Two new Lion's Den stores embrace transparency.

The new look of Lion's Den stores represents a clear change for the Worthington-based chain. Over the last eight months, the company has opened two new shops in Columbus offering a unique feature in the adult entertainment business—windows.

Windows are a tricky proposition for a sex shop. The classic, old-school adult bookstore looked like a bunker for a reason—to satisfy customers who wanted privacy and critics who wanted sexually explicit material hidden. The result, of course, was an uninviting shopping experience. But as pornography, sex toys and other adult products have become more mainstream in recent years, the Lion's Den has been looking for ways to freshen up its stores for a new age, encouraged by a design consultant it hired and feedback from some customers. The Lion's Den, which started with a single adult bookstore at Morse and Westerville roads in 1971, has grown into one of the largest adult chains in the country, with 48 stores in 22 states, according to its website.

“It's a balancing act for us,” acknowledges Mark Miller, senior vice president for Lion's Den. “Half the people hate the fact we have windows, and half the people love the fact.”

The chain started with baby steps, adding mirrored windows to some of its stores, including its Alum Creek Drive location (outsiders can't see inside the stores). But the windows at its new West Fifth Avenue store (which opened in October) and its new Dublin Granville Road shop (which opened in January) are the real deal, allowing folks outside the businesses to get a glimpse of what's happening (and for sale) inside.

That's doesn't mean it's a free-for-all for the Lion's Den. To satisfy city of Columbus zoning laws, the new stores must make sure no “adult material”—including sex toys and explicit videos and magazines—are visible from a sidewalk. Lion's Den managers accept those restrictions, using drapes and mannequins to block views, Miller says. “We never try to be offensive to anyone,” Miller says.

In fact, their precautions even went too far for the city of Columbus. When the West Fifth Avenue store used a thin film to partially obscure an atrium in the front of the shop, the city ordered the business to remove the barrier.

The logic was a bit perplexing: The city wants Fifth Avenue stores to create a pleasant experience for window shoppers, and a blocked window isn't allowed, even if the business is a sex shop. “We did that trying to be good neighbors,” says Pete Potenzini, the director of marketing for the Lion's Den.