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The NY Times Profiled Dan Quinn

There are rumblings that Smash Pictures is in trouble and that its owner Dan Quinn is having financial woes. Quinn, at the time he was battling the city of Milford, Connecticut over zoning was a very popular subject in the news. Here’s a piece the NY Times did about Quinn.

Milford, Connecticut- [August 5, 2003]- In this little enclave of suburban idyll, the town green has tributes to veterans of wars past, and yellow ribbons are tied around old oak trees to honor those dressed in camouflage who are still far away. There are ice cream shops and hardware stores, beauty parlors and antique dealers. Church steeples dot the skyline.

And then, on the outskirts of town, there is the pornography.

Along a road near a Hooters restaurant, several sex shops await customers. Vinny’s Adult Movies has tinted windows, and a place called Video Pleasures occupies a dilapidated two-story house. Another pornography store sits near Tony’s Pizza.

But the store that seems to have cemented this tranquil community’s reputation as the suburban symbol of smut in southern Connecticut is the Penthouse Boutique, which opened the week before last amid protests.

Unlike the older sex shops, which are dark and dingy, the Penthouse store is big and brash and bright. Offering a ladies’ night and marketing itself as a fun place for couples to shop, the store is part of a trend that has been spreading in suburbs from Louisville to Los Angeles in an attempt to take the industry out of the shadows and make it mainstream.

It has touched off a swirl of protests. Classical nude sculptures that were put up outside the store have been smashed. Pickets paraded at the gala grand opening, and the shop had to be emptied of much of its merchandise for several days as the government tightened its regulations on adult businesses.

The store has caused even the more receptive residents to ask what it is about their town, on the shore of Long Island Sound, that makes it so appealing for purveyors of pornography.

Dan Quinn, who presides over the largest sex-shop empire in Connecticut and owns the new Penthouse store, for which he struck a deal with the magazine of the same name, says the explanation is easy.

“Milford scores a perfect 10 when it comes to a home for an adult boutique,” he said. A little more than an hour north of New York City and near three major roads, including Interstate 95, the town provides easy access for travelers.

“It is also the gateway to Fairfield County,” the wealthiest county in the state, Quinn said. He believes a bedroom community near a big city is just what he needs because it means there are many married couples seeking to spice up their private encounters.

In other words, Quinn said, stores like his, which are being built around the country, are inaugurating a new era of porn, and suburbs like Milford are leading the way.

The mayor of Milford, James L. Richetelli Jr., said his town was the victim of its own success. Families want to live here and people want to do business here, he said. Unfortunately, he added, a disproportionate number of those businesses are not family friendly.

“We are not a right-wing puritanical community,” the mayor said. “But I coach kids’ baseball, and I have people come up to me all the time saying this is not something we want in our community.”

Milford, which has 52,000 residents, has worked to revitalize its downtown in the past decade. The community has a working class and an upper class, and in recent years property values have soared. In new developments, home prices range from US$400,000 to US$600,000.

The problem — one similar to those faced by towns like Forest Lake outside Louisville, Kentucky, or Avon outside Indianapolis, or Jefferson near Charleston, West Virginia — is that the local government is limited in restricting adult businesses, because of court rulings offering these businesses some protection under the First Amendment.

Quinn says the Internet helped lessen taboos about pornography by making it so available. In the Midwest, chains of upscale pornography stores like Lover’s Lane and Priscilla’s have opened dozens of stores, and Quinn said he planned to open other Penthouse stores in suburbs across the nation.

“I have made millions of dollars,” Quinn said.

While it is impossible to independently verify how much Quinn has made, Americans are estimated to spend over US$4 billion a year on adult movies alone. This year the book Underneath it All, by Traci Lords, a former pornography star, is on best-seller lists. Jerry Bruckheimer, the Hollywood producer, has created a prime-time television series about the pornography industry called Skin.

But there are still many who fiercely oppose the mainstreaming of pornography.

In Milford, the Kingdom Life Christian Church, an interfaith, nondenominational church, decided to take matters into its own hands and spent US$245,000 to buy the building that houses Video Pleasures, with plans to force the store out.

“On the first Sunday when we made the announcement that we were going to try and buy the building to get the store out, people jumped to their feet, yelling and screaming and clapping,” said James F. Hashem, the chief of staff for the church.

He said he realized that the local government was limited in what it could do, so he hoped the church’s action would inspire other people to find ways to close the stores.

Although he said the church has gotten angry mail — mostly from people chiding them for not finding more important ways to spend money — Hashem said the church bishop made getting rid of Video Pleasures a personal crusade after he found out that a family lived above the shop.

The crusade is not over yet: The store’s owner has said he intends to renew his lease and stay for three more years. In the window of the store, on the first floor of a shabby brown house, there is a sign that says, “Christians welcome.” A clerk said the owner did not want to comment, and added: “We are a porn shop. Leave us alone.”

The lone shopper looked weary as he searched through the stacks of videos on wire shelves under a flickering fluorescent light.

The scene was different in the Penthouse Boutique.

Workers were returning the boxes of hardcore material to the store, stacking the shelves as mostly women browsed.

“I am dying to bring my friends here,” said one woman, a cheery 22-year-old college student. “I am not denying it, this place is fun.”
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