How go things at Schenectady’s highest profile porn shop after it was forced to move off Erie Boulevard?
Well, you have asked the right person. I dropped in at the new location yesterday and can report that things go swimmingly except for some unpleasantness with City Hall that keeps the place from putting up a sign where neighboring businesses have their signs.
This is at the corner of Broadway and Lower Broadway. The city’s zoning ordinance says sexually oriented businesses cannot have any part of their operations within 500 feet of a dwelling unit in a residential zone, and — wouldn’t you know? — that corner is about 445 feet from the nearest house, which is up a steep hill and behind a bunch of trees on Sunset Street and First Avenue in Mont Pleasant. If you stand at the corner you can glimpse the house only by squinting through the trees. I didn’t go up to it, but I bet from up there you couldn’t see the sign at all, and Steve Strichman, the city’s zoning officer, agrees.
“It’s a strict interpretation,” he says. He even allows that if you measured the distance following the contour of the land rather than as the crow flies it might meet the standard.
But he always uses a straight line. So Another World’s building lot is divided by a yellow nylon rope that shows exactly where 500 feet reaches, and the business cannot park cars, put a sign or do anything else on the other side of the rope, even though its sign would say nothing more than “Another World” and even though other businesses on the street — Chef’s Choice, Christy’s Inn, Shear — can and do put their signs there.
Otherwise everything is jolly. The new place is as bright and antiseptic as a chain pharmacy, and employees tell me the old customers from the longtime location on Erie Boulevard have easily made the transition to this new location, although the business was closed for 31⁄2 months while the new building was under construction.
It re-opened at its new digs a week ago Monday.
“Years ago it was a dark type of business,” the part-time general manager, who identified himself only as Manny, told me. “Today it’s a mall-type of business,” with women shopping as freely as men, he said, though on my own visit I saw only men and very few of them.
The goods on display are difficult to describe in a family newspaper, though in the most general terms they may be described as raunchy. “Sexual aids” I think is the polite term.
That’s in the bright and spacious front room. The darkened back room contains private booths for your movie-viewing pleasure at a rate of $1 for five minutes — four larger stand-up booths with 27-inch screens, 12 smaller sit-down booths with 15-inch screens. That’s where the steady business is, Manny told me, with the sale of the front room’s “novelty items,” as he calls them, being a sometime thing.
“Valentine’s Day is the biggest sales day,” he said. Christmas ranks second, followed by the wedding season of May and June, when bridesmaids will often buy mischievous little (or big) surprise gifts for the bride. “The girls are worse than the guys,” Manny said. “They’re brutal.”
You may remember that under former Mayor Brian Stratton the city of Schenectady waged an energetic campaign to get rid of Another World altogether and finally settled for this alternative location in a “light manufacturing and warehousing” zone at the bottom of Broadway, where the immediate neighbor is a machine shop.
The city paid something like $300,000 for the old building after a long court battle based on eminent domain — taking private property for a public good, the public good in this case being the reconfiguration of Erie Boulevard into a more comely entranceway to the city.
It was really for moralistic reasons, as far as I could tell. There was nothing unsightly about the exterior of the old building, just as there is nothing unsightly about the exterior of the new one, nor was there or is there any indication on the outside of the goods for sale inside. “Another World” could mean anything, as far as a passerby is concerned, and customers do not lollygag out in front but keep their heads down and duck right in. So I observed in years of driving past the old joint on Erie Boulevard.
The owner, Rocco Palmer, likes to say there is nothing out of the ordinary about the place at all, inside or out. “You can buy the same stuff at Walmart,” he often says, which is not strictly accurate, or even remotely accurate, but he’s certainly right that there’s nothing offensive about the outside.
The old building was an art deco sort of structure, probably from the 1920s; the new one is generic commercial with a simple sign saying “Another World.” It could be an astronomy shop selling telescopes, for all you know. There’s nothing visible from the street to indicate otherwise. No blinking “ADULTS ONLY” or anything like that.
When I walked in yesterday around noon the place was tended only by a courteous young lady at the front counter, and after introducing myself, I couldn’t resist asking her if it wasn’t weird working in such a place.
“The first day it was, kind of,” she acknowledged, saying she started only on opening day last week, but she said, “Everyone who comes in is very friendly,” and besides, she also works as a home-health aide so is not embarrassed by physical exposure or bodily functions.
I was blushing to the roots of my ever-grayer hair as I glanced sideways at the merchandise, but she was as composed as could be, so you never know.
Anyway, Mr. Palmer is in his 90s, and I keep saying he can’t last forever, but you never know about that either.
The standard syllogism in an introductory logic class is, “All men are mortals; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal,” which sounds convincing enough at first.
The problem is, you don’t really know that all men are mortals as long as one of them is still alive. Now I’m wondering if Palmer might be the guy who puts the syllogism to the final test. I’m not taking any bets, on him or his business.