Independence Promenade isn't just another strip mall on the decline. It's a place where the management clearly knows how to go out with style and character.
You can buy everything at the Promenade -- from a massage of a questionable nature to Halal meat. This is a place where freaks, geeks and those looking to purchase a discounted Virgin of Guadalupe can all find something to take home.
Twenty years ago, the strip was anchored by Toys-R-Us and a T.G.I.Fridays and had a parking lot full of station wagons on the weekend. Today, it is anchored by the Crazy Horse Showclub (newly remodeled), where the guy with the best hand on Monday Night Poker Night wins a 32-inch TV. The "2 for 1" Tuesdays are even better because all lap dances are "2 for 1" all day long. The Promenade has also become a regional headquarters for naughty night wear, with two of the biggest local names in lingerie -- Adam and Eve and The Red Door -- located within feet of each other.
A lot of the good stuff at the Promenade goes down in the dark. It's the home of the Laser Quest Center, where kids and paramilitary types can play laser tags and train for the final invasion. The windows of the Kyoto Heath and Therapy storefront have been completely darkened and a single chair inhabits its lobby. There's a door to the back and a grimy buzzer you can press for service next to an American Express sticker and a sign that says a 30-minute body rub is $60, and an hour-long rub is $80.
It's not clear exactly what will get rubbed, but a largely worded disclaimer says "Please keep in mind this is a legitimate business and any services that involve sexuality are not tolerated at Kyoto Health Therapy. Sexual services are prosecutable by law and are not permissible by management." Creative Loafing buzzed multiple times and never could attract the attention of a human being, though we had the distinct feeling we were being watched.
At the International Groceries and Halal Meat, you can buy everything from Bengali Fish to Pakistani cuisine to international calling cards. The Latino side of the store boasts a sign that says it "cashes checks and sells chicken." But cool bargains can be found here if you look. For just a $1, an Indian gentleman at Spiceland will sell you a large packet of some of the best incense CL has ever sampled. We walked away with 10.
If you've got a piercing, just about anything you'd want to poke through it can be found at Rock and Roll Emporium. The Emporium is the place to go for skateboards, shoes, denim, clothing for men and women, posters, concert T-shirts, jewelry, body jewelry, stickers, incense, skate shoes and the list goes on.
A couple of stores down, the folks at Ink Link are proud of their ability to pierce anything, and we do mean anything. Their online logo features a tattoo artist naked from the waist down holding a tattoo needle and a disconnected appendage that discreetly ends in a hand.
"Genital piercings tend to heal fairly quickly and require little more than cleansing 2 to 3 times per day," Ink Link's Web site advises. "For males with piercings in the urethra, it is recommended that you urinate after cleansing to avoid discomfort from soap residue."
Oddly enough, in the rental ad for Independence Promenade on the commercial real estate listing site LoopNet.com, none of the Promenade's more colorful tenants rate a mention. Only Aaron Rents, Fred's Dollar Store, Jackson Hewitt Tax Services, Fiesta Azteca Mexican Restaurant and Laser Quest are listed as occupants of the strip mall.
"We take pride in our city," the ad for the Promenade reads. "Buildings, particularly office and new industrial parks, reflect high architectural standards."
Correction: We previously incorrectly reported what sort of merchandise was available at the Rock and Roll Emporium. The correction has been made in the above copy.
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