Planet K is open for business -- in its parking lot, at least.
The Central Texas-based business, which owner Michael Kleinman describes as a "gift shop," began selling e-cigarettes, pipes, incense and a variety of other products Friday under tents set up outside its new Bryan location on Texas Avenue. That's where sales will stay for now, until several snags related to permitting, zoning and paperwork are worked out at City Hall.
At a news conference in front of the building's eye-catching murals on Friday, Kleinman told reporters that images of an Aggie ring, the Texas A&M University logo and a hand flashing the "Gig 'em" gesture will be removed from the artwork by the end of the month at the request of the university. But still facing hurdles with the city of Bryan to operate out of the building, Kleinman said he's "tired of waiting," hence the tent sales.
The Bryan location will be the 19th for Planet K, which Kleinman founded in 1990 in Austin and San Antonio, with other stores in San Marcos, New Braunfels and Bee Cave. Kleinman describes the shop as a lifestyle or gift store -- or "hippie store, if you must" -- that sells everything from candles to books to beer. And while Planet K does sell what Kleinman calls "sexual aides," he's firm in his position that it's not an adult novelty store.
No sex toys or pornography will be sold at Planet K, Kleinman contends, saying his store offers products that he says can also be found at Cindie's, the lingerie and novelty chain down the street, or even at H-E-B. The city of Bryan disagrees with that definition.
A city spokeswoman said Friday that the "adult" products Planet K sells qualifies as adult entertainment under the city's code of ordinances, which requires an industrial zoning that the Planet K property doesn't have. The land is currently zoned for "retail district" uses. The main building is also unable to open at this point because it does not have a commercial permit. Planet K applied for the permit, according to the city, but it wasn't granted because of insufficient documentation. Electricity to the building subsequently has not been turned on.
The large sign outside the business is another point of contention. The city says it was installed without a permit, and Planet K was notified that it would need to remove the sign by Sept. 6 or request a variance through the Zoning Board of Adjustment. An appeal will be considered during a special meeting next week.
Kleinman said Friday that has no plans to remove his sign. Planet K's attorney has been working with the city, but Kleinman said he won't be moving the sign "that's not hurting anybody." He adds that the business will still open even if the city tries to "deny us our property rights and due process."
"This is still supposed to be a free market and capitalistic society, and that means if people don't want us here, then people won't shop here, and then we will fail and we will have to close our store," Kleinman said. "But the truth is, the majority of people do want us here."
Kleinman said he hasn't heard pushback from the community about the store aside from one nearby business owner, but he said that if "some people want to be prejudiced and ignorant, that is their choice, but their ignorance and prejudice does not allow them to [inflict] their choices on our business or our customers."
The new Bryan-College Station store has been in the works for about a year and a half, Kleinman said, calling it a "great location" with young people who have "open minds, unlike some people."
Krystal Johnson, who has worked for Planet K for about a decade and will help run the Bryan store, said the business caters to people of all ages and sells a little of everything, including buttons and magnets, hemp products, ashtrays and a number of other items. She said Planet K isn't just a retail store, calling it a community-oriented business that regularly works with local charities and stays involved "anywhere that we can try to help out."
"I've done it before," Johnson said of selling outside under tents as she helped the first customers on Friday. "It's fun, it's definitely different than being in your regular store. We're outside, and we get to kind of bring people in, but we're definitely here to stay as long as we can."
The city says Planet K didn't have a vendor permit to sell products outside on Friday, but the business has since been notified of the requirement.
Kleinman said he encourages residents to come by the store's parking lot to "see what all the fuss is about" every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It's unclear when the main store will be able to open, but Kleinman is prepared to operate outside for as long as necessary.
"The government works for the people, in theory," he said. "Now, they try to push us around a lot, I get it, but they don't push Planet K around. We own this property. We have property rights. If we have to be out here for two years, that doesn't faze us."