DeKALB – Tim Himmelmann doesn't want the Paperback Grotto to be known as a dirty bookstore. That's why he decided to give people walking through downtown DeKalb a glimpse of what the store offers.
The Paperback Grotto, 157 E. Lincoln Highway, recently replaced the black filter that covered the store's window for years with a lingerie display.
Two half-mannequins wearing lingerie and a sign for Lover's Playground, Paperback Grotto's parent company, hang from a display wall. An assortment of personal massage oils and lotions and scattered rose petals line the front of the window.
Himmelmann, who's been the store supervisor for nine years, said he's been thinking about taking down the window covering for a couple years because the items the store offers – lingerie, couples' toys, pornography and games, to name a few – have become more mainstream.
He also thought having a window display would make the store look more like its neighbors.
“We want to fit in more and make it more boutique-like,” Himmelmann said. “We want people to come in and be comfortable.”
Paperback Grotto exists in downtown DeKalb because it was grandfathered in following the adoption of the city's unified development ordinance in 1993. An adult store couldn't open in downtown DeKalb under the current zoning regulations.
Among fellow downtown business owners is Vickie Obermiller, who has owned maternity and children's resale boutique Kid Stuff two doors down from the Paperback Grotto for seven years. She knew to expect some lingerie and other items in the store window because Grotto staff told her before they made the display, she said.
“It's tasteful,” Obermiller said. “It's not anything different than anything you'd see in a mall.”
Mayor John Rey reacted less favorably.
"I have to say I was a lot more comfortable when it was a black window," Rey said. "I'm less comfortable with the portrayal of scantily clad mannequins. I don't think it's appropriate in an area where you have family traffic."
DeKalb resident Jean Kastory didn't find anything offensive about the window when she passed by Wednesday morning. Although she hoped the business wouldn't create a window display of more scandalous items because children could see it, overall she felt the window was an improvement.
“I think it's better than the blackout, because that draws more questions,” Kastory said.
Sycamore resident Daniel Johnson didn't notice the change when he walked by with his 12-year-old son Nathan.
“You see that stuff on TV anyway,” Johnson said. “I don't see a problem with it.”