Nestled in the basement below Bongz & Thongz, the new adult boutique Get Curious with Safety Girl recently opened its doors to students looking to explore their intimate desires.
The boutique, which provides everything from costumes and lingerie to toys and safe sex products, opened at 119 E. Liberty St. in April to customers 18 years old and older. Though the store opened months ago, it’s now working to promote its services to students, starting with a grand opening costume party this Saturday.
Brown said she opened her first safe sex boutique 20 years ago, but the store closed due to lack of funding. For Brown, opening Get Curious with Safety Girl is a fresh start.
“I feel like this is my second chance,” she said. “No one wants to get rich off of this; we … just want to see it here.”
In addition to using her businesses to promote sexual health, Brown also performed in the public-access sex education program “Getting Curious with Safety Girl.” Brown said she uses her role as a sex educator to help girls boost their confidence.
“When I was starting out 20 years ago, I wish I could have gotten some advice. That’s why I started Safety Girl to begin with,” Brown said. “I love helping to build their confidence, with themselves and their own body. I tell them to explore their body, explore it first (and) be your own best lover.”
Brown said the store has received negative feedback since opening, but she hopes customers will see that it is more than just a sex toy store.
“The most important thing that I think people get out of this (store) is it’s not a red light district porno-shop,” she said. “It is very upscale, classy, and edgy, and (customers) feel comfortable being in here … if you can laugh and giggle and feel relaxed enough to ask some intimate questions … that’s huge. You don’t get that at any other shop around here.”
Brown said while her store has its educational components, it is also a fun way to sell products.
“I’m not going to be in here in a suit and a tie with flashcards,” she said. “I’m going to tell you what my husband and I did last night and why we like this toy.”
Despite the presence of other sex and novelty stores in town, like the S3-Safe Sex Store, Brown said there isn’t a high level of competition.
“I love the Safe Sex Store,” she said. “I’m not in competition with them— I’m not in competition with anyone. I like to spread the love and send customers everywhere.”
BethAnn Karmeisool, the owner of S3-Safe Sex Store and a University alum, said there is room in Ann Arbor for both stores because they reach different audiences. She said she believes both stores will thrive.
“I welcome their business to the downtown area, because their store fills a different need,” she said.
Karmeisool pointed out that unlike Get Curious with Safety Girl, S3 doesn’t sell lingerie.
“I don’t have room for lingerie (because) it is not part of my mission,” she said. “My mission is defined and very narrow. There is a definite need for lingerie in the downtown Ann Arbor area, and that’s a great niche that (Get Curious with Safety Girl) can fill.”
Karmeisool said the main purpose of her business is to inform customers about safe sex practices and the safe use of the store’s products.
“(There is) a need for correct consistent dissemination of sexual health information,” she said. “The main mission of the store is education for the user.”
She added that she believes both businesses aim to provide a comfortable environment for customers, especially when selling a sensitive type of merchandise.
“I think that we can all work together, and people are going to formulate their own opinion based upon the experiences that they have,” Karmeisool said.
LSA sophomore Katelyn Wolffe said she thinks it’s important for these stores to promote safe sex practices, especially on a college campus.
“Even though we are all pretty smart here, there are probably a lot of people who aren’t smart when it comes to (sex),” Wolffe said. “It’s good to have these stores so that people aren’t stupid about it.”
The grand opening on Saturday will feature a DJ, games, tarot card readings, free spankings from a dominatrix, photo shoots with Justus Boyz models, giveaways and bondage demonstrations. There will also be an hourly raffle fundraiser to support First Step, a Wayne County organization that aids survivors of domestic and sexual assault and their families.