I've walked by the shop a number of times. It's a small storefront in the French Quarter, sandwiched between on one of the less notable side streets. The sign proclaiming "Erotic Cakes and Toys" takes up the whole front window. The shop always looked closed for some funny reason. But on this gorgeous, sunny Saturday I feel compelled to pull open the door and walk in. I'm honestly surprised when the door does open. It's a tiny shope, and there's a huge man behind the counter. He must be over 6'3 and sporting a massive beard. I greet him and walk in a circle through the store, examining the many sex toys lining the walls. It's a cheap collection, packed from floor to ceiling, mostly jelly toys, cock rings, low quality vibrators, very little of note. I probably wouldn't be interested in most anything they had.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?" The man has a very pleasant expression, almost curious. I wonder what he thinks when he sees me.
"I'm ok. Just looking." I pause for a minute to focus away from the wall, back toward him. "Can I ask you a weird question?"
He laughs. "There are no weird questions."
I think he is expecting some sort of sexual question, but that's not on my mind. "How did you get around the permitting and zoning?"
He does look a bit surprised at this question, but answers me quickly. "Well, we're technically a bakery. So it's a non-issue." I know the city enacted a ban on adult novelty stores in the French Quarter years ago, grandfathering in one locally owned leather/toy shop that caters primarily to gay men. There's another store, owned by Hustler, but I assumed they just paid someone off. His answer twists my mind in a different direction. Hustler sells half toys, half lingerie and clothing; maybe they are listed as an apparel business for permitting reasons. That's the secret: there's always a way around the rules, if you think creatively.
"That's an unusual question. Are you looking to open a store?"
I swallow the fear rising in my throat. I find it impossibly hard to express some of my most private and deeply held secrets to anyone, especially a stranger. I waiver on the answer. "Well...possibly. But I had assumed it would have to be outside the French Quarter."
His response floors me. "My wife and I are looking to sell this place in two years, if you're interested." I'm left speechless for a second, stumbling.
"Can I ask why?"
"She's finishing school, and we're not from here. We'd like to move back home."
"I'm not sure I'm equipped to run a bakery."
"Well, that's not necessarily required. You could do something else. But our profits from toys have increased significantly, so if that's what you're interested in... it's there."
We continue talking about the zoning and permitting, rent, their landlord, and other aspects of the business. I get his card, and express my serious interest. As I'm about to turn and walk out, an object hanging from the wall catches my eye. I walk across the shop, to the far side of the counter, and reach out to touch a black and white braided leather whip, about three feet long, hanging from the wall. It looks incredibly out of place in this shop, and I can't help the smile spreading across my face.
"I have this exact same whip. Got it in San Antonio at the Mexican Market. Can't find hand-braided leather like that for so cheap anywhere else."
It's his turn to smile. "A friend of mine gave that to me. It's not for sale." He gives me a look of recognition -- I'd swear it was one kinkster to another.
I feel like it's a sign, from somewhere. "I'll be back." I leave the shop, practically skipping down the street, thoughts swirling in my head. I have few dreams, but one of them definitely involves owning a sex shop.