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Questioners put the heat on W.Va. adult business

May 19, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Questions ranged from informational - what the hours of operation will be - to more critical - whether opening an adult retail store next to an elementary school is appropriate.

Around 100 people gathered at Bunker Hill Elementary School Tuesday night for a two-hour question-and-answer session with the owners of Slightly Sinful, an adult-oriented business set to open near the school.

Alan Jackson, of Purceville, Va., who owns the building, and his daughter, Paige Critchley, of Charles Town, W.Va., who owns the business, both attended.

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The meeting was organized by a group that calls itself CASS, or Community Against Slightly Sinful.

Jackson opened the meeting by saying he wanted to debunk some myths about what the store will and will not offer. He said that contrary to rumors, it will not have gambling, drugs, alcohol, dancing girls, a massage parlor, an escort service, peep shows or back rooms for illicit activity.

The store will sell ladies lingerie, clothing for dancers, jewelry, candles, videos and "marital aids," said Jackson.

Jackson bought the property in March for $289,000 and anticipates spending around $100,000 renovating and cleaning it up. The building, which is about 800 feet from the school, was formerly a gun shop.

"We're doing our very best to be a good neighbor," Jackson told the crowd.

One man, who quickly left after commenting, said, "If your concern is for the neighborhood, go away."

Although he said a person intent on molesting a child would not visit the store because it will not sell any child pornography, Jackson said he would be willing to install an exterior video camera focused on the school and a 6-foot chain link fence.

In anticipation of questions regarding children, Jackson said he did some research on molestation cases. Of Berkeley County's 76 registered sex offenders, 63 sexually abused a child or children, he said.

Of those, 43 percent of the offenders were family members, 32 percent were acquainted with the child and 14 percent were family friends. Only one person was a stranger, Jackson said, meaning children are at far greater risk of being assaulted at home or another place than from a store customer.

After audience members were allowed to ask questions, minister Ujima Tyson said the business' name attracted attention. She asked its origin.

Jackson said the name was inspired by a shop of the same name on the West Coast that sells chocolate. He also held up a recipe for "Slightly Sinful Shortbread," and said he would provide copies to anyone who wanted one.

"We're not selling chocolate or shortbread here," a woman in the audience curtly replied.

One woman asked whether the name could be changed.

Jackson said he and his daughter are financially committed to the name and that nothing said at the meeting would impede the shop from opening. He said he expects it to open sometime next month, after renovations are finished.

Several people asked why Jackson chose to buy the one-story building, rather than one that is not so close to a school.

Jackson said he and his daughter looked at several properties, but that none offered what the former gun shop did.

Shawn Fore, leader of CASS, said she has no doubt the shop will be an upscale one, but said her concern is its location. A protest is planned for outside the school Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., she said.

If Critchley and Jackson would move to another location, Fore said she and the others would hire a moving van and help them pack.

"I'm stubborn and hard-headed and they didn't change my mind a bit," she said after the meeting.

As long as the store is open, Fore said she plans to have protesters positioned on adjacent school property. As she spoke, one man approached her and suggested she videotape all of the customers who approach the store, which might intimidate them.

Although Critchley was silent through most of the meeting, she answered a question from Tyson, who asked whether she had children.

Critchley said she did not, but that many of her friends do.

"I care for children more than you could possibly imagine," she said.

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