The new Tool Shed evolves erotic education
March may be cold, but it's hot and heavy here at OnMilwaukee.com as we celebrate our first-ever Sex Week. We're taking a mature look at local video and sex toy shops, area strip clubs, sexy Milwaukee events -- and even some connections between Brew City and Playboy magazine. It's serious, responsible, adult-themed content -- but don't worry, parents, we'll keep it PG-13 in case junior stumbles upon these stories as OnMilwaukee.com turns a pale shade of blue for seven days.
Moving to a new city is hard, and everybody has his or her own personal relocation checklist: a reputable school system, a moderate climate, a professional football team. Before moving from Boston in 2006, Laura Anne Stuart wanted to make sure Milwaukee had a feminist sex toy store.
Luckily, we did.
With a master's degree in public health and five years experience as a sexuality educator at MIT, Stuart came to Milwaukee to work as a health educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Norris Health Center. But it was the existence of independent, women-owned businesses like Broad Vocabulary and The Tool Shed that made her feel at home in a new place.
She immediately began collaborating with The Tool Shed's then-owners Eilis O'Herlihy and Molly Cassidy on various classes and workshops. Three years later, she owns the place.
"It really is my passion. Buying (the store) wasn't in my life plan, but I didn't want it to close," she says about finding out the previous owners wanted to sell the business in 2008.
Stuart relocated the store from Riverwest to its new East Side home at 2427 N. Murray Ave. and the upgraded space has allowed her to expand the business dramatically.
"My background is as a sexuality educator, so one of the reasons I wanted to move into a larger space is because I wanted to do more education programs."
There are classes and workshops on just about everything, from G-spot location (as well as P-spot. That's, uh, the prostate), the female orgasm, single parenthood, polyamorous relationships and the art of kink, hosted by dominatrix Madam Amanda.
Stuart has guest speakers, but leads many of the group discussions. She's heard and talked about it all; there's no question out there that can faze her.
"I don't think of (The Tool Shed) just as a store, I think of it as a community center," she says. "It's a place to open up a dialogue and show people that it's OK to talk about this stuff."
So, don't be shy.
Another benefit of the new location is the extra space, allowing her to grow her inventory of sex toys, accessories, health and beauty products and erotica.
Among her best selling items are the Sliquid organic lubes, an eco-friendly product she'll highlight during her "Greening Your Sex Life" class this Earth Day.
The Sliquid line is paraben-free, a point of pride for Stuart. She ensures that all of her products and toys are free of harmful toxins. It sounds like a given, but sadly, she says, until recently adult toys went completely unregulated thanks to their "for novelty purposes only" tag.
"Five years ago, there was no awareness in the industry about non-toxic toys. A large majority of toys made still contain toxic ingredients like phthalates that are banned in kids' toys and even in pet toys."
All of her vibrators are safely made of 100 percent silicone or elastomer, including one of the store's hottest new items The Sexy Bunny. Remember The Rabbit from "Sex and the City?" This is the new and improved version.
And for music lovers, she's got the new Naughty Nano, a small, sleek vibe that hooks up to your iPod and buzzes along to your songs.
Then there's the rack of environmentally sound rechargeable vibrators that don't require any batteries; one style even plugs right into your computer's USB port.
"If there is one thing that we sell the most of, it's vibrators," Stuart says of her stock, which ranges in price from $9 to $185. "I think that's because we have a lot of female customers stopping in who haven't had an orgasm yet or are interested in enhancing their sexual experience and vibrators will do that. They are good couple toys -- they add a little space. And, I think they are the least intimidating toys. They are cute."
But the Tool Shed isn't just for the ladies. The shop serves all genders, ages and sexual orientations, just as long as you're over 18. It's a great little store that isn't creepy or uncomfortable -- it's beautifully decorated and a safe environment for exploration.
As Stuart says, "We just try to have fun and make people laugh."
The Milwaukee Buzz? A new sex toy from OMC & Tool Shed?
I think a feminist sex toy shop is really at the top of everyone's list when they look to relocate. I wouldn't consider moving until I knew whether or not my new community would have one. I mean, a place to live, a good school for my kids, etc.? That can wait. I would just need my electric love before I could feel settled.
I won't get all mushy like the previous poster but yeah, the Tool Shed is a great shop. It is nice to be able to walk in with your wife & not have a bunch of weird-o's following her around (present company excluded) while we shop for this & that. If only that worthless rag the Shep-Ex would print Laura Anne Stuarts entire column.
We are very lucky as a community to have such a great presence in the erotic/sexual arena as The Tool Shed. Active in both community and business. Very reminiscent of the feel that Good Vibrations in Berkeley/SF gives to it's community. Thank you Tool Shed.
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