Controversial Hustler Hollywood store opens in Arden Arcade. Here’s the reaction

About 150 people lined up Saturday evening for the opening of a a Hustler Hollywood store in the Arden Arcade area.

The store at 2285 Arden Way is the company’s 23rd Hustler Hollywood location, selling lingerie, vibrating sex toys and engagement novelties. The store held its official grand opening with a visit from Larry Flynt, best known as the publisher of the pornographic magazine “Hustler,” who signed autographs.

Larry Price of Manteca was one of the early people in line.

“It’s done very tastefully,” said Price of the store. He was in town with his girlfriend Saturday in Old Sacramento and decided to stop by the new shop. About a third of the crowd in line were women.

“I’m a fan of the man, of what he’s done,” said Greg Soble of Stockton, who added that the stores and magazines are nice but he was more impressed with what Flynt has done culturally.

“At least I got to meet one of the giants. I never got to meet Hef,” said Soble, referring to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

Not everyone has welcomed the store. In December, several Arden Arcade residents voiced concerns that their neighborhood had a high concentration of less-desirable businesses. Store openings elsewhere have frequently drawn protests.

“You don’t see the prostitutes looking like this,” Kathy Stricklin, an Arden Arcade historian, said of the window display featuring “extremely exposed” mannequins before the store’s opening. “This is not different than selling sex on the street.”

She said she sent out email blasts in hopes of getting a large turnout to protest the opening, but there were no dissenters present Saturday evening.

While Stricklin and others say the county should have blocked Hustler from opening the store, Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters said officials’ hands were tied, even though she personally was against it.

Residents upset about the store opening in their neighborhood might give some blame to the internet.

“The internet has pretty much made publishing obsolete,” Flynt said.

Flynt, 75, said he began diversifying his enterprises in the 1980s to include video production, broadcasting, casino gaming and retail. Print now generates less than 5 percent of his company’s revenue, he said.

Flynt’s empire has spanned generations. Hustler started in 1969 with a single strip club in Cincinnati. The magazine was founded in 1974. In 1976, it reportedly sold 2 million copies a month.

It’s now a fraction of that size. Internet porn gets most of the blame.

Hefner, Flynt’s contemporary, saw his fortune decline to as low as $50 million when he died last year after his print-reliant empire struggled. But Flynt told USA Today in 2014 that his privately held Larry Flynt Publications was worth $500 million.

“Playboy is basically out of the game and so is Penthouse,” Flynt said in a phone interview in advance of his Sacramento visit. “We are basically the only one left standing. We are going to keep the magazine going as long as we can.”

He said the country’s changing climate, spurred by the #MeToo reckoning, has not affected his business.

At the Arden Way store, mannequins dressed in red and black silky lingerie occupy the display windows of the spacious store. Clothing from nighties to hoodies fill the front of the store, with racks of lotions, party games and smoking supplies interspersed. An array of pleasure devices for women and men is in the back.

“We are just a retail operation,” Flynt said. “We are not selling anything we feel is obscene.”

“You would think we’re opening a brothel,” he said in response to opposition to his store openings. He said there are one or two “loudmouths” in every community, but they soon find out their isn’t much to protest.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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