The Sex Shop Goes Upscale
It sits on Second Avenue, between 60th and 61st streets, called out by discreet signage on a wooden block. At first glance, it looks like a hip new restaurant on a very traditional block of the Upper East Side.
On the menu for tonight? "Talk Dirty to Me: Role Play and Fantasy in the Bedroom."
The unassumuing exterior is hiding the newest outpost of The Pleasure Chest, a sex toy boutique franchise that started in 1971 and credits itself with being one of the first companies to sell erotica outside the seedy atmosphere that used to characterize other sex shops.
The new spot opened its doors officially at the end of last year and has garnered quite the buzz, considering it is the only shop of its type in the neighborhood.
"We have a lot of people who walk in and think it's a high-end restaurant until they reach that first bend there and see all the different products and think 'woah!'" said Pleasure Chest district manager Brandon Barling.
Peering around the bend can make for some interesting shopping. An array of books, toys, clothing and furniture all dedicated to and in the name of sex and pleasure is on display. But if you're picturing the skeevy and goose-bump inducing sex shops of downtown, the vibe here is different. "It's a classy upscale, budoir scene," Bartling said.
Think more French courtesan and less 1970s Times Square. The easy-going nature of the place allows first timers to feel comfortable and even have them come back for seconds - even the more traditional residents of the Upper East Side.
"We had these two older women come in together and told me they thought we were a restaurant and left giggling and smiling," Bartling said. "They came back independently and said they did not want to go shopping with their friends."
Prices of the products range from $13 dollar mini-massagers to $15,000 vintage sex chairs, with much in between. Lubricants, vibrators, condoms, bondage mask outfits and whips are some of the more PG-13 rated items in the store.
Although the shop is located on the Upper East Side, the clientele is from all different parts of the city.
In a 15-minute window shopping session, several younger women, a young man, and and older individual with graying hair were seen browsing and purchasing.
"A lot of people assume that it is one specific type of person that comes to this store in particular but it really is a mixture of all types of people whether they be older, men or women, gay or straight, young or old, we serve everybody," Bartling said.
This location is a hotspot for Pleasure Chest fans in the Bronx and Queens, as it is a more convenient commute than the original West Village location.
"Just this morning I helped a resident from the Bronx," Bartling said. "He said the store is so much more accessible to him compared to the ones in the Bronx or Queens where they're scary-looking with the dim lighting and the blacked out windows."
Every week, the boutique features workshops designed to educate fans and newcomers alike on various topics such as BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism), open relationships, and burlesque.
The workshop of the week most recently was on role play.
"The workshop was super informative," said Adriana Andalos, 29, of Soundview in the Bronx. "It put people at ease because of the sensitivity of the topic."
Another attendee who wanted to be called, "Bananas," 22, from Bushwick, Brooklyn said, "I like it because it's a beautiful thing to share with people."
"Our main focus is the community and making sure we are a resource to them not for just what we offer them but supporting various groups that are in line with our mission to promote safer and more pleasurable sexuality," Bartling said.
As for what's on the menu next week?
"Amp It Up: Imaginative Ways to Keep Sparks Flying in Your Sex Play."
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