Badd Kitty Summerville

The opening of a "lingerie store" in Summerville prompted Dorchester County to look at its own ordinances regarding adult stores. Brad Nettles/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — When they heard an "upscale lingerie store" was moving into the small business park on Old Trolley Road, some neighbors weren’t happy.

Now, a couple months after Badd Kitty first started selling toys, lubricants and lingerie from a space formerly occupied by an endocrinologist, at least one neighbor hopes they will just all get along.

“Why not find the positive in it? Why not find the good in it?” said Brad Richardson, pastor of Forward Church, which is a few doors down from the store at 622 Old Trolley Road in Summerville.

“If a married couple can go in Badd Kitty and make their marriage better, it’s going to make their kids better. And if their family’s better, we’re going to live in a better city, so we were like, 'Why fight it?' ” he said.

Badd Kitty, which also has locations in James Island and West Ashley, is the only “adult” store in Dorchester County.

But because it does not sell books, magazines or films portraying “specified sexual activities,” Badd Kitty doesn’t fit the town’s current definition of an adult establishment, according to Summerville spokeswoman Mary Edwards.

Instead it is classified as general business, like all of the other local Badd Kitty stores, said regional manager Jill Bush.

"There are some stores that need to be in industrial areas," she said. "They have rooms in the back where you can watch porn and they sell all kinds of stuff. We are lumped in the category with them and that's why we get a bad reputation. I want to change that." 

Much of the merchandise in her stores, like lubricants and sex toys, are also sold in drugstores and department stores, she said.

"They used to sell vibrators right in the middle of the mall," she said. 

Even so, most of its neighbors in the small brown brick business and retail center, which houses studios offering music lessons, ballet and paint-your-own pottery, among other businesses, declined to comment or didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Some pointed to a post written on the Positively Summerville Facebook page in April by one of the business owners. The woman received a lot of criticism when she complained the store did not fit among the family-oriented businesses. She ultimately deleted the post. 

“We just don’t want to get into that again by commenting publicly,” one shop owner said, adding that the business is fairly quiet but there are still worries about the customers it will attract.

Bush laughs at that.

"We don't get the customers most people think we do," she said. "We get your neighbor."

Many customers come in with a referral from their doctor, she said. 

"People don't realize there is a medical side to this," she said. "Having healthy sexual wellness is very important in a marriage."

The store — fronting on a busy street, with a large pink and black sign — reflects changing attitudes toward sex, said Sherri Young, a family counselor in Summerville.

"We are becoming more open and accepting," she said. "A lot of people think this is nothing to be ashamed of."

But the store’s opening also got Dorchester County officials thinking about the possibility of similar stores locating in the fast-growing county, and now County Council is rewriting an ordinance from 1986 to make it more current.

On Monday, the council’s Planning, Development and Building Committee had a public hearing and recommended to council an update of the ordinance that would change the term “adult book stores” to “adult novelty stores” to reflect what the stores sell now. 

The ordinance will get final reading next month. 

“I had assumed, incorrectly, obviously, that it was books and novelties,” Chinnis said of the existing ordinance. “This clarifies what I will tell you I thought all along we had covered.”

Like Berkeley and Charleston counties, the ordinance would still restrict the stores to industrial areas, said Councilman David Chinnis.

Richardson, whose 70-member church has been holding Saturday and Sunday services at the site for about six months, said he is trying to plan a fall event that he hopes will include all of his neighbors.

“What an ironic thing, a church event sponsored by Badd Kitty,” he said. “But the church is all about love and people, and I just want to make an atmosphere that we can encounter God wherever we stand. Let’s just make an atmosphere where we can all just get along.”

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Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.

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