Christie's Toy Box touts itself as a place "Where the fun begins."
But when it came to Ardmore, it was anything but fun for a number of residents who were upset the business could legally locate within city limits.
While Christie's Toy Box and the Department of Human Services office building approved for construction on Travertine Drive are as different as night and day, both are similar in the way emotions have been stirred because of zoning.
In 2003, the adult store franchise found a location at 903 Holiday Drive, which is along Interstate 35. The area was zoned commercial corridor and, according to zoning codes written in 1998, there were no provisions to limit adult stores. Development services director Nick Diaz worked with the city as a building official at the time, and recalls the emotions stirred up when residents found out Christie's Toy Box was coming to town.
"It was about a month before the permit was issued," Diaz says. "As soon as people found out, we began getting phone calls. Bill Bechtel was the director back then. We researched it and found out there was nothing we could do about it."
Diaz explains there were some requirements at the time, such as windows couldn't be visible from the street. Christie's met each requirement, which ensured its right to receive a permit. Ironically, businesses such as tattoo parlors and body piercing shops were illegal under city code. And as far as many residents felt at the time, adult stores should also have been illegal.
A petition was circulated which read, "Ardmore, Carter and Love Counties desiring to live in an area where we can strive for a good moral climate, want to go on record as being opposed to the establishment of a Kristy's Toy Box (adult) store in the City of Ardmore."
"People wanted the zoning fixed," Diaz remembers. "They wanted it changed. One of the biggest things was the location on I-35 and public perception."
The city commission was able to take steps to ensure another business similar to Christie's Toy Box could not locate in the corridor. But it was too late to do anything about Christie's itself, which was probably more than fine with the company, as it gave them a monopoly within Ardmore.
The city code has since been amended, adding text regulating adult-oriented establishments within 1,000 feet of any building primarily and regularly used for worship services and religious activities; any public or private school; any public park or playground; any public library; or any land zoned or used for residential purposes. Adult stores were also prohibited from being located within the I-35 Interstate Highway Overlay District. They could not be located within 1,000 feet of another adult store. Looking throughout Ardmore, it is clear a similar store faces significant hurdles to simply find a location, which are few and far between.
"By changing the ordinances, it soothed the taxpaying citizens of Ardmore," Diaz says. "We have had some head shops come into Ardmore, but they had to move. They didn't get a certificate of occupancy, and they were closed down. They had to move."