As part of BYT sex month, we did what had to be done: sent our interns out to visit some choice sex shops in DC, and get the full scoop on best products, hot trends, and your friendly sexy neighborhood sales personnel.
Previously in this column: Secret Pleasures
all photos: Temniet Mesgna
Entering this Georgetown shop is a little daunting. It has a store front window displaying some of the costumes that are available and once you enter, the store looks like it never ends. From toys to costumes to DVDs, Pleasure Place has it all.
BYT spoke with Cindy, a tatted up manager, who has seen it all in her 16 years of working at Pleasure Place.
When did the store open?
We opened up officially in 1980, been in business since 1979. So we are celebrating our 30th year of business. We have 2 locations; the location in Georgetown, 1063 Wisconsin and we also have the 1910 Connecticut Ave location.
What is the story of store?
We have a very broad client base. We have everyone from 18 to 80. So as long as your 18 and of age, come in. We have bachelorette people, people buying their first toy, we have people who are buying sexy clothing, we have dancers who come here. We have couples, a lot a lot of couples shop here.
What do guys mostly go for?
It depends on the gentleman, it depends on his preference. Guys coming in here are sometimes going to look for something they can use with their partner. We do sell kind of sexy-intimates for guys as well. Male dancers come in here too. Our client base is gay straight, lesbian transgender, everybody.
Awesome, so you all are very open.
Yes we are very open. Very gay-friendly. So everybody comes here.
It is such an accessible location too.
Out of everything that you’ve seen out of the last few years, what has been your most shocking moment? Something that caught you off guard?
Someone urinating in my dressing room.
No! How does that happen?
She was intoxicated on a Sunday afternoon. So that was probably the most shocking. Well she paid for it. I chased her down the street.
Drunk people are easy to catch.
They are, and I was 8 months pregnant at the time.
I like it!
But that’s pretty much the only thing. Otherwise we have a very happy client base. They are coming in here, they are laughing. There is a lot of laughter here. Sometimes they laugh a lot because they are nervous, but people generally have a good time here.
So you don’t have the weird, creepy people coming in.
I don’t think we have more creepy people coming in than you would apparently at every other place. And that shocks me, when I find creepy people in like a bookstore. But here you kind of expect fun, funky people. We get everybody. None of it really bothers any of us. You have to have a good sense of humor to work here, you have to have a good sense of humor to work with the stuff.
Because sex isn’t a dirty thing!
No not at all. And I think when people do that, they are over compensating for their nervousness. And we take it in stride, we’re just like, “hahaha”, because we actually test all the vibrators out, for the customer, before they leave the store. We don’t do returns or exchanges on personal items. So a lot of times you get people who say, “Oh you’re going to test it out in front of me? Do I have to pay extra? Hahaha.” And we always respond, “Ha, we’ve never heard that before, sir.”
So you can’t return…
No returns or exchanges on personal items for any reason what so ever, period. That’s what is a little different. What is interesting is people kind feel comfortable coming in here just like they would with places like Urban Outfitters or something like that.
Yeah. What makes us a little different is our return policy. Because of what we carry you can’t bring most of the stuff back. Unopened games, things like that, sure, a t-shirt, but mostly our items are of a personal nature in some way. We’re very mindful of the hygiene of the product.
I’ve heard about a lot of different products that are now organic. Do you carry any of those?
We do, we do. We carry several lubricants that are organic. A lot of folks have latex allergies, and the industry has responded to that over the years. So, now they’re putting out a lot of silicon products or it doesn’t even have to put as expensive as your average silicon product. It mostly so that they don’t have phthalates and you can indicate a phthalate by that gassy smell, like that new car smell, that is from the plastics, that’s a gas. So over the years, they’ve figured out, hey, that’d probably not a good idea to put inside your body. So even if it’s not silicon product, it’s going to be a much more hygienic product that companies are coming out with. So ironically, people may not think there’s a lot of hi-tech, but there is hi-tech involved in adult toys. So there is a lot of research and development in that kind of industry, so yeah the whole industry has changed over the years, based on that.
There are lubes that you can definitely say are vegan, like any silicon lube is a vegan lube, there’s no glycerin.
Gotcha, so what do girls mostly go for?
There’s no way to say, every girl and every guy is going to be different. If somebody comes in and asks, “What’s your best seller?” We kind of shy away from that. We’ll show them popular items, certaintly. But I like to shy away from that because we want to get something right for you. Everybody’s body is different. When people come in they can ask questions, we’ll show them different items. We’re not going to say, “Hey this is the best, this is the bomb, you gotta take it.” Because there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be right for your anatomy, that it’s going to do what you need it to do. So there are a couple of things a customer as to decide, ‘Am I am innie or an outie? Do I want external stimulation or internal? Do I want both?’ So we try to help people look in the right areas and show them items. We can test different items for you before you make your decision. To help because we’re not going to be able to decide for you, ‘cause you can’t bring it back. But we’re gona help you what might be a good thing for you, you never know until you try it.
You offer guidance.
What is your most expensive product?
Actually, Dupont Circle still has one left, it was a stripper pole. It was a really heavy-duty stripper pole. And it was about $600.
Do you all have the triangles? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Oh, the wedges. No, not right now. I’ll get them around the holiday times.
Is that your busiest time of year?
Valentine’s, Christmas. Halloween. We sell a lot of costumes. I keep ‘em out year round because dancers use them regularly, but on top of that we do sell a lot of costumes as well. Halloween has gotten bigger for us over the past 10 years.
What is your recommendation?
Again, I’m not going to be able to say because everyone is different. What I will say is that multi-speed is a good idea. Something that is shaped to wear you can use it either inside or outside. I wouldn’t necessarily go for just an outside product if you’re not sure. Because you might get it in your head, ‘Oh, I just want to use it on the outside.’ And then when you get down to it, ‘I wonder what this would be like if I put it inside.’ So something with that option. Something that is shaped right for you, something that is internal or external and definitely multi-speed. Something that goes up to a decent vibration. There are some people who are real, real sensitive, as long as it has a good low you’re good. But you might need a little more oomph in your stuff.
Where do you pick your products from? Is there a list you look from?
We go to trade shows and I do the buying and stuff. You get catalogs, you get e-mails and everything. You know these people, some of these people we’ve been dealing with some of them for 30 years. So, you know there are new companies all the time, just like any kind of other product, there will be new companies coming up. So it is just listening to trade magazines and stuff like that. Kind of listening what the customers were asking for that kind of stuff.
Has anyone asked for anything in particular?
Oh yeah! All the time. They ask for certain types of bullets or certain types of this or that. Sometimes they’ll come in with a specific item. If it’s a company that we already deal with we’ll try to get it for them. But customers are a lot more toy savvy, they are a lot more educated.
Yeah that makes it easier on us.
How often do you have to restock?
We restock as often as possible. On a weekly basis we’re trying to get things in. It just depends on our supplier.
Is the weekend a bigger time for you?
Yeah, the weekend is when we have the most sales. Not sales, but that’s when we make the most sales. That’s our business. During the week kinda from Thursday on to Sunday, is our busy time. So our Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we’re doing most of our cleaning and stocking. We do actually get a lot of day-time business for lunch. People who work in the area.
How do the other businesses in the area treat you?
Well, you know. We’ve been here so long, everybody knows where we are. We’re kind of a stop on some tour buses.
We’ve been here for 30 years.
You’re almost like a landmark now!
You’ve never had any problems though?
Not to my knowledge, but you know in the beginning my boss may have had a kerfuffle, but we wouldn’t have been able to open if they didn’t want us here. And we wouldn’t be here. It’s about being a good neighbor.
What do you mean?
Don’t have your windows be too salacious. Keep everything in taste. Have good taste.
How did you come to work here?
About 16 years ago. I applied for a sales associate position and every since.
And you liked it?
Oh yeah of course. Well I mean I was an open person to begin with and you know, it just fit. It just falls into place.
Is there any particular kind of person do you look for in an associate?
I love for people to have retail experience. People that are comfortable with this type of product, if you come with a working knowledge too that’s cool, but you don’t have to be a sexologist to work here. People that are available and want to work. I find that people who like retail, you have to be good at retail, and if you’re good at retail, you like people.
Sometimes we get people, and you have to tell them to keep their smile going. Sometimes they just might not understand the policy. So we look for people who are just retail people, people who like people and people who like the product. We tend to get some college students a lot of times that work here. I’ve had some folks working for us for quite a while as well.
What was your favorite experience in the past 16 years of working here?
Probably helping a woman buy her first toy. She was in her 60’s. And her husband was ill and she was tearful and everything. So just helping her get her first toy. It was very hard for her, she felt like she would be cheating on him. But he was ill and infirm and not able to perform anymore. Being able to help her and that kind of thing.
Pleasure Place has two locations: 1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW and 1710 Connecticut Ave, NW. Price range is pretty doable for anyone, low and high end products. The sales associates are ready and willing to help you out so go stop in!