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Ottawa’s Venus Envy relocates

New Bank Street digs more accessible, with lots of room for artwork

Venus Envy's new space at 226 Bank St. Credit: Kenny Ingram

Ottawa’s Venus Envy is on the move again — heading to its third location since the beloved sex shop and bookstore first debuted in the ByWard Market in 2001.

Its new space, located at 226 Bank St, was formerly vacant, nestled between The Comic Book Shoppe and Stroked Ego.

“I thought it would take time to nurture, but I was wrong,” says Lara Purvis, floor manager and four-year veteran at Venus Envy.

Artwork now stretches the length of the shop and includes a variety of mixed media, including textiles and photography. Exhibits are planned to change each month.

“We had art in the last location, but we’ve prioritized it in the new space,” Purvis says. “We’re opening up to everyone who wants to submit their artwork [but] intend to prioritize certain groups at times, such as local artists, female, queer and trans artists.”

Purvis says the white walls, tin roof and warm wooden floor give the new location a particular feel. “They allow the toys to catch your eye. The toys are really beautiful and could make a beautiful art piece on their own,” she says with a smile.

Beyond the aesthetics of the new space, it’s also fully accessible. “Nothing is narrower than 36 inches, so wheelchairs can move more freely . . . Our bathroom is also accessible. That’s a big deal to us.”

While most of the furniture and merchandise has moved, some of the store’s book selection had to be cut: “It was fiction you could find anywhere,” Purvis says. “We thought carefully, and the fiction that is harder to find, the fiction that is important to our various communities, we kept.”

Employees were able to salvage a small piece of d├ęcor from their last location on Lisgar Street: 72 silver stars remain part of the front counter. But the iconic spherical sign standing tall in the former parking lot had to be left behind. “It’s not going to end up in a garbage heap,” says Arthur Loeb, president of Ambassador Realty, which owns the sign. “That ball’s been around for a very long time,” he says, explaining that the sign was once motorized and the colourful soap suds that can still be seen on it once spun for a laundromat in the 1970s. Loeb says that the Lisgar property will likely become a mix of retail and residential space but that no work is expected before 2015.

Meanwhile, Venus Envy is offering sales every Friday in January and will celebrate its 13th anniversary on Jan 24 at Babylon.

“Let’s just say our anniversary parties are not mild-mannered,” Purvis says.