Retail therapy. It’s a phrase that’s usually spoken with tongue firmly in cheek. But we here at AVN would argue that certain purchases—particularly those that enhance our sex lives and our intimate relationships—are so basic to our wellbeing that they might indeed be considered a form of therapy.
Many of the men and women in the top tier of adult retailers seem to see their chosen vocation in that light. As we researched the various businesses suggested as candidates for AVN’s first listing of the adult industry’s top 50 retailers, we were struck by a common thread: the willingness to be active partners in their customers’ quest for sexual satisfaction.
Below you’ll find information on 50 of our favorite retailers: 15 online-only retailers, 15 single-store retailers, 10 small chains and 10 large ones. These “retail therapists” believe their ultimate goal is more than just pushing product. They’re also pushing education, self-understanding and enlightenment. They’re every manufacturer’s dream—ideal advocates for getting your products in the hands of grateful consumers.
AdultEMart—An online adult superstore that retails pleasure products in addition to DVDs and Blu-ray discs, VOD and more, AdultEMart’s sex-toy menus have their own branch under the URL SensualAdviser.com. Products are separated into various categories, with best-sellers offered as suggestions, as well as breakdowns into toys for women, men and couples.
BetterSex.com—This site is associated with the Sinclair Intimacy Institute, a source of information on sexual relationships since 1991. Sinclair has an extensive library of videos covering everything from advanced sexual positions to erectile dysfunction solutions, but that’s not all you’ll find on BetterSex.com. Many hot new items are stocked on this site, including the RealTouch virtual masturbator, Liberator products, the latest from popular lines like The Screaming O and System Jo, and even couples-friendly erotica, such as the titles in New Sensations’ Romance Series.
CheriesCloset.com—Though lingerie dominates the product mix on this site, CheriesCloset.com also carries all types of pleasure items in addition to more general accessories such as shoes, books, bath products, games, costumes and jewelry. A fun feature of the site is the wishlist, which allows shoppers to share hints with loved ones.
DallasNovelty.com—With more than 100,000 products available on this site, there’s plenty of room to stock both the classics and a slew of new toys from both mass-market and boutique manufacturers. Dallas Novelty posts product recommendations by leading sex therapists Sue Johanson and Laura Berman, plus ratings and reviews from real customers. Products are listed in order of popularity, but searches also offer ranking by price, name and release dates.
EdenFantasys.com—A virtual community for sensualists, EdenFantasys.com caters to all genders, ages and orientations. Searches sort items by size, price, texture, material, color and power source, and product images provide several different angles on each item. And there’s more than just shopping: Browsers will find interviews with sexperts, toy guides, educational essays, reviews by volunteer enthusiasts, blog and forum posts, a book club, and the online SexIs magazine.
EstaNoche.com—Based deep in the heart of Texas (liberal Austin, actually), EstaNoche.com is a site operated by a group of sexy trabajadores (workers) who are “single, married, male, female, straight, gay, younger and older, diverse mix of races and cultures,” and they’ve pulled together a site to cater to “a mix of Latinos and those who love us.” The product mix is on par with other high-end sites—njoy, Spare Parts, Luxotiq, OhMiBod, Je Joue—and products are broken down in toy types as well as more entertaining categories (“Sexy Night In,” “Wild Side”). Another nice feature: the breakdowns by gender: products for her, him, her & him, her & her, and him & him.
HolisticWisdom.com—Woman-owned and operated, HolisticWisdom is not only a sex toy retailer but also a manufacturer and wholesaler for its own products. Among the newer lines stocked here are Vanity by Jopen, the latest from We-Vibe, Lelo and Fun Factory, and lots more. Other resources include sexual trivia, erotic stories, educational articles, sex jokes and videos and a social blog.
MyPleasure.com—As part of its stated goal to appeal to a “broad, upscale and mainstream audience,” the site offers a robust educational section, with answers to sexual health questions, a glossary of terms and practices, columns by sexperts and a comprehensive sex toy guide. There’s even a section that provides “sexual astrology” readings.
Onjenoo.com—A “sexy lifestyle boutique that blends science, seduction, fun and glamour,” Onjenoo directs its product mix at women and couples, with an emphasis on intimacy-enhancing items. In addition to retailing products on the site, Onjenoo Lifestyle Advisors help interested individuals organize home parties.
PinkCherry.com—A one-stop shop for buying and selling adult novelties and DVD products in North America, the site’s breakdown of product types into micro-categories serves shoppers’ needs well. For example, vibes are subdivided into 17 different types, including rabbit-style, G-spotter, bullet-and-egg, and clitoral stimulator—all described in a vibrator guide.
Sensual Steals.com—A Groupon for the pleasure product industry, SensualSteals.com offers a “Steal of the Day”: one desirable name-brand product offered at a steep discount. The deals are posted seven days a week at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and are available for 24 hours, unless they sell out before then. A week’s worth of “Past Steals” can be perused … and purchased if still in stock.
SexToy.com—In an online world, a memorable URL is king—and Dave Levine has the crown jewel of site names in SexToy.com. Levine’s kingdom encompasses an affiliate program, drop-shipping, a video blog and links to his personal site, SexToyDave.com, which offers business advice and information about Levine’s reality-TV adventures. But back to the toys: The site stocks more than 100,000 items, searchable by features, materials, functions, price, dimensions, shapes, colors and more.
SheVibe.com—Started by a husband-wife team, SheVibe.com is a site with enormous visual appeal and lots of content. Comic-strip cartoons adorn each splash page and product pages have large photos and detailed descriptions. Product range covers the gamut from high-end vibrators (Emotional Bliss, Eroscillator, Jimmyjane) to low-end gag gifts and costumes. This site has it all: informative articles, staff ratings, links to Twitter and Facebook content … even a Dildo Shopping Assistant.
TabuToys.com—Founded in 1990, TabuToys.com has as its stated mission to sell not every toy but only those its operators consider the best. Every item is chosen for durability and performance. An Alternative Sex Glossary on the home page describes various types of toys in stock, and links shoppers direct to small but well-chosen product selections. And there’s a nice description of earth-friendly items providing information on the materials used to make toys.
Vibrator.com—Given the site’s name, it’s not surprising all the biggies are here, from high-end specialists like Vibratex, OhMiBod, Fun Factory and bSwish to mega-producers like Topco and Doc Johnson. But it’s not all things that go buzz in the night. There are lubricants and lotions, books and games for couples, and various necessities for sex toy enthusiasts, including toy storage, cleaners and more.
Come As You Are—Located in Toronto, Come As You Are lays claim to being the world’s only co-operatively run sex shop. Egalitarianism is apparently good for business: The store celebrated its 10th anniversary back in 2007 and is still going strong. In addition to emphasizing body-safe products and an inclusive toy mix that also serves LGBT clients, the store offers private parties, workshops, and battery recycling. 701 Queen Street West • Toronto, Canada, M6J 1E6 • (416) 504-7934 or (888) 504-7934 • ComeAsYouAre.com.
Early To Bed—Founded a decade ago on Chicago’s north side to fill a “dire need for a place where women (and people of all genders) could shop for quality sex toys,” Early To Bed sets shoppers at ease by allowing them to examine “testers,” including lubricants and body treats. The store provides other ways to get familiar with the goods: four different types of pleasure events, ranging from small parties at clients’ homes to in-store benefits where participants can earn 10 percent of sales made for pet causes. 5232 North Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois • (773) 271-1219 or (866) 585-2233 • Early2Bed.com.
Eve’s Garden—Founded in 1974 by women’s rights activist Dell Williams, Eve’s Garden takes pleasure seriously. No bachelorette or gag gifts or gimmicks of the moment here; the clientele is a discerning female consumer seeking to “expand and celebrate her sexuality.” The store is in the upper levels of an office building on New York’s Westside, high above the urban fray, providing a discreet, comfortable atmosphere in which to purchase sensual toys. 119 West 57th Street • New York City, NY 10019 • (212) 757-8651 • EvesGarden.com.
52 Weeks of Romance Boutique—A cozy shop with antique furniture and art of the walls (some of which is for sale), this shop in Roanoke, Va., has a definite focus on nurturing intimate relationships. Lingerie of all types dominates, leading the store to get a nod as best lingerie shop in the local city magazine. It has a well-stocked internet store—an example of how a little shop can do big business online. 2913 Williamson Road • Roanoke, VA 24012 • (540) 362-8008 • 52wks.com.
Good For Her—Founder Carlyle Jansen got her start when she gave an impromptu sex toy seminar at her sister’s bridal shower in 1995, and she’s been sharing her knowledge ever since. Since its inception, Good For Her has refined its mission of giving women a safe place to shop, with “excellent materials that won’t harm your body, and an approach to sex that gives you the ability to make the best decisions possible for yourself.” Good For Her engages with its clientele in myriad ways, including workshops and classes, home parties, and “Shop for a Cause” benefits that can accommodate groups of 10 to 20, with 10 percent of sales going to a designated charity or nonprofit group. 175 Harbord St. • Toronto, Canada M5S 1H3 • (416) 588-0900 or (877) 588-0900 • GoodForHer.com.
Good Relations—Stemming from its beginnings in 1983 as a home-based pleasure-party company, this “woman-owned, relationship focused” operation became a brick-and-mortar concern in 1998 and then moved to its current location in Eureka’s historic district in 2005. Staying true to its roots, Good Relations still throws pleasure parties, and also hosts product demos, classes and other in-store events. 223 Second St. • Eureka, CA 95501 • (707) 441-9570 or (888) 485-5063 • GoodRelations.com.
Kama Sutra Closet—Owner Roylin Downs offers her customers real intimacy, only opening the store’s doors by appointments or for scheduled events. Downs is also very selective about products; she only stocks items made from silicone, elastomer, wood, glass or metal, and there is no sexually explicit packaging. Her goal: to create a comfortable environment for women, men and couples who are serious about the passionate play that Kama Sutra Closet’s wares offer. 451 E. Main St. #6 • Ventura, CA 95501 • (888) 801-8952 • KamaSutraCloset.com.
Sensually Yours—How do you make paradise more pleasurable? Shellee Rose was of the opinion that an adult boutique would do just that, and in 1984 she founded Sensually Yours. Ever since she has added the thrill of sexy lingerie, adult toys, novelties and more to Hawaii’s other endemic charms. Rose keeps connected with her clientele via a newletter, home parties and a well-organized website. 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, No. A-112 • Honolulu, HI 96817 • (808) 599-1655 • SensuallyYours.com.
She Bop—Evy Cowan and Jeneen Doumitt opened She Bop in 2009, allied to create a boutique specializing in non-toxic toys, female-friendly DVDs and gifts focused on sexuality. Recent events have included classes on “Full-Bodied Fellatio” and “Rough Sex for Beginners: Consent and Desire,” and blog posts cover local events, new products in the shop, and general musings on pleasure and sexuality. 909 N. Beech St. • Portland, OR 97227 • (503) 473-8018 • ShebopTheShop.com.
Spartacus Leathers—Since 1987, the Oregon-based Spartacus Enterprises has supplied adults with exceptional products manufactured from leather, metal, rubber, and more. A recognized name for its extensive selection and craftsmanship as a manufacturer and online retailer, Spartacus also has a brick-and-mortar presence. The store is a Portland institution known for (as one reviewer put it) “quality shopping for local kinksters.” 300 SW 12th Avenue • Portland, OR 97205 • (503) 224-2604. SpartacusLeathers.com.
The Stockroom—Operating on the internet since 1990, JT’s Stockroom is one of the original online sources for quality sex toys. But the Stockroom is also known for its brick-and-mortar store and workspace on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The company was founded in 1988 and is still going strong as a specialist in bondage gear, sex toys, leather, latex, and all items of interest to curious kink novices and extreme BDSM players alike. 2809 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd. • Los Angeles, CA 90026 • (213) 989-0334 • Stockroom.com.
Sugar—In March 2007, Sugar opened its doors in Baltimore’s Hampden historic district, and the self-identified “lesbian owned, women and trans operated” store been spreading the sex-positive message ever since. To sweeten the mix, Sugar serves up toy parties, private classes, one-on-one coaching with a sex educator, and presentations geared to college students. 927 W. 36th Street • Baltimore, MD 21211 • (410) 467-2632 • SugarTheShop.com.
Taboo Inc.—A locally owned and operated store in Richmond, Va., Taboo stocks sexy lingerie up front and center but also fills its shelves with much racier items—sex toys, gag gifts, bondage gear—farther back in the 2,000-square-foot pleasure shop. The female staffers—the “Taboo Girls”—are a fun bunch; their profiles are on the store’s website, and they’re also exposed on “Naked Mondays,” when everybody comes to work in lingerie. 6021 W. Broad Street • Richmond, VA 23230 • (804) 440-8228 • Taboolicious.com.
The Tool Shed—Open since 2003, the Tool Shed is now operated by Laura Anne Stuart, a sexuality educator with a decade of experience under her belt. Stuart curates a collection of body-safe toys and also offers local and handcrafted items to provide regional flavor. The store’s array of toy parties, workshops and classes add to the reasons why it secured a spot in the local alternative rag’s Best of Milwaukee 2010 issue. 2427 N. Murray Avenue • Milwaukee, WI 53211 • (414) 906-5304 • ToolShedToys.com.
The Velvet Box—Owner Marcelle LeBlanc opened the Velvet Box in 2009 “to create a place where I would feel comfortable shopping with my sweetheart or my friends.” In addition to lingerie, the Velvet Box stocks books and games, party gifts, edible lotions, novelties and specialty toys. Clients seeking personal attention can get a private appointment or attend a “Toy Box Tutor” class. And the team of associates includes two four-legged members, Ruben and Ziggy, who add a little doggy style. 9100 North Freeway, Suite 124 • Fort Worth, Texas 76177 • (817) 750-5005 • TheVelvetBox.com.
AAA News & Video and Discount Maxxx—These stores comprise Central Texas’ last chain of independent newsstands. Founded by Sid Grief, the stores carry the latest in everything from novelties to lingerie to DVDs and Blu-rays. Staff members focus on customer service and offer something on sale every day. AAANews.com.
Adam & Eve Montana—What was originally an idea for a quaint lingerie store with items available for women of all shapes and sizes became a three-store franchise that offers more than 4,000 square feet of shopping. In addition to lingerie, the stores sell dance wear, club wear, shoes, bridal collections, novelties, men’s wear, party supplies, adult toys, DVDs and much more. Adam & Eve Montana has locations in Three Forks, Missoula and Great Falls. AdamAndEveMontana.com.
Babeland—Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning opened the first Babeland store in 1993 in response to the lack of women-friendly sex shops in Seattle. The store offered top-quality products, a pleasant place to shop, and most of all information and encouragement to women who wanted to explore their sexuality. The store’s popularity with both women and men has led to three more stores in New York, plus a thriving and educational website. Babeland.com.
Entice/Sexy Suz—Entice opened in May 2006 and today is the largest adult retail store in Georgia, situated in an 8,500-square-foot, free-standing facility strategically located in the “ABC Triangle” between Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn. In March 2009, Sexy Suz Adult Emporium, a similar business, opened on the east side of Athens, Ga., and in April 2011 the third store and second Sexy Suz-branded store opened on the west side of Athens on Atlanta Highway. The stores offer the latest in hot pleasure product items, and online stores expand the collection even more. Entice.com, Store.Sexy-Suz.com.
Fairvilla—Originally the Fairvilla Twin Cinema, the theater evolved into an adult store in 1992 and offers everything from gifts and toys to lingerie. But it wasn’t just the products that let Fairvilla thrive and eventually expand into other locations: Owners Bill and Shari Murphy wanted a store designed to accommodate couples, so they made Fairvilla a welcoming place where women, couples, and basically everyone could feel safe while enjoying high-quality goods and impeccable service. Fairvilla.com.
Good Vibrations—In 1977, dismayed by the lack of resources for women seeking accurate sex information and good sex toys, Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations retail store in San Francisco’s Mission District. Her efforts met with immediate appreciation from women and men alike. The store flourished over the years, thanks to a faithful clientele. Today, Good Vibrations is the premier retailer trusted for more than three decades to provide quality products, education, and information that promotes sexual health, pleasure and empowerment. The sex-positive retailer invented the concept of the clean, well-lighted place to shop for sex toys, books and movies. GoodVibes.com.
Kiki De Montparnasse—Those who favor quality over quantity will thrill at the goodies proffered by this luxury fashion and lifestyle brand. A small chain with three solid gold links—in New York’s SoHo district, Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and the MGM CityCenter in Las Vegas—it’s just the spot to drop $500 on an obsidian dildo (think of the temperature play possibilities!) … or to at least fantasize about it. And isn’t fantasy a key part of pleasure? KikiDM.com.
The Pleasure Chest—The Pleasure Chest started in 1971 in New York at the height of the sexual revolution, when people were starting to express their sexuality more openly. From its beginning in the NYC gay community, The Pleasure Chest quickly expanded into the gay communities of Chicago (1977) and Los Angeles (1975). As all things gay became popular in the mainstream community, so did The Pleasure Chest. Now, it’s become a couples-focused store, regardless of gender. It’s often referred to as the “Saks 5th Avenue” of adult stores in the media, and given the well-trained sales staff and attractive, bright environs, the moniker certainly fits. ThePleasureChest.com.
Pleasures—Sherri Williams founded Pleasures in June 1993 to offer couples in Huntsville, Ala., a comfortable place to shop for intimate accessories—and on the way to achieving that goal, she made a name in the industry for waging war for more than a decade against the state of Alabama for the right to sell sex toys. Her shop in Huntsville has an adjoining Intimacy Clinic that offers a free sexual health library, book signings, weekly seminars and workshops, free condoms, marriage counseling and therapy, in addition to an outdoor lounge for wine, beer, and smokers, and an indoor lounge featuring ToyBox Parties. Pleasures’ sister store in Decatur, Ala., houses an additional 4,000 square feet of romance retail. MyPleasureStore.com.
Smitten Kitten—Founded in 2003, the Smitten Kitten has become a multiple award-winning institution in the Twin Cities and a destination for folks from the entire upper Midwest and Central Canada. In 2010 the company expanded to Denver. When it opened, Smitten Kitten was the first ever non-toxic sex toy shop; in 2005, it launched the first-ever community advocacy organization and adult industry education organization, the Coalition Against Toxic Toys. The stores offer high-quality sex toys and equipment for people of all genders and sexual orientations, including handmade and one-of-a-kind items. SmittenKittenOnline.com.
Adultmart—The Adultmart family of stores carries a large inventory of adult and non-adult merchandise, covering everything from adult DVDs and erotic sex toys to massage oils and party gifts for bachelor and bachelorette parties. The stores themselves offer a clean, comfortable shopping experience for men, women and couples, and knowledgeable and friendly staffs to help shoppers find exactly what they are looking for. Adultmart.com.
Castle Megastores—Since opening its doors in 1987, Castle Megastore Group has grown throughout the West Coast to encompass 17 locations in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Alaska (including, yes, Wasilla), with stores ranging in size from 5,000 to 16,000 square feet. Each Castle Megastore-branded retail store is individually owned by a separate company operating under a license and service agreement, but they all provide the same great service and well-chosen product mix. CastleMegastore.com.
Cirilla’s—Established in 1992, Cirilla’s is a dominant adult retail force in parts of the Midwest and the South, with almost 60 retail locations in the following states: Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee. Big categories include lingerie (sizes small to 3X), games, and lotions and oils, but pretty much every type of toy is sold here, in a variety of price ranges. Cirillas.com.
Déjà vu Love Boutique—These boutique-style stores differentiate themselves in that they are tied in with the Déjà vu Showgirls clubs. Primarily stocking lingerie, clubwear and dance wear, they also offer a great selection of vibrators, lubricants, dildos and other sex toys. The stores are located nationwide, with the highest concentrations in California and Michigan. DejaVu.com/Vu/Stores.
Fascinations—With 16 stores in Arizona and Colorado, Fascinations provides couples and individuals with “an enjoyable, upscale and courteous atmosphere in which to shop, learn and inquire.” There are sex and relationship blogs on the home site, and a sexuality educator on staff. And for those interested in hosting home parties, there’s a cadre of home party representatives to assist. Fascinations.net or Shop.FunLove.com.
Hustler Hollywood—Since opening its first location in 1998 on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Hustler Hollywood has expanded to 10 locations across the United States, with an eye on future expansions. Shoppers will find that in addition to adult entertainment and upscale novelties, the Hustler experience offers a substantial array of non-adult products, such as apparel, jewelry, lingerie and candles. HustlerHollywood.com.
Lion’s Den—Founded in 1971 in Columbus, Ohio, this alpha cat on the adult retail landscape has expanded to more than 40 locations across the United States, with videos, periodicals, novelties, and intimate apparel making up the lion’s share of the retail mix. LionsDenAdult.com.
Peekay—Phyllis Heppenstall and her daughter Kris Butt founded the Peekay empire in 1980 with a $600 investment. Originally an in-home party plan program, the first retail store was opened in 1981. Since that time, the company has grown to more than 30 retail locations operating under the monikers Lovers, ConRev and A Touch of Romance. The retail stores promote a fun, safe and comfortable shopping environment in well-merchandised, warm and inviting boutique storefronts. Peekay.com.
Romantix—This huge retailer of adult merchandise stocks a blend of adult toys, DVDs, lotions and lubes, apparel and other pleasure products in more than 50 stores across the United States. Some stores are more well-endowed that others, and a nifty visual aid on the main site helps locate those stores with such extras as gay and lesbian sections, apparel, smoke supplies, fetish gear, arcades and … trucker parking. RomantixOnline.com.
Stag Shop—The Horea family started the Stag Shop in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1972, offering a range of gag gifts, novelties and sexual aids. The Horeas are still involved, but much has changed: More than a dozen stores are spread across Canada and the product mix is more upscale, bringing big O’s all around the Great White North. StagShop.com.