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Owners of "sex-positive" shop petition to stay open

BY KRISTEN EAST | DECEMBER 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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Owners of Iowa City's new "sex-positive" shop may soon be without a space, following a termination of lease notice from their landlord.

The Toolbox, 1281⁄2 E. Washington St., opened its doors last week, despite receiving a lease termination notice. Co-owners Julia Schaefer and Madison Montgomery have started two petitions in order to keep their shop open, and they have seen support from customers and neighboring businesses.

 

"We had a petition in the shop for people who support the Toolbox opening and want to see it stay open," Schaefer said, and they obtained about three pages worth of signatures this weekend.

The store's owners also met resistance in landlords willing to lease space earlier this year.

Schaefer said she and Montgomery will approach local businesses with their petition, and an online petition is available on the Toolbox's Facebook page. The online petition had roughly 20 signatures on Sunday evening.

University of Iowa graduate student Yelena Mejova went to the Toolbox's opening and said she didn't see a problem with the store's opening.

"I don't know why I had the assumption that people were liberal here," she said. "Iowa City totally needs a business like this. It's a great idea, and I would support it."

A move-out date was not given in the termination notice, Shaefer said, and ToolBox will continue operation Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. until the landlord says otherwise.

Schaefer received two letters from Leff Law Firm on Dec. 2 notifying her of the landlord's desire to terminate the shop's lease.

The Daily Iowan obtained copies of the notification and the Toolbox's lease. The notification said the space was intended to be used as an "office space" and they are not allowed to sell any products that would "offend" their clients.

Schaefer said she was given verbal consent to use the space for retail as opposed to an office space. She said she explained to the landlord, Steve Elder, that the space would be used for retail prior to a formal meeting with him.

Section 25d of the lease states that the tenant has agreed not to sell products that will offend clients of the Arcade Building Space.

One neighboring business said it has absolutely no opposition to the Toolbox.

"I don't care," said Monty Hendricks, owner of Mon Teaze! Hair Salon, 1281⁄2 E. Washington St. "Their hours are very reasonable, and they're not doing anything bizarre."

Schaefer said the only example of offensive products Elder provided her was the selling of "marijuana bongs."

Elder declined to comment Sunday evening. Schaefer and Montgomery were directed to contact Dan Black at MidwestOne Bank in order to "coordinate an orderly separation from the leasehold space." Black was also unavailable for comment Sunday evening.

Schaefer and Montgomery hired a lawyer Dec. 2 after meeting with Elder.

"We had preliminary discussions on Friday but haven't made any decisions on how to proceed," said Sue Kirk, an Iowa City attorney.

Kirk will meet with Schaefer and Montgomery today to discuss and review the documents and decide how to proceed. Kirk had no comment regarding the lease Sunday because she said she hasn't read it yet.

Schaefer and Montgomery are planning a grand opening for Dec. 16.

Reporter Jordyn Reiland contributed to this story.


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