Alison Nowak, the marketing director and general manager of the Minneapolis store, feels that Smitten Kitten will serve a need that other stores in Denver do not already meet. “I think we are unique in what we offer. There are some places [in Denver] there that sell some of the same toys that we do but they don’t have the same sort of feeling or the same sort of educational focus that we do,” Nowak said.
The Smitten Kitten’s employees are not simply cashiers, but are trained sex educators. Many of them graduated from four year programs in women’s studies or similar disciplines. Aside from frequent workshops on safe and effective sex, the staff members make themselves available to answer questions about the toys and about sex in general. Their website has both a phone number and an e-mail link for customers who need advice but don’t have time to stop by. “There are not a lot of places to get adult sex education in general especially not in a casual manner for free,” Nowak said, “I think the more people who present that sort of agenda, the more open society can become.”
When choosing to open in Denver and in Minneapolis, The Smitten Kitten had to take zoning laws into considerations. In cities that prohibit minors from entering stores that sell pornographic materials, the entire layout of the store would have to change. Currently, tester models of every toy in the store sit on shelves so that customers can get an accurate idea of the toy’s size and intensity before buying. “In a lot of cities, we’d have to have a back room with the toys in it and then have something like lingerie up front. If we opened a store in Saint Paul, that’s what we’d have to do and it’s just city by city. It’s really important to us that we aren’t hiding the toys in the backroom because the point to us is that it’s not a shameful thing that needs to be hidden,” Nowak said.
Nowak believes that people of all ages can decide for themselves whether or not they are comfortable entering The Smitten Kitten. “I feel like if you’re not ready to be in this store, you’re not going to want to stay in here. But if you are a teenager and you are already having sex then I think you deserve to have a place where you can buy condoms and ask safer sex questions without judgment.”
In their attempts to expand their reach and educate more people about safe and positive sexuality, The Smitten Kitten chose a location with a very similar demographic to Minneapolis. Nowak says that Denver’s political leanings were not among the factors weighed in the decision. “I think that there is sort of an idea that conservative people don’t have sex, but they do,” Nowak said. “We consider ourselves to be a store that is open to everybody, so we hope that people of all political views and walks of life will choose to shop here.”
To encourage inclusiveness, The Smitten Kitten does not make assumptions about who will buy which toys or who will attend which workshops. “We definitely have topics that would be of interest to the LGBT community. We’ve taught various anal sex workshops and strap-on workshops but we feel that your gender and your sexuality doesn’t determine what kind of sex you have, so our workshops are open to everybody,” Nowak said.
Located in a popular tourist area of the city, it’s hoped the Denver store will attract tourists from out of town as well as Denver residents. On April 22 through 25, The Smitten Kitten celebrated its grand opening in Denver with giveaways and a party on April 24.
“We’ve had really positive response,” Nowak said. “Denver seems pretty open to having us which is pretty exciting.
For a full schedule of workshops and a catalog of toys, visit smittenkittenonline.com.