A week after opposing the permit for a downtown West Chester adult boutique, a nearby Catholic church has withdrawn its appeal and the store owner has learned that while sex sells, opposition makes it sell even better.
Jill McDevitt, 22, owner of Feminique Boutique, said business had doubled since St. Agnes Church filed an appeal on May 29 to revoke her permit, issued March 31.
In a two-page letter to Michael A. Perrone, the borough zoning officer, Msgr. Edward Deliman said the church wanted to focus its efforts on amending the borough code to prevent similar establishments.
McDevitt said that she was "initially relieved," but that one sentence of the letter gave her pause:
"While we continue to believe that there are legal issues regarding the issuance of, and compliance with, the referenced permit, we also believe that our energies, resources and efforts at this point are better utilized in continuing our dialogue with the borough on amendment of the ordinance . . ."
McDevitt said she had met all zoning requirements and hoped that the church was not looking for another way to shut her down. Just in case, she said, she plans to continue collecting signatures on a petition she started after receiving the appeal notice on Monday.
Since then, she said, she has received hundreds of supportive phone calls and e-mails - including one from France and one from China - donations for legal expenses, and multiple interview requests.
As for her critics, McDevitt - who received an undergraduate degree in sexuality, marriage and family studies from St. Jerome's University, a Catholic college in Ontario - said they should visit the store before passing judgment. Inside the bubble-gum-pink storefront are displays of lacy lingerie and massage creams, not pornographic books and magazines. In a second room are novelty sex toys.
Shannon Royer, a GOP candidate for the state House's 156th District who has opposed the store, said he heard McDevitt on Michael Smerconish's radio show.
"She seems like a great person; hats off to anyone who's opening a small business in this economy," Royer said. "I just have a problem with the location so close to a school."
The school is located on the 200 block of West Gay Street and the store is on the 100 block of North Church Street, perpendicular to Gay Street.
Royer, who said he has heard dozens of complaints about the shop's location while campaigning, labeled the subsequent publicity "unintended consequences."
"She is possibly the luckiest small-business owner in West Chester," he said.
A woman who answered the church phone yesterday said the pastor was not available and not commenting.