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Porn’s Future? Oregon’s Castle Superstore Leveled for a Walgreens

Portland, Oregon – Follow AdultFYI at twitter@adultfyi1; Follow Gene Ross at twitter@GeneRoss3

from For a number of the years that I taught Sunday school at West Hills Covenant, the morning drive had two memorable features.

The kids and I would first stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Southwest Barbur for the donut holes I passed out in my third- and fourth-grade classroom. Then we’d hop in the car and I would try to talk my way around the Castle Superstore across the street.

My adolescent daughters, in particular, were fascinated by the mausoleum. “Castle” conjured up so many possibilities: a playground, a drawbridge, a dungeon. Why in the world, they asked, couldn’t we go exploring on the way home from church?

I’m not sure when the girls figured it out. I do know that donut shop shut down in 2004.

And last week, Castle –13,000 square feet of porn videos and sex toys — was leveled to make way for a new Walgreens.

In the past several days, I’m not the only one who has been drawn to the rubble. The store was a local landmark for 15 years, even if the parking lot was often empty, save for the rinky-dink coffee kiosk. For as long as I can remember, Portland neighborhood associations have wrestled with the arrival of porn shops, not their departure.

“This fell into our laps,” John Prouty, the Crestwood board president, said. “Walgreens wanted that spot and negotiated with the owner. We didn’t push for it.

“When Castle first came in, the neighborhood looked for avenues to oppose it. With the Oregon Constitution the way it is, we had very few legs to stand on.”

Porn outlets, like strip clubs, generally have carte blanche on zoning issues, according to the Oregon Supreme Court. That helps to explain why Fat Cobra Video on North Interstate has been curled up beside Ockley Green School for the past eight years.

San Francisco-based Seven Hills Properties has a soft spot for bowling alleys when developing Walgreens sites, as the Brunswick set in Gladstone knows, but it paid $2.1 million to put the Castle Superstore out of its misery.

I don’t think this is a trend. Yes, the recession and Internet piracy are relentless forces in the industry, and the city of Los Angeles now requires that all porn performers wear condoms.

DVDs are toast.

“I have some studios telling me revenues have dropped 50 percent,” said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, the adult entertainment industry trade group, who earned her MBA at the University of Oregon.

But that simply means, Duke argues, that stores must give their steady customers more enticing reasons to shop. A week-night party. A wine-tasting. Or — to quote the window stickers in the Fantasy for Adults Only store on Southeast Sandy — “Devices! Lotions! Oils! Costumes! Hosiery! Jewelry! Lingerie! Games!”

I’m not convinced all those bells and whistles are necessary. When I stepped inside Fat Cobra on a sunny Sunday afternoon, four gentlemen followed me through the door in the space of five minutes, quickly disappearing into the “arcade” at the back of the store.

Both porn and the porn shop, in other words, will always be with us. Which is why I found myself leaning against a chain-link fence just off Barbur Boulevard Monday morning, enjoying the tableau of broken concrete, twisted rebar and shattered glass.


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