Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 23, 2013

Fantasies owner seeks to open Traverse City smoke shop


TRAVERSE CITY — The man behind the Fantasies Unlimited adult sex toy stores will take another shot at establishing a business in downtown Traverse City.

Brad J. Vannatter contacted the city about opening a business called Laughing Buddha Smoke Shop at 514 E. Front St. Vannatter's website advertises the store as a smoke shop that sells incense and potpourri. But Vannatter's main business line still has neighbors concerned.

"I know what his other businesses are, and I'm a family-orientated store and I'm kind of concerned about those things," said Billy Wood, owner of the neighboring Lifer Skate Board Shop.

Vannatter did not respond to an email and could not be reached at his Garfield Township headquarters. In an email to Dave Weston, city zoning administrator, Vannatter said he wanted to open a "regular retail store," and asked what city permits were required.

City zoning does not allow a store that dedicates more than 35 percent of its merchandise, business, or floor space to adult novelty items in its downtown business district, Weston said. For "regular retail," all Vannatter needs from the city is a sign permit.

Wood points to what Fantasies Unlimited did in its store on Cass Road in Garfield Township. It wasn't able to open as an adult novelty store, but did so as a boutique that sells sex-themed adult items within the township's 35 percent limit.

The limits didn't inhibit Fantasies from advertising the store as its main "adult sex toy store" in its chain of eight sex-themed shops in Michigan.

"The ordinance says as long as they don't have more than 35 percent they are in regulation, so I think he'll have that much in and then bring in other stuff," Wood said. "I talked to the city and they are going to keep an eye on it," but what can they really do."

The store could operate without selling sex toys or other adult-themed material. The Fantasies Network of businesses includes some non-sex-themed enterprises, such as a tattoo parlor and car detailing shop, and its website stated the Laughing Buddha is the first of several stores to open in Michigan.

Vannatter's previous downtown business attempt, Tabu Lounge, featured hookahs and lingerie-clad dancers. It closed three months after opening in 2011.