“Can I help you today,” Dee Conrad asks the middle-aged couple who walked hand-in-hand into her store on a recent Saturday afternoon.
The couple responded quickly, “Oh, we’re just looking around,” the woman told her. “We’ve driven by many times, but we’ve never stopped.”
Conrad, the manager of Adultmart on Mcknight Road flashed a big smile, replying, “Oh, we’ve got a couple of virgins here!” Conrad chuckles and the couple laugh as she continues to help them make their first trip to the adult toy store a fun and memorable one.
This is not the sex shop of old, far from it. When some people think about the old “adult bookstores,” like the ones that were chased off of Liberty Avenue and other locales downtown more than a decade ago, they think of unsavory, faintly lit dens of iniquity where strange guys in trench coats walk in with hats pulled over their eyes looking for god knows what.
But today’s adult toy stores are nothing like that, and even those from the old days weren’t as bad as most people (many of whom never even stepped foot inside) believed. Adultmart is a woman-owned business headquartered in Cleveland. Rondee Kamins bought the company nearly 20 years ago from her father and has been in the adult industry for more than 35 years.
This store and the and the chain’s 37 other stores across the midwest are welcoming retail stores with a wide-array of products and an extremely knowledgeable staff. It’s a welcoming space that more people are visiting because, quite frankly, attitudes toward sex have changed drastically.
“We do tend to get a bad rap,” Conrad told the Current. “But I feel like people aren’t as shy about sex and about expressing what they want sexually as they used to be. And we’re here to help them with that.”
If help is what you need, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgeable than Conrad. She manages the McKnight store now, but she’s a second-generation Adultmart employee. Her mother worked at a downtown location 20 years ago and alerted her daughter about a job opening at the Condom Nation next door; she’s been here ever since. Her breadth of knowledge about new products and trends in the industry make her an invaluable guide through this world.
When the aforementioned couple has a question about flavored lube, Conrad is right there to help. “Does this tend to be really sticky?” the woman asks. Conrad explains that because it’s a sugar-based product it’s bound to be a little “tacky.” But just like Costco or Sam’s Club on a Saturday, you can easily get a free sample. As the woman tastes the cherry-flavored lubricant, Conrad tells her, “I think you’ll enjoy this. Don’t let a little stickiness deter you from throwing back a good time!” The couple laughs and a short time later they leave with the lube and a couple of adult DVDs (yes some people to buy their porn in DVD form).
“People don’t want to buy everything online,” Conrad said. “Some of these items can be pricey. You should come in, get a feel for what you’re looking for. There are so many different options for everything and there’s a right toy out there for everyone. My job is to talk to them and help them figure out what it is.”
The store carries toys for every purpose: vibrators for women, new devices that use suction known as Pussy Pumps (in vibrating and non-vibrating varieties) to stimulate the clitoris and the vagina, masturbators for men, bondage gear, butt plugs, strap-ons for women to use on women and strap-ons for women to use on men, also known as pegging.
“People are more adventurous these days, especially when it comes to anal. There are a lot of different products out there that do different things and we help people find the right product for them. And then we have our regular customers who’ve come in and have bought the same butt plug for the past 20 years. They don’t want to change and we don’t want them to,” Conrad said pointing to a package labeled “classic butt plug,” with a red, white and blue packaging. Adultmart also carries its own line of toys known as Explorotica, which can take care of every sexual desire someone might have.
And no desire or fantasy is off limits for conversation in the store.
“I love my job, this is a judgement-free zone,” Conrad says. “I love that people are into all kinds of different things. You should never yuck someone’s yums.”
But regardless of what you’re into, Conrad says there is one piece of advice that she gives everyone: “Listen to me, everyone likes to think there’s always a gusher down there, but I tell everyone, no matter what you’re into, lube is your best friend!”