The vibe in Oakland's trendy Lakeshore shopping district got a lot sexier this month. We're talking sexiness of the female-friendly, health-positive variety, not the salacious, seedy sort. That erotic upswing came with the January 2 opening of Bay Area-based sex-toy purveyor Good Vibrations' sixth retail space at 3219 Lakeshore Avenue. The new location marks the 35-year-old company's first foray into Oakland, where, according to Events and Publicity Manager Camilla Lombard, the retailer has wanted to set up shop since venturing to Berkeley in 1994.
"We've gotten requests for a store in Oakland for years," Lombard said, adding that the city is "very near and dear" to the hearts of many Good Vibrations employees, some of whom, including members of senior and executive management, are longtime Oakland residents. But such an expansion wasn't always feasible. In 2007, the company faced financial troubles due to increased competition from online retailers. Lombard said Good Vibes was on the brink of bankruptcy before GVA-TWN, a Cleveland-based adult-industry distribution firm, bought the company, and its chief operating officer, Joel Kaminsky, came in and "lucky for us, used some business savvy and some capital and was able to sustain the company and ultimately allow us to grow." (The company has since come under private ownership.)
As was the case with the opening of its downtown San Francisco store in 2010 (smack in the middle of a mainstream shopping district), when Good Vibrations announced its intentions to open on Lakeshore Avenue — an area popular with families and located about five hundred feet from a park — the plan drew resistance from some residents. But opponents were overruled by staunch supporters, and the city's Planning Commission approved a conditional lease for the store last September, giving the company the go-ahead to bring its curated selection of sex accessories and in-store events to the neighborhood, so long as it keeps its window displays PG. That's a requirement that Lombard doesn't foresee as a problem. "We have very discreet storefronts," she said, "and there are plenty of products that we can display in the window without offending anybody."
And so far, plenty have embraced the new sex shop, or, as the company euphemistically refers to itself, the "clean, well-lighted vibrator store." Lombard reported that business has been buzzing ("so to speak"), with one gracious customer even bringing in cookies for the staff. "This is a neighborhood that resonates with the personality of our store," she said. "There are already lots of great boutiques and restaurants, and now you can go to your yoga class, get your organic vegetables, and get your vibrator."
The store celebrates its grand opening on Saturday, January 28, during which Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Kandi Burruss debuts her new line of discreet sex toys, "Bedroom Kandi" (vibrators disguised as lipstick and compact mirrors). Partiers can also snap pictures in a photobooth, spin the "Wheel of Pleasure" to win sexy prizes, and pick up coupons for "Kandi Kiss" cocktails at the revamped Easy Lounge. 6-9 p.m., free. 510-788-2389 or GoodVibes.com
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