How long has A Little More Interesting been open?
What was the incentive to open it?
A couple of things happened. My father-in-law got prostate cancer and didn’t want to have the full surgeries because of erectile dysfunction. The doctors are recommending a life-saving thing and he’s worried about what? Then it started hitting me what a huge impact sex has on our lives. I was a Wall Street investment banker so my background is varied. I taught mergers and acquisitions. I like strategy and opportunity. But this one I was like “most people’s sex lives are not dirty and disgusting and sleazy and gross.” Most people it’s one of the most positive parts of their relationship but it’s usually the part that we feel the most unease with. I realize there’s this big gap more than anything in education. Originally I partnered with a man who has a PhD in human sexuality and then my husband and I went down to San Francisco and trained in clinical sexology. We didn’t finish the degrees because we didn’t need them but what we took out of it was that educational aspect. If you look around like that book What’s Happening to My Body? When people come in we talk about talking to kids about sex. Develop an age appropriate working knowledge of proper sex. I also have a huge issue with porn. I hate the way porn is teaching people to have sex. From a physiological point of view we’ve moved away from skin-on-skin contact. But I didn’t understand all this and I couldn’t even say the word clitoris when I opened.
Oh god no. I’m about as straight and as boring and as vanilla as it comes. And I think that has always been an advantage. We’ve always taken a premise that you don’t have to swing from the ceiling. Look if you want to swing from the ceiling we can help you out we’ve got some great suggestions to do it more safely. But you don’t have to be there. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of intimate vanilla sex life. So we cover the whole gamut without making anybody feel inappropriate.
So it’s a welcoming and clean environment?
Yeah. It’s interesting because I opened it for women. The whole concept was I wanted to give women an option where they didn’t feel gross and sleazy or whatever. We were open a month and the number of men who came in and said “oh what a relief it is to walk in here.” I hadn’t realized I had made a number of stupid assumptions when I opened but one of them was that men were okay with the sleazy hood-up porn stores. That’s why if you go through here there’s never any packaging. We’re really careful that there aren’t pictures and Hollywood perpetuations about what sex should look like. The other thing is that I wandered into a sex store long ago and I walked in and I was like “I have no idea what to do with a single thing in here.” The Calgary Herald when they wrote an article I called it the great wall of penises. You know that wall where you walk in and there’s like a great wall of penises? When people walk in here they don’t want to know what we sell they want to know why we sell it. Why do we carry massage oil? That because the average sex act in Canada is 11 minutes. It takes a full 15 minutes for female arousal. Foreplay is a transition from daily life into arousal for optimal sex. That’s why we sell massage oil. Why do we sell things that vibrate? Well here’s the vibration that works for a clitoris here’s the vibration that works for the G-spot. We keep bringing it back to psychology and anthropology. We talk more about bonding.
Do you do workshops as well?
I haven’t in a bit and it’s just because I have four kids.
There’s a strong focus on healthier products as well right? When you talk about the big wall of penises a lot of those are toxic.
Every other industry is regulated. So phthalates have been pulled out of every other industry including pet toys and they still exist in sex toys. Not only are they off-gassing but they’re porous which means bacteria builds up. We could carry a lot more products but it would mean moving down into sub-quality products. Whenever something new comes in our manager Danielle flame-tests them. So our silicone stands up to flame. She actually spends time burning all of our new products. And they shouldn’t burn if they’re medical-grade silicone. Every once in a while we’ll get a product through even from some tried-and-tested manufacturers and we’ll get a series of returns on it and we’ll pull the product. We warranty everything in the store. Nobody wants to buy a toy and then have to trudge into a store and bring it back.
Do you have a type of clientele or is it all over the map?
It really is all over the map in terms of gender in terms of orientation. Often we don’t ask what people are doing so we don’t know.
Well that’s part of the experience — you don’t really want to be peppered with questions about your sex life.
No but it’s absolutely amazing when you come in here how much people open up and ask questions. I had a girl in here who was in her early 20s a couple of weeks ago. We got into an area and you could just watch the body language change and you knew you hit on something. She said “can I ask you a question?” I said “yeah.” She said “I’ve asked my friends and they say I’m not normal.” And she told and it was something that about a third of the female population does. Just the massive relief that came over her because she was so horrified and embarrassed because she thought she was alone. We allow people to ask questions and the staff are trained to answer what they can and to refer out for what they can’t and to pause and get proper answers.
You have two stores now. Are there plans to expand?
Generally but it comes down to leasing. It’s tough because a lot of places where we can get leases we don’t want to be there. I have a bigger problem with neighbours because I don’t want to be beside the pawn shop or whatever. You asked us about our demographic there’s a lot of everybody. At this time in the afternoon we get a ton of moms. In the evenings we get a few more men. I would say most people who come here are probably seven-plus years into a relationship. Every time I say a demographic something else comes up. We don’t have one. But we did open the door to the mom demographic that hasn’t necessarily been opened before. It was the realm of the home party thing where they didn’t feel confident to go into a store.
So the sex toy parties or the old Consumers Distributing catalogue?
Oh that was awesome. I’ll tell you a funny story. I was a gymnast growing up and every year I put on my Christmas wish list the massager [from the catalogue] because I was always stiff from gymnastics. I’ve never asked them but my parents must have killed themselves laughing. Every year I circled that “back massager” and I never got it.
Maybe they weren’t so surprised when you opened this store.
Exactly! If only they’d gotten me the Consumers Distributing back massager maybe I wouldn’t have the need for 50000 of them. You’re too young for Consumers Distributing.
I’m older than I look. I remember circling things at Christmas.
Did you ever circle the vibrator?
I never circled the vibrator. I was more interested in Transformers and whatnot.
Now you’ve brought up a childhood event.
Well what do your kids think of all this?
My boys are 10 and this has now become nasty. That’s the word they use: nasty. It doesn’t come home. It’s like anything else. I spent two hours here on Saturday with a cancer patient. If we ever go home with stories it’s those ones where we make a difference. Because we know we make a difference we make a huge difference with cancer patients with pelvic floor physios with the ones that come in from relationship counsellors. The ones where we spend dedicated time with them. So our kids know that side. We do talk about age appropriate things. I have two girls and two boys so we have What’s Happening To My Body? for boys and girls. As comfortable as we are talking about sex with strangers in What’s Happening to My Body? for girls there’s I think six different shapes of vaginas and after we brought home the book she comes downstairs and she said “Daddy I’ve been looking at this book and I think I have this vagina.” My husband is like “Nooooo! I can’t do this!” To his credit he just said “that’s nice.” We say that there’s a vagina and there’s an elbow and there’s no taboo. We don’t want there to be a taboo because we know if there’s no taboo and they’re properly educated they’re less promiscuous they go on to have better sex lives. We live the stats but it’s still…. They don’t understand the concept at this point and nor should they. They’re not ready for this and we more talk about the emotional side of relationships.
What’s popular? Do you sell more books or toys or lingerie?
The toys will probably always be the top. We have people come in and read the books and we encourage that that’s why we have couches. I tell people all the time to sit down come in and get ideas. But books are probably one of the least in terms of what we sell but I think they’re one of the most important things we sell because it’s back to real proper education. I never wanted to open up a lingerie store. I felt like lingerie perpetuated that Hollywood stereotype of what you should look like. I didn’t want to be the store that said you had to be a single body type. We talk about every body being beautiful but not every body is the same. So we carry different things for different sizes and we carry up to XXXXL. I refused to open the lingerie side until we could stock that entire gamut. We really try to bring in something for all of the different bodies.