Mother-daughter duo Janis and Amy Baldwin opened Pure Pleasure not just as an adult store, but as a community resource for sex education and positivity.
Studying human sexuality in college can make for some interesting field trips. One such field trip for former San Francisco State University student Amy Baldwin included a trip to an adult retail store.
At the same time, Baldwin’s mother, Janis, was looking for a business investment. She was aiming to do something that helped and empowered women. Knowing this, Amy had a eureka moment on her field trip.
“When I saw that sex shop, I called her right after and said this is what we should do,” Amy says. “We should open a sex-positive adult store that is very female centric. Of course, it caters to everyone, but it’s very welcoming for women. My mom liked the idea—at first she questioned whether or not it was suitable for her, but then we started to work on the concept and it took about two years. My idea, but our co-creation.”
On June 13, 2008, Pure Pleasure opened its doors in Santa Cruz. Since then, the store has flourished as a bastion of sex positivity and sex education through workshops, locally sponsored events and Amy’s “Shameless Sex” Podcast.
“All aspects of our operation support sex positivity,” says Janis. “From the moment a customer walks into our shop, they are in a bright, welcoming environment. We try to avoid product packaging that objectifies people as sex objects and stock a book selection that supports sexual health and well-being. Our in-store sex education offerings also support sex positivity.”
Amy realizes there are a lot of stores that follow the bottom-line model with employees viewed as caretakers and salespeople.
“(Employees) are just selling stuff and not really educating customers on it, and that’s fine,” Amy says. “I think it’s the more common model, but for our model, for people to feel safe for such an intimate thing, education is a really important component of having our staff educated as well as trained in how to speak to people in a way that’s not judgemental and open and accepting.”
It’s no surprise Janis and Amy have instilled acceptance at Pure Pleasure, since the mom-and-daughter duo do run an adult store together. Amy says she was raised to know talking about sex was never a shameful topic.
“My mom really normalized it and let me know I could go to her for anything,” Amy says. “While she’s my mom and there’s definitely a parent-child dynamic, because she became such a close ally of mine through that open communication, she also became a close friend. Because of that relationship, I could go to her and say ‘Let’s open a sex shop.’”
Janis echoes the key word “acceptance,” saying she and Amy have always had a relationship founded on it, as well as tolerance, open communication and unconditional love.
It’s precisely why the mother-daughter dynamic is the same in and out of work. In fact, if not for the fact Amy calls Janis “mom,” in the store, it might be hard to detect the familial bond.
Plus, as Amy’s podcast has taken off, Janis has assumed more of the day-to-day operations. Going on 10 years, Pure Pleasure has only thrived off the relationship between Janis and Amy, and it’s clear they take pride in their store.
“We’re not selling beer and cocktails,” says Amy. “We’re selling pleasure and education to people, so that is really rewarding. Growing up in Santa Cruz and being able to create something we thought was missing here—there were sex shops, but no one doing the workshops or other educational pieces—being the pioneers of bringing that here was very rewarding.”
For more information, visit purepleasureshop.com.