Hustler Hollywood Has No Staying Power
Larry Flynt’s Hustler Hollywood empire may thrive in warmer climes, but here on the 45th parallel, the porn magnate recently suffered a case of retail dysfunction. In January, just 16 months after Flynt greeted guests at the grand opening of Hustler Hollywood on Hennepin Avenue, the sex-oriented emporium folded, unable to sustain the kind of growth it has enjoyed since its first store opened in 1998 on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
For many Lowry Hill residents, the closing was a relief. Residents were concerned about its proximity to a synagogue and school, so they rallied to block it, but found they were powerless. As long as Hustler Hollywood complied with the zoning code, restricting sexually explicit materials to 15 percent of retail space, Flynt had First Amendment rights to sell lingerie, sex toys, porn, etc.
Ryan and Tina North, former owners of Twin Cities Green (now Moss Envy on Excelsior Boulevard), the previous tenants, weren’t surprised by the closing. “Regardless of who they were, it’s truly a challenge to house any business in that structure. It’s a difficult side of the street. There’s no parking, and traveling south from downtown, I challenge anybody to turn left at [24th] Street.”
The year’s end also marked the demise of Cockpit, half a block up Hennepin, which targeted a gay clientele with a similarly themed mix of harnesses and such. Its owner did not reply to requests for comment, but clearly sex doesn’t sell on this stretch of Hennepin.
Meg Tuthill, City Council member for the neighborhood and former owner of Tuthill’s Balloon Emporium on Hennepin, suspects that Hustler Hollywood’s national approach to retail may have rendered the store impotent. “They thought they had a target market, but I didn’t see people coming and going,” says Tuthill. “We’re Minnesotans, and we’re very reserved. We’re just not comfortable seeing displays of men in boxer shorts with a wad of something in the front. Sex is a private matter and we don’t flaunt that behavior here. It’s too cold.”