A Ramsey couple are questioning a new store called Fantasy’s that opened the day before a controversial adult bookstore along Highway 10 was demolished.
As morning commuters quickly drove by Aug. 9, Andover resident Josh Holmstrom of the Anoka-based Reshetar Systems company was in the seat of the backhoe that tore down the green adult bookstore building called Da Bookstore that has been a fixture for over 23 years.
The building lay in a heap within half-an-hour after he started around 7 a.m.
Reshetar Systems founder and owner Brett Reshetar lives in Ramsey so he grew accustomed to seeing the green building and was thrilled when he found out that his company had the lowest demolition bid out of several companies.
“The feedback from the community has been positive once I told people we’re the ones tearing down the bookstore,” Reshetar said. “It’s nice to see the eyesore gone.”
But as this building was being torn down, Wayne and Maria Buchholz were questioning a new store being opened down the road at 6139 Highway 10 NW and again questioning why the Anoka County Housing and Redevelopment Authority covered the $361,100 for the city of Ramsey to buy Da Bookstore from Arnold Holmberg and subsequently pay $9,870 for it to be demolished.
Buchholz also questioned the involvement of Ramsey-based Premier Commercial Properties in the deal.
“It’s asinine that (the city) bothered to purchase the property and now we have a new store across the street,” Wayne Buchholz said. “To say I’m upset about it is an understatement.”
The Ramsey HRA unanimously approved the purchase May 14 although Councilmember Tossey was absent and said he would have voted no because the city has not found another use for this property. He is not opposed to the store going away though, just the timing.
Councilmember and HRA chairperson Randy Backous said he can buy the argument of someone being upset about Fantasy’s opening after Da Bookstore closed, but he would 100 percent of the time approve the purchase of the old bookstore.
“To me, they’re two separate things and for people to try to tie these things together is annoying to me,” Backous said. “They’re separate owners, separate transactions. The former bookstore was an eyesore on Highway 10, an embarrassment to the city of Ramsey.”
From the feedback Backous has received, almost all residents he has heard from support the city’s decision.
The separate deals
Marty Fisher of Premier Commercial Properties was Holmberg’s broker when Da Bookstore property sale closed June 27 with the city of Ramsey. The very next day, the large red “XXX” and “Adult Book Store” signs were taken down.
Rodney Lee also works in the Premier Commercial Properties office, but Ramsey Jr. Partners LLC owns the building now being leased to Fantasy’s. Lee is the registered agent of Ramsey Jr. Partners LLC, according to Minnesota Secretary of State records.
Fisher was not involved in this property leasing deal with Fantasy’s in any way, according to both Fischer and Lee.
“One (deal) had nothing to do with the other one,” Lee said.
Jim Patterson, who has owned Fantasy’s for 10 years and has two other locations in East Grand Forks and Fargo, N.D., said “it was kind of a coincidence” that his third store opened Aug. 8 and the old adult bookstore was demolished Aug. 9.
Patterson lives in North Dakota, but used to live in Coon Rapids and East Bethel and still has connections to the area. After six months of searching the metro area, this location seemed promising, so he called the phone number he saw on an advertising billboard that went to Lee.
City purchasing Da Bookstore
Matt Look, a former Ramsey City Councilmember who is now one of four Anoka County commissioners on the Anoka County HRA, said had he known that Fantasy’s would be opening, he would have raised more opposition to the county HRA approving the use of funds to purchase and demolish Da Bookstore.
Look said he contacted Backous, chairperson of the Ramsey HRA, to notify him that Da Bookstore could be going into foreclosure this fall if it did not pay its delinquent property taxes. According to county records, $60,192.25 in deferred property tax payments including interest and penalties was paid at closing.
Backous remembers the conversation differently. He said Look offered his support. Backous emphasized these are county HRA dollars that the city has not used for some time and he feels this money should be used to clean up blight along a busy corridor.
These dollars actually come from Ramsey taxpayers through a county HRA property tax levy. The city must subsequently make applications to the county HRA to get this money back for eligible projects.
Look said the county HRA’s precedence has been to approve requests if the money is available and the statutory requirements have been met, which Ramsey did in this case.
Although there was a possibility of the building going into foreclosure, Backous was concerned about the uncertainty of what could have happened on that property with a new buyer.
“Anybody could buy out that foreclosure and we’d still have that crappy building be up,” Backous said.
The city tried to purchase the old adult bookstore in the past, so Look appreciates the fact that this has been accomplished.
“Given the bad blood with the city, (Holmberg) wouldn’t even entertain an offer even if it was twice what the market value was,” Look said. “It was a matter of principle for him.”
Look said he would have loved to have the opportunity as a councilmember to approve the purchase of the property, but feels the city could have let things play out.
The building that Fantasy’s now leases has been vacant for two-and-a-half years since Wells Catering moved out, Lee said.
According to county property tax records, Ramsey Jr. Partners LLC has not paid any property taxes since May 16, 2011 and currently owes $46,121.80 in delinquent property taxes, which includes interest and penalties.
“We have to make the payments somehow,” Lee said.
Meets city ordinance
Maria Buchholz referenced Fantasy’s as a “smut store” in an email sent to ABC Newspapers. Maria and Wayne said they did not go inside the business, but were horrified by what they saw at the www.fantasysrus.com business website.
Patterson said the products customers purchase on a website come from a general warehouse that serves multiple companies and many of the products listed there are not available in the Ramsey store. His business is developing its own website.
“Everyone thinks it is a dirty bookstore. That’s not what it is,” Lee said.
About 8 percent of Fantasy’s new Ramsey store floor space is for items such as pornographic videos, toys, fetish items and other sexual products, according to Patterson.
Patterson said many of his clientèle are women having bachelorette parties and couples.
These items are in the corner of the store, behind red swinging saloon doors that clearly note that a person must be 18 years old to go back there.
The rest of the store comprises mostly lingerie and novelty items that Patterson and Lee said could be found at Victoria’s Secret or Spencer’s.
In order for Fantasy’s to stay in business within 1,000 feet of an on-sale liquor establishment, this adults only area must not account for more than 20 percent of its gross receipts or more than 10 percent of its 6,000 square-foot floor space.
Fantasy’s is not considered a principal adult business like Da Bookstore was because it meets the city’s definition of an accessory adult use due to at least 90 percent of its floor space being open to people under the age of 18.
Tim Gladhill, Ramsey’s development services manager, said the adult use ordinance allows the city to review the business every year to ensure it does not primarily become an adults only business.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Hagen is at email@example.com