UPDATE | Clinton porn outlet stopped before it starts
September 29, 2009 · Updated 4:27 PM
There’ll be no little shop of porn at Ken’s Korner Shopping Center, thanks to an outpouring of community indignation.
The owner of a small business at the Clinton mall was told by the center’s management on Monday that X-rated magazines and videos that were to be for sale in the back room will have to go.
“I thought it might work, but I guess not,” Elizabeth Yang, owner of H P Cleaners, said Monday about her plan to sell pornography to supplement her income and help pay the rent on the store.
It would have been the only commercial outlet of its kind on South Whidbey.
Word about the plan surfaced late last week, and a flurry of e-mails and irate telephone calls spread through the South End.
A petition circulated during the weekend netted more than 120 signatures.
Bellevue architect Ned Nelson has co-owned the shopping center for about 12 years with another East Side resident, Phil Duesenberg.
Nelson said Monday he “was absolutely in panic mode” when he found out about Yang’s plan from a friend on the island about 10 a.m. Monday.
“I was so mad I was shaking,” Nelson said. “Something like this would be disastrous for a family shopping center.”
Nelson said he immediately contacted his long-time mall manager Sue Reyes, who was home recovering from foot surgery. He said a letter with Reyes’ signature was dispatched to the cleaners.
“We told them to close off the room today, and to see that all the pornography is gone by the end of the week,” Nelson said.
“Not the cleaners,” he added. “They’re still our tenant.”
José Reyes, who is maintenance manager at the mall, said he delivered the letter to the cleaners himself Monday morning.
“They got the word,” said Reyes, who alone received more than 30 irate phone calls the past few days about Yang’s plan. “This is no place for that. We’re not allowing it to continue.”
“I don’t know what to do now,” Yang said Monday. “I’m still thinking. My business is going down.”
Yang said when she approached management about the pornography plan, she promised to display no signs and to only permit entrance to the X-rated room through the cleaners.
She said the managers warned her there would be considerable community backlash, but beyond that, “they didn’t say anything.”
But Nelson said Sue Reyes assured him she never offered Yang even the least encouragement.
“The answer was always no,” Nelson said. “Sue said she wouldn’t even discuss it.” He said Yang apparently moved ahead with her plan while Reyes was incapacitated by her surgery.
Yang, of Mukilteo, who has owned the cleaning business for about seven years, said she came up with the idea after doing some informal research about the pornography business.
Though X-rated material is readily available on the Internet and via cable and satellite television, she said it appeared such an enterprise at her store might still be profitable.
“I talked to a lot of people, not on the island, and they said they were making pretty good money at it,” Yang said.
Deciding to proceed, she purchased $3,000 worth of X-rated magazines and videos, she said. Yang said she hadn’t yet opened the back room for business when the letter arrived on Monday.
“There was just a little display,” she said.
Yang said she’s not sure what she’ll do with the X-rated merchandise.
“Maybe I’ll try to sell it,” she said. “I can’t return it.”
Yang, 45, a single mother with two children age
15 and 18, said business at the cleaners has steadily declined, thanks to the stumbling economy.
She said the porn idea was an effort to turn the unused rear portion of her 1,300-square-foot shop into a money maker, since the mall wouldn’t let her lease only the space she needed for the cleaners.
She already had converted the front portion of the shop into a display area for children’s plastic toys and other gifts, but sales have been minimal.
“Business isn’t good on the island,” she said. “I’m thinking now about more things for kids, or clothing. I don’t know.”
She said the cleaning business is also for sale, “but no one is interested in buying it.”
Yang said her decision to offer the porn for sale in her shop was strictly a business calculation.
“I don’t know how many people complained,” she said. “I thought if somebody’s not interested, they just don’t buy it.”
But several people did complain, many of them vowing to take their cleaning business elsewhere.
The anger quickly grew.
Carol Olson of Clinton said petitions were circulated against the pornography proposition throughout the weekend at area churches, and more than 120 signatures were collected.
“A lot of people were concerned about our children,” Olson said. “They didn’t just sign their names; they really cared. We have to start somewhere to do things better.”
“It’s wonderful news,” Charlene Brown of Freeland said of the action taken by the management of the mall.
Brown is co-owner of Island Dance Studio, also located at Ken’s Korner. The proximity of the children’s dance school to the cleaners was a major concern of those who were protesting Yang’s plan.
Brown said that while she hesitates to stereotype the kind of clientele attracted to pornography, such an outlet at Ken’s Korner wasn’t acceptable given the mall’s family oriented nature.
“It just wasn’t a good location,” she said.
As to the activism generated, she added: “When people want to have something happen in our community, they get it done.”
Mary Jane Aurdal of Clinton was in the forefront of the protest, doing research, making phone calls and firing off e-mails.
“What were they thinking?” she said of the porn plan. “It left me shaking my head.”
Nelson, owner of the mall, said he acted quickly to dispel rumors and to put an end to the matter.
“The problem is resolved,” he said Monday, “and we can get back to normal tomorrow.”
“The important thing is that it’s not going to happen,” Aurdal said. “And we’ll be watching to make sure it never does.”