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Group Sex News | Ten years, and she hasn't even hit her peak


Ten years, and she hasn't even hit her peak

Brookline sex shop owner talks about her decade in business

Kim Airs loves her job. That sounds like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of joke, considering that she's spent the last decade running Brookline's only sex shop. But all adolescent snickering aside, Airs has an almost profound love of her work.

I want all people to love sex as much as I do, said Airs, owner of Grand Opening!, who Sunday celebrated 10 years of sex toys, lubricants and honest advice with a party at the Cyclorama in Boston's South End. That's all I want. When you're happy in your sex life, boy, does that translate into other parts of your life. You appreciate nature more, you appreciate humor more. It's really incredible how much that filters into other parts of your life.

If the financial performance of Grand Opening! is any indication, Airs' mission - to take some of the giggle factor out of sexual subjects and help people get in touch with their own sexuality - has so far been a success.

We've had a 12 percent net increase every year, Airs said. In retail, double digits is just unheard of.

The store has been so successful, in fact, that last April it officially became a chain with the opening of its West Coast store in Los Angeles. It was a crucial step toward her ultimate dream of a string of stores all across the country.

Now that I've got the store in L.A. people are like, 'Oh, Boston, they're really prudes there,' said Airs, who left an administrative assistant position at Harvard University in 1992 for her first business venture. But you know what? Everybody is doing the same thing. The only difference with Boston and maybe the Midwest is they pull the bedroom door tighter. There are people in the State House that cross-dress, I have no doubt.

As Airs sees it, Everybody's got a dirty little sex secret, and as long as no one gets hurt, it's always best to be in touch with it. Whether it's a fondness for anal sex, group sex or bondage, she said she hopes she's helping to combat the taboo of speaking openly and frankly about sex.

It's like bowing, explains the energetic Airs. You can say, 'Oh, I had the best bowling game last night, the ball went right down the lane.' And that's OK. But if you just put the word 'sex' in there... 'Oh, I had the best bout of sex last night, the ball went right down the lane.' That's not OK. Why? Why is that? That's something that I just really can't understand.

But as dedicated as she is to treating the subject with frankness, she said the secret to Grand Opening's success is respecting each customer's comfort level. Some people, she said, are at ease in the shop, the walls of which are lined with the sorts of things most people hide when their grandmothers come over: porn movies, a vast collection of how-to sex manuals and erotic story collections, and an eye-catching array of multicolored dildos, vibrators and other sex toys.

Other customers are more reserved, whispering their questions to the sales staff.

Everybody has a different comfort level, she explained. And that's part of the reason that Grand Opening has been so successful, because we respect our customers' comfort level.

That respect, she explained, extends to the town in which her shop is located. Knowing Boston's reputation, she wisely sought out a store location that protects the customer's privacy as much as possible. Nestled into a second-floor space in the Arcade Building near Coolidge Corner, anyone climbing those stairs might be on their way to any of a number of second-floor businesses. Her L.A. location, she said, befits that city's more open sexuality: It's located in a store front on heavily traveled Santa Monica Boulevard.

But before any of you sexually liberated readers cry foul over Boston stereotypes, bear this in mind: Many customers of the Brookline shop are undoubtedly more reserved than their West coast counterparts, leading to a booming catalogue business and a growing focus on Grand Opening!'s Web-based sales.

We've gotten orders for UPS next day - that's 25 bucks a whack - to Brookline [addresses], she recounted. People feel uncomfortable making the public statement of walking in to a sex shop.

For Airs, catalog shopping isn't ideal, but she understands the limitations, another example of the respect she tries to give her customers.

The thing that I don't like about mail order, is it might say 8 inches by 2 inches, she said, and that doesn't sound too big. Then you get it home and you're like, 'Oh my.'

But Grand Opening! also takes a hands-on approach to making people more comfortable with the subject of sex. In addition to the wildly popular in-home toy parties, which Airs said account for a substantial portion of her business and help customers learn more about sexual aids, the store offers a variety of classes. The names of them - Take it Off! (a guide to stripping), horny Mama! (a guide to natal and post-natal sex) and Basic Flogging for Urbanites (helpful tips on how to safely whip your partner even if you live in a cramped apartment) - reflect not only the sense of humor Grand Opening! brings to the subject, but the breadth of Brookliners' sexual tastes. And Airs couldn't be happier about it.

That's the thing that I find so awe-inspiring, she said. I've had customers come up to me and say, 'You've changed my life.' I didn't realize it would have that impact, but it has.

Full credit for this group sex news article goes to: Brookline TAB, MA

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