Christian Desmarais' new business describes its product in 3-foot-tall letters, lit at night by flashing white Christmas lights: "TUSH."
The lingerie shop on Northeast 105th Avenue represents a new start for the scion of a family whose Portland strip-club empire was undone this year by federal convictions of three members for conspiring to promote prostitution and evading taxes.
The 10 businesses they ran were the subject of an FBI sting—and local nonprofits spent $2.3 million, with help from a $250,000 loan from City Hall, to rehab one of the properties, which housed the Sugar Shack in Cully.
Kandace Desmarais, 65, was sentenced in June to two years in prison for her role in operating ATMs to promote prostitution.
One month after Kandace's sentencing, her son, 41-year-old Christian Desmarais, opened Tush Lingerie Modeling.
His new neighborhood? Parkrose, 30 blocks east of the old Sugar Shack.
It's hard to know what Christian Desmarais has planned. He didn't speak to WW.
So-called lingerie shops—which offer one-on-one time with women wearing lingerie or nothing at all—have long been an everyday feature of Portland's grittier neighborhoods. At least a half dozen of the businesses, often referred to as "jack shacks," operate in the city. They're protected by Oregon's vaunted free-speech laws, so neighbors have often found their complaints impotent.
Desmarais has landed in a changing neighborhood, one with enough political sophistication to try to interrupt his operation within days of its opening.
"The assumption seems to be that because it's East Portland no one would complain or, if anyone did, no one would listen," says Mingus Mapps, district manager for Historic Parkrose, a business-development nonprofit for the neighborhood. "But East Portland is changing, particularly in Parkrose, where people are coming together."
There's no indication that anything about Tush is illegal or even in violation of city code. So Mapps and other community leaders are putting pressure on the building's landlord. "Parkrose is going to have to help itself," Mapps says.
Christian Desmarais is part of a sex-club family once run by Lawrence George Owen.
Owen and his adult stepchildren, Kandace Desmarais and Gilbert "Mace" Desmarais, owned or managed 10 clubs and adult video stores in the Portland area, including the Landing Strip, the Oh! Zone and Tommy's.
In 2010, local, state and federal law enforcement officials raided the clubs, seizing $807,785 in cash, but not the properties. (Police had been receiving complaints since the late 1990s about prostitution in the vicinity of the Sugar Shack. During an undercover sting by Portland police between 2006 to 2009, a man paid 21 visits to three clubs and paid for prostitutes during 18 of them, according to The Oregonian.)
The price to rent a private room was $60; the price for private lap dances was $100, according to court filings; and informants told law enforcement that managers knew the rooms were used for prostitution.
According to a court affidavit from the 2011 case, "management posted instructions in each of the private rooms on how to properly dispose of the used condoms." Owen was also accused of paying dancers for sex.
An affidavit in the 2011 civil-forfeiture case lists Christian Desmarais' role as manager and son of Kandace.
In 2015, the feds brought charges against Owen and Kandace and Gilbert Desmarais. Owen was living in Mexico—but prosecutors said he still ran the business. He was arrested in California in February 2015.
Meanwhile, another family member, Craig Desmarais, was shot to death in December 2014 outside the family's club Tommy's Too.
Owen, now 75, was sentenced in April to two and a half years. He's already out.
On June 28, Kandace and Gilbert Desmarais were sentenced for their part in promoting prostitution and conspiring to evade paying more than $728,000 in federal income taxes.
Christian, along with other family members, was not charged.
In 2014, a Northeast Portland neighborhood coalition, Living Cully, bought the empty shell of the Sugar Shack from its indicted owners.
Parkrose residents are now concerned that the drama has moved into their neighborhood.
"Folks were really upset," says Annette Stanhope, chairwoman of the Parkrose Neighborhood Association. "People are apprehensive about strange men coming into the neighborhood looking for this kind of business."
A Craigslist ad for Tush Lingerie Modeling seeks "Lingerie Models/Dancers and Counter person" and describes the place newly remodeled with "4-Private Show Rooms" and "Discreet parking" and "close to PDX." Ads were posted in Salem, Portland and Seattle.
Desmarais rented a pale green house in Parkrose and opened for business Aug. 1.
The owner of the house, Evangeline Salvador, says she had handed over the work of renting it out to Windermere Real Estate and was unaware of what kind of business Desmarais was operating.
"I trusted Windermere," says Salvador, and blames the company's agent, Craig Gilbert. "When I was getting the call from other people, I didn't know anything. Craig told me, 'Everything is OK, they're going to sell lingerie.' Craig told me there would be no hanky-panky."
Gilbert's attorney says the broker and owner are working to address neighborhood concerns.
"We are investigating the many complaints we have received from the neighbors," says the attorney, Nick Drum. "We take those complaints very seriously. We are actively reviewing them to determine whether [Tush is] in compliance with the lease."
A representative of "All or Nothing, LLC" doing business as Tush declined to comment via text.
By Aug. 7, Tush announced on its voice mail that it would be closed for the remainder of the month.
WW news intern Max Denning contributed additional reporting.