Suncook officials, merchant try to choose who wears the pants in town
Evelyn Carey pauses in front of the Trevor's Toybox storefront on Main Street in Pembroke; Monday, March 18, 2013. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
Pembroke officials, citing a local merchant’s willingness to tone down a sexually charged display in Suncook village, said yesterday the selectmen will meet with the town attorney in a closed session Monday night to discuss a dispute over zoning and risque merchandise.
Yesterday’s given deadline for former selectmen Larry Preston and John Duggan, the owners of Trevor’s Toybox, to comply with local ordinances was bypassed after a male mannequin, wearing only a thong and a pair of chaps last week, according to a nearby business owner, suddenly had been dressed in jeans under the chaps.
“The deadline, that’s apparently been extended to this meeting on Monday,” said Everett Hodge, the code enforcement officer, “it was to get the display out of the window, and he did that. I wouldn’t say he met the deadline, but he toned it down a lot, and in that respect they want to have a sit-down and go from there.”
Under state law, the town could have charged a $275 penalty yesterday, plus $550 each day thereafter.
Reached by phone, Preston sounded relieved that adding pants had made a difference.
“Oh, well, I’m glad to hear that,” he said. “I’m not aware that they’re extending anything, but I don’t want to close the doors. If they’re pleased with the way it looks, I’m glad to please the town officials.”
Officials were hardly pleased after learning about the store, which a Facebook posting said would open April 1, last Monday at a selectmen’s meeting. Among the more vocal opponents were Paula Despres and her husband, Jacques, who own Jacques Pastries across the street from Trevor’s Toybox.
Paula Despres told a Monitor reporter earlier this week about the thong and chaps, adding, “We have a lot of young children that walk through here, and they shouldn’t have to be subjected to that.”
Reached at that time, Preston said residents were getting worked up over nothing, saying his merchandise was not as controversial as people thought.
“People are putting the cart before the horse,” Preston said then. “Nobody has ever asked what I’m doing here.”
When asked Wednesday and again yesterday what he was doing there, Preston declined comment.
The complaints from residents cover several areas. On one level, there’s the store’s suggestive display window, facing Main Street, near a Chinese restaurant down the street, and Jacques, a pizza place and a barber shop across the street.
“I work downtown, and have actually seen the kids pointing and snickering and looking at the display,” said Dana Carlucci, a member of the zoning board. “That would be the first thing that concerns me, the effect it’s having on the kids.”
Yesterday afternoon, with the store dark inside, the storefront window featured a female mannequin dressed in a mini skirt and high boots, with her right hand on her hip and a pair of handcuffs dangling off the fingers of her left hand. A pair of black, glossy, extra-high heels sat on the floor in front.
Along with the jeans and chaps, the male featured crisscrossing leather straps across its shirtless chest. A copy of Thursday’s Monitor, which documented the issue with a story and photo, was in the mannequin’s right hand, and a stack of Monitors, from the same day, could be seen on the floor.
Residents suspect they know what the shop will sell, and officials cited a statute that says passive adult entertainment can’t open in that area.
“He filed for a business with the state of New Hampshire,” Carlucci said. “He filed it as adult toys, which is what it’s listed as. It’s allowed in the portion of the C-1 area, up by Ricker Road, but it’s not permitted in that district.”
Elsewhere, Town Administrator David Jodoin said that detailed documentation through the zoning and planning boards was not filed and is needed in this case because the space is changing from an office building to a retail store.
In other words, no matter the inventory, the owners needed to do more to follow the law, although it is not clear if anyone in the area would have complained if something more innocuous had been offered for sale.
“There is still a process a person needs to go through from beginning to end,” Jodoin said.
Said Preston, “I definitely never intended, nor do I think I ever have violated any zoning ordinance in the town of Pembroke.”
Downtown Suncook, located down a long, gradual descent from Route 3 in Pembroke, has been making a conscious effort to revitalize business and revamp its image. Trevor’s Toybox, officials fear, hurts that cause.
“There’s been an action in town to promote economic development and historical awareness,” Carlucci said. “The village is moving in a certain direction, and this new place does not coincide with our new direction of getting people and the community stabilized down in the village.”
Preston is already an established business owner in Suncook. He leases the building that houses the Rock On Diner, and he also owns Mr. Appliance.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that would harm my business or any other business in town,” he said.