie and similar merchandise to sustain the business? Most in government and business are predicting there is not. We tend to agree, in light of the typical visitor that comes to Ocean City and the residential base. However, it’s never happened before so how does anyone know exactly whether there is support for this type of business in the marketplace.

Whenever the topic of free enterprise and personal taste surfaces, it’s a slippery situation. The market will bear out what kind of success this business has in Ocean City. If the shop does well, it may say something about the clientele coming to Ocean City. If it does not, it will confirm what’s been said in recent week. We will just have to see now that it appears to be here to stay.

In the meantime, it’s understandable for nearby businesses and residents to be up in arms. They are protecting their town and its identity, their investment and their livelihood. 

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.