Lingerie display has some fit to be tied Naughty window perturbs Towson BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 10, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

It's probably safe to say that no other lingerie display has ever whipped up so much concern in Towson.

The display in the window of the Love Ones Lingerie shop at 402 1/2 York Road features a female mannequin dressed in leather scanties. She is holding a bullwhip that is looped around the neck of a male mannequin, who is similarly attired in a leather jockstrap and a harness.

The shop's arrival in early December startled many shoppers.

It also offended York Road merchants' sense of the town's family image. Each change in the Love Ones' window display opposite Towson Commons brings a new flurry of giggles, as well as a few complaints to merchants and Towson's councilman.

The Towson Business Association has discussed the issue pTC before, and will discuss it again at its regular meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

"I feel it's a gigantic step backwards, a sign of the moral decay that we have, and I think people have to take a stand," said Towson real estate manager and broker Leroy Y. Haile.

Dick Rudolph, owner of the Towson Bootery a few doors away, said, "Too many people walk in our store and tell us they're embarrassed . . . to have to pass that thing. If I had my way, and I were younger, I'd picket the place every day and have video cameras taking pictures of people walking in."

Towson Commons vice president Gregory Arnold said he has no evidence that the shop has hurt business in Towson. But "if the [display] windows are starting to offend individuals, and the displays would not be typically condoned in this area, they should be sensitive to their neighbors in their market," he said.

Mr. Haile, for one, would like to see churches and residents rise up with the merchants against the shop. But so far, they haven't.

Towson Councilman Douglas B. Riley's office has received only a dozen calls and two letters about the shop. But he's still concerned. Although he said he takes a "liberal view of the First Amendment," this shop makes him blush.

"I'm embarrassed to walk my daughters by there, and I will literally cross the road so I don't have to explain what the handcuffs are used for and why people would dress in this fashion," he said.

When the shop opened, the 4th District Republican had the county police, licensing and zoning officials check for any violations that might be grounds for closing it. But store appears to be perfectly legal.

Mr. Riley asked the landlord, John Karsos, to get rid of the store. But Mr. Karsos' son, Peter, said the business has been a good tenant and is operating within the terms of its lease.

"I would love for it to be close to what Victoria's Secret [an upscale, mall-based lingerie chain] is in terms of the mannequins," he said. "But there's not a whole lot I can do with the way it's turned out."

Love Ones operated quietly at the Kenilworth Bazaar mall in Towson for five years before moving out when the place was renovated several years ago.

Frank Billitz, who owns Love Ones stores in Fells Point, on Charles Street downtown, in Catonsville and in Owings Mills, said he is delighted to be back in Towson: "I've been trying to get back for five years, but I couldn't find the location I wanted."

He said he has a 10-year lease on the York Road store, with an option for 10 more. He knows his wares have upset some people, especially Towson merchants. But "it's the 1990s; it's a different world. This [store] should be the worst thing that ever happens" in Towson.

"If somebody has a complaint, I'm the first guy in the world to honor it, if it's reasonable," he said. "I'm only there to do business and make a living."

Inside the clean, brightly lighted shop, the Love Ones' product line moves from colorful, lacy underwear to gag gifts, edible underwear, condoms, body oils and lotions to -- in the rear of the store -- leather underwear, whips, blow-up dolls, paperback books, magazines, sex toys and vibrators.

The manager, a former office manager who asked not to be identified, said her clientele "are all very pleasant."

Many are doctors, lawyers and Towson businessmen who come in looking for something to give as a joke, she said. "We get a lot of bachelor parties and bachelorette parties. I've sold five different blow-up dolls to five different policemen." Vibrators have been best-sellers.

Aside from a few anonymous callers, Councilman Riley and Towson merchants, Mr. Billitz said, his store has received only a few complaints. Most are about the window display on York Road. "Because it's a sexy-type business, somebody's going to object," he said. "If there's something you don't like, tell us and we will straighten it out."

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