Good Vibrations has been around since 1977, a feat not many sex toy shops can boast. Many believe it’s because Good Vibrations isn’t your average sex toy shop.
Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations in the Mission district of San Francisco, in a storefront no bigger than a walk-in closet. Her store, unlike other adult retail stores at the time, was bright clean, and both male and female friendly. Blank sought to create an atmosphere where people could just openly share their questions about sex–no shame or secrecy necessary–and she succeeded.
Today, Good Vibrations has locations all over the Bay Area and one in Brighton, Massachusetts. Go into one and you’ll be greeted by a well-lit, well-organized store with a very well-informed sales associate who’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. If you’re lucky, you’ll be in their store on Polk St. in San Francisco which houses the one-and-only Antique Vibrator Museum.
I chatted with their Product and Purchasing Manager, Coyote Amrich this past week. She told me Good Vibrations only aims for the best vibrations.
Q: What exactly do you do for Good Vibrations?
A: Essentially what I do is curate our entire inventory. I do all the product selection we sell through our store and wholesale line. And I coordinate branding for these products: production, design, etc.
Q: What is that like? I’m sure being a product manager at another store is completely different than what you’re doing.
A: Well I’ve been doing it for ten years and I’ve been with the company for twelve. It’s been a really amazing decade. There’s been so many changes in the industry and it’s super interesting! We get to see the products before they come to market, sometimes we get to give advice or suggestions on how it could better serve customers.
The product development piece is really interesting because we get to bring our own design to the market, like different formulas for lotions or different dildo shapes. And that’s really satisfying to create something off our extensive experience from the industry and see it on the market.
Q: How does the testing for the products go?
At this point, we try to have everything tested by somebody in the company–it sounds like something that would be the butt of the joke but we really do it in a professional manner. We’re all co-workers here and we want people to be comfortable. So we ask people to review products to what is positive and negative about it. What do they like about it, what don’t they like about, what do they think the customers will like about it? You know, if the product is marketed as a G-Spot toy but it’s not shaped like a G-Spot toy, then we won’t carry it.
We really ask our sales associates to undergo extensive education from our staff in our education department so when they’re giving their input they give really expert reviews.
Q: It seems like the education aspect is really unique to Good Vibrations. Would you say so?
A: I think it is in many aspects and not in others. We’ve been around for thirty eight years, that’s a long time, and we’ve inspired a whole category of stores that have opened. Through who we were, we really encouraged access to education–this is all before the internet where people could just Google “sex toys” or “what is cunnilingus”. Back then, it was really about grassroot messaging and getting more stores to open where we weren’t, and those stores that opened in our image have a familiar construct.
So I think when we were first starting in this industry we were incredibly unique. I still think there are several things that set us apart and always will set us apart. We have a staff Ph.D sexologist, a full education department that is both internal to us and external; we talk to schools in the Bay Area and beyond.
Q: You mentioned you joined Good Vibrations about twelve years ago, so before that have you ever worked in any sort of business related to sex before?
A: I had not. I did have the luck actually to know people in the business who did. I had an aunt who was a dancer and she was a big role model for me in terms of being open-minded to new experiences. I also had friends who worked at adult stores. I had friends who were very sex-positive and open to sex so all of that really prepped me for this work.
Q: How did you start working at Good Vibrations? And why’d you stay?”
A: My friend had a temp position that needed to be filled and he was a manager and he was like, “Well, your resume is fine, I can totally hire you for this temp position.” And once I was working for the company, I fell in love with us. I fell in love with our mission, I fell in love with how we touched people’s lives, how we change people’s lives, and the positive work we were doing in the world of encouraging pleasure, of giving people permission to experiment and be their true sexual selves.
Q: How did you change people’s lives?
If I were working the customer service center, on the phone, I’d talk to people from all over the country, and they all were needing someone to help them find a product that would help them enhance their sex life with themselves, with a partner, after surviving cancer, after going through a divorce. There were just so many people who needed help and who needed the permission to experience pleasure in their bodies.
Just talking to these people and seeing the amazing impact we have in their lives, I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else.