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Medusa's Adult World 2002 file
Al Tannahill, owner of Medusa's Adult World, is seen in 2002 inside his Bloomington store. (Pantagraph file photo)

BLOOMINGTON -- After 40 years in business -- many of them fighting for the legal right to stay open -- the owner of Medusa's Adult World is leaving on his own terms.

The video, book and novelty store at 420 N. Madison St. will close sometime in the next month or two, said owner Al Tannahill. The 64-year-old said various factors led to his decision: the Internet cutting into DVD rentals, the poor economy, the increased cost of getting merchandise shipped in.

"I could give a different reason each different day of the week," Tannahill said Thursday, a day after posting the closure news on his high-profile sign on Madison Street. "It's just time to move on."

Bedtime Boutique, the women's clothing and lingerie store that Tannahill opened next to Medusa's in the mid-1980s, will remain open. After selling off his merchandise during a going-out-of-business sale, Tannahill said he will consider renting the space, maybe to a tenant that complements Bedtime Boutique's female focus.

Medusa's opened as Al's Book World on Front Street in 1971, moving to its current home in 1979. Tannahill, a Vietnam veteran, served in various community roles over the years, from calling bingo to leading the local chapter of AMBUCS, a business and service organization that builds wheelchair ramps.

But it was the store that made headlines for Tannahill. He was convicted of obscenity in the aftermath of a landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, then acquitted in a second case. Tannahill's store was also targeted in 1989 by a group called McLean County Coalition Against Pornography.

Tannahill said the law of supply and demand created the market for Medusa's. He added that he has always been protective against minors coming in; the minimum age to enter is 19, one year over the law.

"We've always portrayed it not as a dirty-book store, but a store for consenting adults," he said, noting his sales are powered by items like gag gifts for bachelorette parties and massage oils.

"If you do it in a proper businesslike way, I think (an adult store) can be accepted in the community, and that's what I always tried to do," he said, noting his many supporters in Bloomington-Normal.

As for the future, Tannahill said he's been selling health food products for the last 20 years and may get more involved in that. He said he wasn't interested in trying to sell the shop, and instead will liquidate his product.

"It's been my baby for 40 years," he said.

Reporter Ryan Denham can be reached at

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