CLAREMONT — Owners of the Magic Mushroom asked the Claremont Zoning Board for a variance to sell adult toys in an enclosed section inside their smoke shop Monday night.
Store owner Leanna LeBarron and her son Steven Mas spoke to the Claremont Zoning Board about getting a variance to sell adult toys at their Claremont store, located at 124 Washington St. The LeBarrons — Leanna and her husband Frank — already sell the toys at their other location in Springfield, Vermont.
Adult toy retailers is not new to the city, according to Claremont Zoning Board Chair Michael Hurd. Several years ago, Sunrise in Silver, a similar retailer to the Magic Mushroom, sold adult toy products at its store location at 133 Washington St., which is now occupied by AutoZone. But, that was before the city revised its zoning ordinances. Section 22-562 of the city zoning bylaws prohibits the placement of a “sexually oriented business” within 200 feet of a school, child-care center, place of worship, hospital, nursing home or residence. There are two residences within that proximity to the Magic Mushroom, according to City Planner Scott Osgood.
The LeBarrons first sought to provide adult toys at the Claremont shop in 2016, but learned from the previous City Planner Michael McCrory that the zoning regulations didn’t allow for it.
“I was never told that I could not sell adult toys,” LeBarron told the board. “I was only told that I wasn’t in the mapping for it and that we could talk about it in the future.”
LeBarron also explained that she prefers to call them “adult toys” over “sexually oriented” products, as she does not cast assumptions about a customer’s purpose.
The Magic Mushroom building actually consists of two storefronts, each with their own separate entrances and no intersection between them inside.
One side, which formerly housed a tuxedo rental shop, will be limited to adults ages 21 and older. Customers would be carded to enter, and the only windows — located at the storefront — will be covered by tapestries and posters. This building would sell the smoking and vaping products as well as adult toys.
The adult toys would be located in a small section of the space, approximately 35 square feet in size, and be completely closed off from the rest of the store.
“It would literally be just a small section to accommodate those people [who’ve requested adult toys],” said LeBarron.
The store is set up with security cameras and the toys will be locked in a glass case, to prevent concerns about theft by underage people, according to LeBarron.
The Claremont Zoning Board voted to continue the discussion at their next scheduled meeting on Monday, Feb. 3. Hurd said that to provide a variance, the application must meet certain criteria. The most important one, according to Hurd, was that the variance is necessary due to hardship. LeBarron’s application left that area blank.
Additionally, the LeBarrons have changed their plan since filling out the application. The smoke shop is currently located in the building space that formerly held a bridal shop. Now, the owners intend to move all the adult-only products into the other space, and convert the shop’s current space into a store for adolescent interests that sells body jewelry, comics and posters.
In addition to application updates, the board requested photographs of the inside of the store, as well as a floor plan.
“It would help for someone who was never in the building before to see that the spaces are not the same intertwining building,” Hurd said.
Pending acquisition of a zoning variance, the LeBarrons will need to meet with the Claremont Planning Board for final approval.
The LeBarrons have owned the Magic Mushroom for 13 years. After operating in several locations in Ascutney, Vermont, they relocated their business to Claremont and added a second store in Springfield.
The LeBarrons also own Family Fun Zone on Pleasant Street in downtown Claremont, which has an array of inflatable bounce houses.
“We are a family business,” Mas told the Eagle Times Tuesday. “We’re making every effort to set up [the adult shop] to be as discreet as possible.”