Feb. 8 2012 04:55 PM

San Diego sex shop owner says business has never been better

Bill Freyer says he's added almost 2,000 new products to the expanded adult-toy room.
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Buying your butt plug privately online and having it shipped in a nondescript box right to your front door has its appeal. But Bill Freyer, cofounder of North Park's Pleasures & Treasures, likens shopping online for adult toys to shopping online for shoes.

“You don't know what the fit's going to be if you buy them online,” Freyer says. “Especially toys, lingerie—you need to see it, feel it and find out if it's right for you.”

Last year's Cyber Monday marked the biggest online shopping day on record, according to digital-marketing-intelligence firm ComScore, but Freyer says the online sex-shop market hasn't had much of an impact on his brick-and-mortar business, which he's been running with his partner, Tim Melodick, for five-and-a-half years.

In fact, Freyer says, despite the rise in online shopping and the overall economic malaise, the sex-shop business has never been better. In June, Freyer and Melodick moved their shop from a cute, 1,000 square-foot cottage on University Avenue to a spacious, 5,000-square-foot storefront down the road at 2525 University Ave.

“This is the big showroom here,” Freyer says, showing off the new digs. “We actually have a women's department up here in the front corner now, and we didn't have room for that before.”

The adult-toy room is so big now that they've added almost 2,000 new products— more vibrators, more bachelorette-party favors, more lube, more dildos, a large supply of leather goods and massage oils and more. Upstairs on the mezzanine level, Freyer and Melodick have launched a new art gallery where they show local artists' risqué work.

“But we do focus more on the erotic art—not x-rated but erotic,” Freyer says, walking through an exhibition of Béla dornon's photos. “A lot of people don't understand the difference between that, but there is a difference.”

Alongside the gallery, Freyer and Melodick have reserved half of the upstairs space for community meetings and workshops. Since moving into the new building, they've hosted a free workshop every month. On Feb. 21, they'll be teaching folks all about “electrical play."

And, still, there's room left for a boot-blacking station; the owners have been renting out the mezzanine gallery and workshop space for special events, and sometimes they bring in a shoeshine to polish people's shoes and boots as a sort of party favor.

“We have a lot of people who are in the leather community who wear boots all the time,” Freyer explains.

The secret to running a successful sex shop, Freyer says, is maintaining a clean, well-lit, sleaze-free atmosphere (no video booths); making sure the staff is well-versed in every gizmo and gadget; providing great customer service; and helping people relax amid the topic of sex.

“There's no reason to be embarrassed about sex—period,” Freyer says. “But there are a lot of people who don't know how to talk about sex or ask the right question. I know how to coax it out of them.”

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