Small business owner turned store chain pioneer is honored by his industry at the July SE Awards presentation in Burbank at ANME.
(Note: This story appears in the October 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
SE Awards story by Larry Kaplan
In February 1971, two years after graduating from Ohio State University, Michael Moran wanted to establish a steady income and utilized one of his parents’ retail storefronts to open the first Lion’s Den, one of the earliest suburban adult bookstores in the US, in suburban Columbus. People started walking in the door as soon as his sign went up. Moran achieved immediate success, with only magazines, digests, Ben Wa balls and Moran’s first arcade, just six quarter 8mm movie nickelodeons.
Fifty-two years and 50+ stores later, Moran’s Lion’s Den is an industry-leading chain that has funded many important First Amendment legal battles, without which today’s adult retail industry would not exist. Recently, Michael Moran was honored by StorErotica with induction into its Hall of Fame as a true icon of the adult retail industry.
CalExotics Founder and CEO Susan Colvin has known and admired Moran throughout her career.
“Mike Moran has been a trusted friend and colleague for 40+ years,” notes Colvin. “His dedication and unwavering commitment to his family, friends and company is truly admirable.”
“When I started CalExotics, Mike was a huge supporter. Lion’s Den quickly became our trusted partner as our passions for a more inclusive world of pleasure aligned. CalExotics began creating a more diverse and colorful product line with softer packaging. Lion’s Den pioneered softer, welcoming store environments and was the first major chain to emphasize sexual health and wellness.
“Anyone who does business with Mike knows he’s gracious, kind and a straight shooter. His friends and family adore him, as do his employees, many of whom have been with him for 40-plus years. Their loyalty speaks volumes about Mike and his company.
“Anyone who does business with Mike knows he’s gracious, kind and a straight shooter. His friends and family adore him, as do his employees, many of whom have been with him for 40+ years. Their loyalty speaks volumes about Mike and his company.”
– Susan Colvin, Founder and CEO of CalExotics
“But Mike’s true happiness comes from his family. He’s a devoted husband, caring father and doting grandfather. His grandson, Ronan, is the love of his life, next to his wife Michele.
“Additionally, Mike is an incredibly kind and caring friend who makes you feel welcome, included and loved. We get together several times annually to go to something fun. Anytime Mike has an event, he always includes me. This delightful combination makes him truly one of a kind and a force to be reckoned with. We’ve shared many great memories. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of recognition by StorErotica.”
Doc Johnson’s Founder and CEO, Ron Braverman, has admired Moran for over a half-century.
“Mike Moran and Lion’s Den are the icons of the adult store business everybody strives to be,” explains Braverman. “And quietly in the background, without fanfare, Mike has always been there to support every adult cause over the years. Mike couldn’t be a more wonderful friend or a better businessman. I’ve enjoyed Mike’s company for 50+ years.”
“Mike Moran and Lion’s Den are the icons of the adult store business everybody strives to be.”
– Ron Braverman, Founder and CEO of Doc Johnson
David Joseph, Rock Candy Toys CEO and founder and CEO of US Arcades, sees Moran’s actions as inspirational.
“Mike Moran has been a role model,” explains Joseph. “I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of his Christmas parties. I’ve never seen anything like what he gives back to manufacturers and employees. The late Eddie Wedelstedt was my early mentor, and Mike has been wonderful to me and has now taken his place. I’m honored that he’s a dear friend.
Nasstoys Co-Founder and President Elliot Schwartz has known Moran since he started his company in 1975.
“The word gentleman was made for Michael,” notes Schwartz. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met. Guys like Mike, my partner, Teddy Rothstein, and Reuben Sturman are legends who shaped this industry. They were pioneers who went to jail to defend our First Amendment rights.”
CalExotic International Business Development Executive Lupe Martinez met Moran after she started there 21 years ago.
“I was immediately impressed by Michael’s warm demeanor and kindness,” explains Martinez. “Michael taught me the critical importance of establishing and maintaining relationships, which is at the core of our industry. I keep this at the center of everything I do, ensuring that our industry continues to flourish and grow stronger, as Michael and others intended.”
In 2012, after a long professional relationship as Michael Moran and Lion’s Den’s banker, LD Management President Mark Miller accepted Moran’s offer to take his place at the helm of the store chain.
“Michael asked me to join his team nearly a dozen years ago. I had no idea then that I’d be learning from the very best in the business, not only about the business but about life. His passion for the industry is only eclipsed by his passion for helping his people. He is a great friend and mentor that I love deeply.”
Michael Moran’s son, Christian Moran, is a documentary filmmaker. Christian recalls what it was like growing up with Michael Moran as a father and a role model.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better father and role model,” explains Moran. “My father has a reputation as a good and honest man. He’s the most kind, compassionate and considerate man I’ve ever met, and I’ll always try to live up to the model he set for me. I can’t tell you how many people, organizations and charities he has helped. If I lived hundreds of years, it would be challenging to help as many people and do as much good as he’s done in his life.”
What was it like being raised in the adult retail community?
“It certainly differed from what most people experienced growing up, but I never knew any difference because it was just my life,” says the young Moran. “My parents took me everywhere with them. From a very young age, I attended numerous business dinners and went on business trips until I entered high school. l knew all of the various players in the industry.
Some children couldn’t play with me, and as I got older, some girls weren’t allowed to date me, and some people wouldn’t hang out with me. It affected my outlook because when you’re constantly told that your family is no good, but you know they’re the best kind of people, it makes you question other people’s opinions. That has been beneficial, as I tend not to take anything at face value and work hard to figure things out independently.”
Did Christian’s upbringing help him decide to become a documentarian rather than follow in his father’s footsteps?
“My parents have always supported whatever I wanted to do in my life,” says the young Moran. “Whatever my goal was, I was told I could do it; I just had to work at it. And beyond that, they reinforced that they would help me to the best of their ability. My father never wanted me to work with him simply because of the stigma that he’s had attached to him his entire life. He felt I could do other things and succeed in other areas, and I’ve endeavored to prove him right.
Noted Cleveland First Amendment attorney Michael Murray has been Lion’s Den’s chief attorney for 36 years, winning numerous exciting and essential First Amendment battles.
“Mike Moran is one of the adult industry’s great pioneers,” explains Murray. “Those who today enjoy success in the industry owe much of it to the many battles over freedom of expression waged fearlessly by Mike Moran. No matter the cost or risks, he’s never shied away from standing up to advance the industry’s constitutional rights.
“Mike Moran is one of the adult industry’s great pioneers. Those who today enjoy success in the industry owe much of it to the many battles over freedom of expression waged fearlessly by Mike Moran. No matter the cost or risks, he has never shied away from standing up to advance the industry’s constitutional rights. Because of Mike Moran, every American is a little freer to enjoy the precious rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
– Michael Murray, First Amendment attorney and Lion’s Den’s chief attorney
“Because of Mike Moran, every American is a little freer to enjoy the precious rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Unquestionably, he is a worthy inductee in StorErotica’s Hall of Fame.”
Larry Kaplan has been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications for 23 years. Mr. Kaplan is a broker in the sale and purchase of adult retail stores and adult nightclubs and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or email email@example.com.