I told her that sounded good to me, and within minutes she’d discovered The Tool Shed. Reading the small description, female run, seminars, body conscious, quality selection, this sounded right up our alley. We threw the address in the GPS and before long we found ourselves in a college town feeling neighborhood, parked in front of The Tool Shed.
Stepping into this place, I was greeted with the same kind of atmosphere I’ve really only felt at one other sex toy shop, The Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis. Where most old school toy stores feel like you’re in a liquor store or gas station (or worse, truck stop) and most popular toy stores copy the Lover’s Lane model, with harsh fluorescent lights and an almost K-Mart display style/layout, there’s a distinct welcoming feeling to your better sex toy shops. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that one of the things these better shops all share is the words “female owned and operated.” Where for decades it was seedy men down seedy streets in seedy stores with no windows selling you beige vibrators in paper bags, this new wave of toy shops right away tell you that you needn’t feel dirty shopping here.
Warmly lit, ambient light, nice displays. When we arrived there were two hetero couples and a lesbian couple in the store, all three couples had items in their hands, and each were asking questions of the clerk. We took our time, looking at every display. Their book collection was expansive, and as we browsed we noticed several favorites. (Opening Up, and others)
On their vibrator display were many LELOs, several Fun Factory vibes, and even a number I hadn’t seen before.
Their dildo area was a monument to phalluses. Marilyn and I happily identified the Vixen creations we had at home, and marvelled at some of the more massive ones. At the top of this double-sided collection were three DVDs about male anal play, including Bend Over Boyfriend, and both Expert Guide to Pegging and Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men by Tristan Taormino. I asked the clerk if she noticed this trending with her customers, she replied that she believes the stigma is going away and frequently has couples in asking about male butt play.
I noted that the store was laid out in levels of advancement. When you walk in, you’ll find lingerie, then the books, then vibrators. Moving on down the line, the men’s masturbators, the dildo selection and lubes, then around a corner, the bondage gear, the floggers, the Liberator shapes.
It was in the bondage section that Marilyn’s eyes lit up in that oh so special way, especially when she noticed that the rope was on sale. Twenty feet of black and twenty feet of blue. But the real find here was a row of locally hand-made paddles. That look again came over Marilyn and I knew that there was no way we were leaving the store without one of these paddles. We bought the big one.
The Tool Shed was exactly what we could’ve hoped it would be. A friendly and welcoming space, one that makes you feel comfortable and free to ask questions. I was happy to see everybody in there with a smile on their face, and asking questions to the clerks. No one had that deer in headlights look of customers you see at your less reputable sex toy shops.
These female owned and operated sex shops are a phenomenon all around our country, and their number is growing. I was happy to hear that they count themselves as part of a community with other shops like Chicago’s Early To Bed and of course The Smitten Kitten, where they can trade ideas and notes and recommendations. They reach out to their communities, with the goal of showing everybody that sex needn’t be seedy.
I’m so glad we had an opportunity to stop by there, and now there’ll be another spot on my Milwaukee checklist for the next time I make the trek.
Does your community have an exceptional sex shop? Let us know in the comments.