|photo by Wes Naman, Local IQ|
Local IQ - Sex in the open
Unique Albuquerque business works to demystify sexuality and build an inclusive atmosphere that serves the community
By Hannah Reiter
Self Serve is not your traditional adult toy shop. Owners Molly Adler and Matie Fricker have gone to great lengths to ensure local sexual education and pleasure seekers an experience completely different from that which other Albuquerque retailers offer. With an award-winning business model, years of experience and unmatched passion, Adler and Fricker have made a living transforming sexual education and pleasure in Albuquerque over the past five years.
“We loved the idea of creating a space that any adult can walk in and feel safe and comfortable and find resources,” Adler said of her business philosophy. “Across the board, we try to lead with the message that sex is healthy and pleasure is good for you. And having some education around how and with whom you have sex is the best way to ensure that,” Fricker added.
The owners of Self Serve have succeeded in crafting that space. The store’s atmosphere is warm, inviting and very hands-on, and Fricker and Adler are personable, welcoming and exceptionally knowledgeable.
Hailing from Boston with backgrounds in public health and social justice, respectively, Adler and Fricker decided six years ago over a bottle of wine that they wanted to tackle the peaks and pitfalls of owning their own business. At the time, Adler was managing an adult boutique, while Fricker was debating a future in law. “I could go into debt for law school or I could go into debt to start a sex shop,” said Fricker.
Ultimately they decided that owning their own business would allow them the freedom and forum to pursue their passions and make a difference in a community that was lacking a “sex-positive” message. After a year of struggling to secure funding, the two were finally able to make the move to Albuquerque and open shop in 2007.
So why did these two Boston natives choose Albuquerque, of all places, to open an adult boutique? Lots and lots of research. “While there is a lot of conservative history and religious culture,” Fricker noted of Albuquerque, “there is also a very open-minded population and a high density of same-sex households. We found a very clear ‘live-and-let-live’ attitude.”
It’s that tolerant attitude from the community and a unique approach to business that has allowed Self Serve to stay afloat, even in this tough economy. As well as selling adult toys and accessories, Adler and Fricker offer a full-on adult resource center, the core of which is education. Self Serve holds at least two classes a week on everything from how to talk to your kids about sex, to the art of burlesque dancing, to massage techniques for couples and sex for aging people (for a full list of classes offered, visit selfservetoys.com).
Community outreach is also a fundamental piece of the Self Serve business model. “There are two main ways we partner with the community. One is within our neighborhood. We’re active with the Nob Hill business association and Nob Hill Main Street. The other way is through donations to and support of sexual health and wellness in the community,” Adler said, noting that her business does events and fundraisers for such organizations as New Mexico Aids Services, The Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood and the state Department of Health.
Fricker also talks to youth at the New Day Shelter once a month about sexuality and empowerment. While the program is controversial, Fricker explained, “It immediately lowers their risk factors. If you just say to teenagers, ‘Sex shouldn’t hurt,’ it changes everything.”
While Fricker and Adler teach many of the classes at Self Serve themselves, they also import local and national instructors to ensure that their seminars are well-rounded, in-depth and fun. For Valentine’s Day they will host a free chocolate and body treat tasting event. “It can be part of your Valentine’s Day activity,” Adler said. “The store will be open till 9, so grab an early dinner or cocktail, then come in after.”
While some may be intimidated by the idea of walking into the shop for a class or consultation, or to buy adult toys, rest assured that Adler and Fricker have designed an experience meant to comfort the nerves of anyone, whether novice or expert.
“We are very serious about being inclusive and having a space that has resources, products and answers for men and women, straight and gay, transgender, young and old, single and married and divorced. All of the above,” Adler said.