A search of “adult toys” on Amazon.com returns more than 300,000 results from a variety of categories and products ranging from games and bondage gear to vibrators and lingerie. Delivery to your doorstep is fast, easy and discreet.
In the heart of the massive online retailer’s growing Seattle campus sits Fantasy Unlimited. Its small, flashing sign out front promises, among other things, “the largest selection of lube in the city” — and a 20 percent discount for Amazon employees.
One Amazon worker told us that his mom, visiting the new offices downtown, told her son not to venture in there.
Retailers trying to lure workers from large nearby businesses is neither a new nor a surprising tactic. Small businesses often survive and thrive by catering to foot traffic from larger neighbors. But the scale with which Amazon is remaking Seattle is unique, and the juxtaposition is striking when you view its towering glass office buildings just across the street from a low-slung, triangle-shaped building with lingerie mannequins in the windows, sex toys on the shelves inside and a strip club in the basement.
Many retailers fold when facing Amazon’s ability to sell just about everything. But this adult entertainment emporium — in the shadows of the online retailer’s new Seattle office complex — is hanging in there.
On a recent weekday afternoon visit, a friendly clerk stood watch over the store from a checkout desk near the front. She said she’s waited on some Amazon workers who have indeed asked for the advertised discount. When asked if she’s ever seen how much adult merchandise is available on Amazon.com, the clerk said, “I love shopping on Amazon. But it’s nice to see stuff in person, to touch it.”
One particularly techie piece of merchandise with a dedicated display space is the We Vibe couple’s vibrator, which is billed as a top-selling item on a sign in the store window and — for those who love to bring their smartphones to bed —can be controlled with an app. The item sells for $149. In the online Love Boutique, run by parent company Deja Vu, the price is the same. As with most things, it’s available at Amazon.com and with Prime is about $105.
More than retail
Fantasy Unlimited, on its small but increasingly prime spot just north of downtown Seattle, caters to tech workers who may just write the code or design the user interfaces for web pages peddling items in competition with Fantasy’s brick-and-mortar business. Plenty of retailers know that feeling.
But unless there’s a deep web version of Amazon we don’t know about, we’re fairly confident the company doesn’t sell access to GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS the way Little Darlings does.
The “intimate gentleman’s club in the heart of Seattle” promises a “fun, and exciting atmosphere” and daily specials just a few steps below street level on Seventh Avenue, around the back from Fantasy’s Westlake Avenue entrance.
An electronic sign board that wraps the whole building faces the Amazon complex across the street and says, among other things, “Come in after work.”
On the club’s website, under the events section, a poster is still there promoting a “Nerd Night” held last March. Equations on a white board serve as the backdrop for the poster, featuring a woman wearing an I (heart) Nerds shirt and schoolgirl attire. The event was aimed at Emerald City Comicon attendees, but as the poster stated, all nerds were welcome.
Because our angle here is especially geeky, it should be noted that Little Darlings provides a list of its dancers on its website. Among such traditional names as Jasmine, Ginger, Barbie and Candy, one name caught our attention — Khaleesi. Perhaps “Game of Thrones” nerds would enjoy a visit on a night when she’s on stage — hopefully without dragons.
Art and commerce
At the north end of the block that the Fantasy “complex” sits on, a 3-story brick building butts up against the store and club. The bottom floor and basement are home to A/NT Gallery, an artist-run, not-for-profit space that is looking for a new home. A “For Lease” sign hangs in the front window next to paintings.
Lonny Johnson, acting president of A/NT, said that all 23 of the gallery’s years at Westlake Avenue and Lenora Street have been spent as a close neighbor to Fantasy Unlimited and the adult entertainment business that pre-dated it.
In the quiet basement gallery where a variety of photographs and paintings hang, Johnson says he never hears the music from the strip club. “They’ve been a great neighbor.”
Just around the corner from it all, you literally step out of the shadows of Amazon to face the sun looking west on Lenora. Before you get to Sixth, steelworkers are busy building the giant biodomes at the base of new Amazon office towers.
“Those things are going to be crazy,” says a construction worker looking over at the futuristic spheres taking shape. Further north, blocks beyond Amazon land that was once a Toyota dealership, the Space Needle is visible.
Many workers on foot in the neighborhood wear the ubiquitous blue ID badges signaling that they are Amazonians. None appear to enter Fantasy Unlimited or Little Darlings on a weekday afternoon an hour or so past lunchtime. The “shop now” sign promising them 20 percent off is part of a rotation of promotions via the video display out front. “Live nude peeps” are also promised along with an adult theater that welcomes couples, those GIRLS at the strip club and that lube inventory that is allegedly the city’s biggest.
For the record, in the lubricants section of Amazon.com’s sexual wellness category, 11,333 results appear.