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The Tool Box ‘sex-positive’ shop signs new lease

BY NICHOLAS MILLER | JULY 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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After receiving a lease-termination notice from MidWestOne bank in November 2011, the Tool Box has come to an agreement with the property trustee and signed a lease for another year.

Owner Julia Schaefer said she is relieved to know she will not have to move when the lease originally expired.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to start planning for the future.”

The Tool Box, a “sex-positive” boutique will stay at its second-floor location at 128½ E. Washington St. for another year.  

Schaefer and co-owner Madison Montgomery spent months trying to appeal to landlords and building owners last year while searching for a location. The women told *The Daily Iowan* in April 2011 that they were running into roadblock after roadblock without any positive feedback.

Eventually, they were able to move into the Washington Street location. But they were soon served with a lease termination notice before they opened in November 2011.

“[MidWestOne] felt like we misrepresented ourselves,” Schaefer said. “They didn’t bother to investigate the type of business I was.”

Schaefer and Montgomery were offered a new lease agreement in December, but they found it unfair.

“They just gave me some terms they wanted me to follow, but that wasn’t going to work for me,” she said.

The agreement presented to them in December stipulated that the adults-only section could not expand in size, the store could not stay open past 8 p.m., and the owners could not talk to the media.

Schaefer said at some point in December, they dropped the terms, but the bank told them they would not be offered the option to re-sign the lease when it was up.

In the spring Schaefer said she was looking for new spaces to lease but did not want to leave after establishing relationships with neighboring businesses in the building.

“Three out of four businesses in the building are gay-friendly, actually,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said she contacted MidWestOne in late April to ask for a new lease, but officials there did not get back to her for a month. When they finally did, they were able to negotiate a lease agreement for the next year, and completed it last week.

The new lease declares that the adult-only section be separated by a doorway from the rest of the shop, and the space only take up 25 percent of one of the store’s two rooms.

Now that the lease is in place, and Schaefer and Montgomery are settled for the next year, they are making plans for their shop.

The Tool Box will host an art show on Aug. 3 for one of the artists featured on their walls. They are also hosting a lease-renewal party Aug. 31 for their community friends and customers.

Looking forward, Schaefer would like to expand the business and incorporate chair-dancing classes.

“I have a dance background,” she said. “And not a lot of people have poles in their homes.”

City Councilor Connie Champion, who has had mixed reports about the Tool Box, said she is happy for Schaefer and Montgomery.

“Congratulations to them,” she said. “I haven’t heard any negative comments about their business.”

Morgan Cohen, a part owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said he does not understand why the store was being given such a hard time.

“I don’t see what the problem is — they aren’t hurting anybody,” he said. “Their business is their business, and this is Iowa City; diversity is good.”


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