Twenty-eight years after opening Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium, its owners have embarked on yet another sexually liberating business venture, this time tucked steps away from the hustle of Broadway St at Hemlock.
“What we sell is things that sweeten sex. We make it better,” Jim Deva says of Sweet Adult Boutique, which he co-owns with longtime partner Bruce Smyth.
“I really enjoyed the adult portion of Little Sister’s. I got more and more convinced of the importance of it and the pleasure it creates. The thought of having a second one and trying to make it a little broader in our perspective, and broader in the people that we attract, was very fascinating,” Deva says.
“It’s nice to do something else, and yet it’s the same thing, the same people,” he adds, standing with Smyth among a wide range of lube, adult videos, Baci lingerie, fetish wear, games and other sexy accoutrements during the store’s formal launch on Dec 8.
Deva credits the annual Taboo Naughty But Nice Sex Show, where Little Sister’s has set up a booth since the event’s inception, as the genesis for Sweet Adult Boutique.
But he says it took a few years for people to embrace Little Sister’s presence at Taboo, not to mention what they had to offer.
“I can remember passing out free lube, and a lot of couples asked, ‘What do you do with it?’ They had no idea,” Deva recalls. “I looked at Bruce, and I said, ‘There’s no market here. If they don’t know what fucking lube is, we’re in trouble.’”
Over time, he’s watched people come around, regardless of their sexual orientation. “We were embraced by a whole lot of people that we didn’t really know were friends and allies, and more of them come into the store, and it’s broadened the base of the store,” he says.
It’s that broadened base that Deva is targeting for Sweet.
“We want everybody to come, but the demographic that I can see is women from the age of 22 to 23 to about 45,” he says. “It’s predominantly working women — let’s be real — that are now taking charge of their sexuality and what toys they buy and how they research them and their expectations. Women are in charge; that’s the revolution.”
Deva says lots of straight men also find their way into the new store, and he informs them of the connection with Little Sister’s. “We’ve not had one person freak about it. They all think it’s fun, and we sell a lot of anal toys to straight men.”
At both Sweet and Little Sister’s, the number of strap-ons sold to straight couples far outnumber those sold to lesbians, Deva notes. “That’s how dramatic the change is in both locations.”
While gay people remain on “the frontier of things,” Deva says, the straight community is “catching up with us, and sometimes surpassing us, for sure.”
He doesn’t see Sweet replacing Little Sister’s.
“Little Sister’s is there forever,” Smyth quickly pipes up.
“At least while we’re breathing,” Deva adds with a laugh. “It doesn’t replace. Almost like a vibrator in a good relationship, it complements.”
With Sweet, he doesn’t anticipate a repetition of the censorship battle that Little Sister’s endured with Canadian border authorities. “That is over with now with the accessibility of the internet,” Deva says.
But there were delays in getting Sweet Adult Boutique licensed by the city, he reveals.
“The city still has a very archaic system of licensing adult stores, and it was close to three months to transfer the licence,” he says. “They have very much a 1950s attitude towards adult stores, and it needs to be changed.”
As for his neighbours, Deva says they were “a little bit leery to begin with,” but everybody’s warming to each other. “They kinda get off on what we do.”