Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Read between the lines at this bookstore

Behind the red door, propped open with a large rock to let in fresh air, it was a slow morning at the store Tuesday.

Co-owner Mary Begheri stood at the idle cash register, talking with a couple of guys who'd stopped in to swap stories.

Neither man bought anything. Then again, one of them, Heney Deen, owned the building and some of the nearby bars. So what's a small biz owner to do - kick the landlord out for loitering? Besides, Heney was warming up.

"I'm tired of lawyers! I'm tired of courts too!" he blusters, arms waving so vigorously that the thick gold chain on his chest sways. Mary, warming up to this conversation, chimes in.

"You know it! Whatever happened to the old days? We're here, we're legal, and they're still booting us out!"

Mary and her husband, Nasser, will close their Toledo Adult Book Store next month.

As it is, there's already a lonely feel along this downtown block of Monroe Street, a short stretch where nude dance bars once reigned. Gobbled up by the county recently, this area is to be reborn as the new Mud Hens stadium.

Celena's Go Go Dancers. Lips. Brenda's Body Shop.

Commercial realtors' signs brag "SOLD." Beneath the desolate feel is an underlying itch of anticipation. But even though no one's dancing here anymore, Mary says business remains brisk in spite of the store's lone-sentry position.

"We get people who work downtown. Lawyers come in. We even get grandmas and grandpas married 50 years. You cannot be judgmental, sitting back here," said Mary.

She only wishes others were as reluctant to judge as she. "They try to make us sound so bad, those politicians."

Heney figures it this way: "I mean, you know, I don't like some of these things, but this society is sick and it needs an outlet. We're in the 20th century!"

Well, close enough, Heney.

Mary and Nasser have run this bookstore for nine years. But for their inventory, anyone would consider theirs the American dream: A couple snares unexpected opportunity to buy a business, works long hours, makes a go of it.

"We had so much family support. My brothers helped put in these dropped ceilings, and they built the [viewing] booths," said Mary, describing that whole "family values" thing.

It hasn't always been smooth. Married some 20 years, Mary and Nasser took great pains not to let their two kids know about the business.

But then the book store - and their names - showed up in news stories about downtown property acquisition.

"I sat them both down. And I said, 'Mom and Dad own an adult book store.' My son - I could have killed him! You know what he said? 'You mean, we own a porn store?!' I don't know where he heard that kind of talk, because we certainly never said that around the house."

The Begheris resent the fact that neither city nor county will pick up relocation expenses for the upcoming move to Reynolds Road.

"This is our sole income. Our life savings are in this place," Mary said plaintively. "If we'd been any other kind of store, you think it would be like this?"

"Hey," said Heney, remembering a bit of history, "this place used to be a health food store."

Mary laughed.

"It still is! [health-related], " she reasoned.

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Readers may contact her at 724-6086, or e-mail

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