March 29, 2009 -- With its cobblestone streets and row houses, Old Town Alexandria, Va., is known for quaint colonial charm.
The newest boutique on King Street, then, tends to stop people in their tracks. La Tache sells unique adult novelty items, says store owner Bo Kenney.
"We sell lingerie, lotions, personal lubricants, erotic toys and DVDs," he says.
La Tache opened its doors in January, at the site of a former hunting and fishing store. Michael Zarlenga, the owner of that business, wanted to expand, but Alexandria's Board of Architectural Review rejected his construction plans.
"The whole preservationist community was against this," says Zarlenga, adding that he had run up against zoning laws meant to preserve the character of a neighborhood and to keep out undesirable changes.
The strict enforcement of those laws, it turns out, had unintended consequences.
The sex shop now has a 25-year lease. The building owner insists that bringing the novelty shop to the buttoned-down area was not a form of revenge on the city officials who stopped his plans. It was just a business decision, he says.
"In a million years I would have probably never come up with the idea to find an adult store to come and rent from me," said Zarlenga.
When it comes to zoning, bureaucracy seems to inspire creativity.
In Lubbock, Texas, a landlord painted his house purple with polka dots, and outside of Salt Lake City a barn features a one-finger salute to its neighbors.
But the really interesting part is that in Old Town, the neighbors don't really seem to mind.
"It's certainly different. As long as it doesn't attract undesirable people," said one resident.
Another who lives nearby said she doesn't mind, "as Queen Victoria said, as long as it doesn't startle the horses."
La Tache recently added a whole new range of products because of customer demand, Kenney said. The store now sells cages, one of which he said is especially popular.
"The puppy cage, I just don't know but people seem to enjoy it," said Kenney. It turns out this Washington, D.C., suburb is home to a thriving community of fetishists.
"I've said it before, I thought George Washington probably would have shopped here. You know he did fight for his liberty," Kenney said.
Liberty in this old town is having the right to sell handcuffs, and other toys.