Words byJay Rowe
Interviews and photos by Andrea Westerlund
At a time when opening a brick and mortar store qualifies as its own category of kink reserved for the most zealous of entrepreneurial masochists, an old business outlier may finally see its moment to shine. Yes, I’m talking about the adult business, a niche market that swells in size if we factor in the burgeoning legal cannabis industry. Once relegated to dimly-lit corners of old factory lots and nearly-abandoned downtown alleyways, the frequently maligned “adult store” or “head shop” may have matured. Gone are the days of watching over your shoulder as you wait to be buzzed in. Even the terror of realizing your Amazon Essentials lube was delivered to your neighbor is a thing of the past. We recently met with the proprietors of four such businesses who believe it’s time to shake the taboo labels of the past and treat adults like the grown-ups they are.
The Kinky Kafé
Daddy Doyenne (they/them) is the creative genius, executive chef, and Dominatrix behind the Kinky Kafe LLC, offering niche catering for almost any event. We got to sit down with them recently and talk about the perks and challenges of launching such a niche business.
Flower Power: How did you get where you are now?
Daddy Doyenne: I’ve always been kind of, like, the black sheep of my family. I was an art student, then I decided to go apprentice at a tattoo shop, and it introduced me to BDSM and polyamory and other things that I was able to explore on my own. I ended up going to culinary school. I was born a black woman, and I’m gender fluid and I had to compete against the boys, and being passed up over and over again. And I’m like, what am I doing wrong? I swore I wasn’t going to work in a kitchen ever again. The pandemic hit and that shut down everything. But that was when the Kinky Cafe came to me. It was kind of like, combine all the things, do all the things together.
FP: Ok, can we get into that? What does the Kinky Kafe do?
DD: Let’s read the Kinky Cafe manifesto. I love it. Finally wrote it, and now I’m like, so proud. “The Kinky Cafe is not only a catering and event business, but we are creating safe spaces for the community to form deeper bonds, express themselves in spirit and sexuality, and to learn to protect themselves and each other. The Kinky Kafe shares the love language of good food made with heart, history, and an aphrodisiac in every dish – that’s true! – While also providing education, safety, and consent culture. We believe in the practice of intentional BDSM or practicing BDSM dynamics in a way that targets traumas and builds self esteem and self awareness in the individual. Our focus is on the BIPOC and LGBTQ plus communities because we believe this practice can help to heal generational and inherited traumas.”
I believe that through exploring BDSM on my own terms and throughout my life in all these different situations and seeing how it affects all of my communities: BDSM, the LGBTQ community, the BIPOC community, the mentally ill, the neurodivergent, all of it. I believe that BDSM dynamics can help teach us how to cope with these things. Consent culture, for one. I feel like when people think about consent culture, they think about it only applying to sexuality and sexual interaction. That’s not true.
I am black, queer, neurodivergent, mentally ill, and also a single mom, and I am at the intersection of every single one of these communities. I would like to see them all protected. And the only way that’s going to happen is if people stop looking away. We are not calling people out. We’re not calling them in. We’re not reprimanding them. It’s okay for you to hold them accountable. It makes you a better friend.
FP: So in your mind, if you had just, like, a magic wand, what does Rochester look like? It sounds like a lot needs to change.
DD: I would really like Rochester to own up to its problems. People just dig their heels in. Use your space to learn and change. I want Rochester to start calling these people out. I want to do something about it while also showcasing all of the talent and all of the great people that are here in all of upstate New York. We have some great LGBTQ and BIPOC people that are performers, artists, cooks, gangsters and they’re neurodivergent, and I just want to bring them together to show people that you can heal through this work.
Dreamy Chick Energy
Sometimes big ideas are born from life’s biggest transitions. A spiritual journey in Sherry Chick’s past led to the end of a marriage and the beginning of a new business. This evolved into Adult Wave, a massive event aimed at bringing together the kink and cannabis communities.
Sherry Chick: I’m an artist and event planner. I started this shibari series and needed a place to show it, so I started Adult Wave. I also wanted to bring the kink and canna community together, and what better way than to have events where everyone can be adults and be ourselves for a while.
Flower Power: What got you interested in that world to begin with?
SC: I’m polyamorous, I’m single, I don’t have a nesting partner, so I get to do what I want to do. My ex and I began to explore the kink community, and then I went on a spiritual journey at least ten years ago, which led to the demise of my marriage, and that’s how I ended up who I am today.
FP: How did you go from a hobbyist artist to “I am a professional artist who sells my work and plans events”?
SC: My breakup with my ex was the turning point of everything. After the breakup, I no longer had a place to do spray paint so I started working with acrylic, and the art just continues to evolve. I also started doing Paint and Sips in people’s homes. And then finally I decided that I needed to form an LLC, and that’s where Dreamy Chick Energy came from.
Now we’ve had the first Adult Wave, and I feel like it’s rolling, we have momentum, we’re going somewhere. And the next one is going to be even larger, we can have 50 vendors and 6 hours worth of workshops in two separate rooms. I’m just super excited about it, and I just want to keep getting bigger.
FP: What kind of workshops can people expect from the event?
SC: The last one we Shibari, Energy Exchange, a couple of different dance [events]. We also absolutely, without a doubt, have to have consent. I am huge on that. And to give people a voice to know when people are consensual as well as someone understanding that they have to give consent. Basics on Impact Play definitely will be there and whatever else I can happen to find.
FP: So what is the experience for visitors and customers coming to the event?
SC: They will be able to go to whatever workshops that they’re into. We’re going to have live music, a clown – and my big thing is that they have to be able to make anatomically correct balloons. And there will be shopping. We are trying to make it fun and something for everybody. And not just people in the kink or canna community either. We will have jewelry makers and other crafts and of course, artists. At the last event, we had a reading by an erotic author, and I’m hoping that she’ll come again.
FP: So you kind of talked about where you saw the events going. You just want them to get bigger. So what’s your big vision? What’s the big party?
SC: It continues to evolve, and I’m not exactly sure where it’s going. At the end of the day, it does come down to money for me, but it’s not what I’m looking for. I really kind of want to do this full time. I want to not have to work for corporate America anymore. I just know that if I can fill up the space with people who are happy to be there and living their best life then I will be successful.
Randy grew up in Hamlin and has a background in drug and alcohol counseling and working in smoke shops. Kristy is a nurse and recent transplant from Humbolt County, CA. Together they bring a ‘Rose Apothecary’ vibe to Monroe Ave, but with silicone dolls and dildos instead of tea and candles. Situated opposite the Bug Jar and Trillium Health, and only a stone’s throw away from the Strong Museum of Play, Medusa’s seems to borrow the best qualities from their neighbors; a little grit, a healthy attitude and plenty of play. We got to speak with the duo and their shop cat, Tiffany, about opening a sex positive shop in Rochester.
Flower Power: How did you guys decide on a sex shop?
Randy: Well, Kristy is an educator, and I have a minor in women’s studies. Adult stores are kind of similar to smoke shops and I really enjoyed doing that, and it was just the right time. She used to work at a sex positive adult store in Humbolt so I kind of took my knowledge, she took her knowledge, and then we kind of just conjoined it.
Kristy: We had gone into a couple of stores just traveling around, and we’re like “wow, this would be really cool to do it ourselves” and really wanted just to provide a space where it’s educational, where it’s safe for everybody to come in.
FP: How has the community been?
K: Nothing but positive.
R: I haven’t heard a bad thing. That was kind of the scary part about opening this. We were worried the city was going to give us trouble. Historically in the 80s and 90s adult stores were a really big problem. Specifically on Monroe Avenue. The knee jerk response from the city was to literally almost abolish any opportunity to open up an adult store.
FP: Can you say more about the education piece? What does the community really need?
K: There’s a lot of different things. So our education system kind of fails us in teaching us basic human anatomy, so we’ll get people into the shop who don’t even know their own anatomy. It’s nice that we have a space where people can just ask questions and we can talk to them about it. Also, the sex toy industry isn’t really regulated, and so we want to make sure that we have toys and stuff that are safe and reliable versus if you just buy online or something like that. Also Trillium brought over information on STD testing and free condoms and things like that. We love trillium.
FP: There is a big difference between a sex shop and a sex positive sex shop. Can you talk a little bit about that?
K: I think that when you look at a lot of adult stores, the demographics that they’re catering towards is usually straight men, or you’ll go into a sex positive store, but it’s, like, feminist, so it’s all women. And we wanted a space where everybody can come in and find something. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, your gender, how old you are, your religion, you can come in and find something.
FP: So what’s next for Medusa’s?
R: We have grandiose plans for the shop. And the only way we can become a bigger part of the community is if you involve yourself. You’re as strong as your weakest link and our links are the community. Come shop. Come support us. We’ll support you.
The slow and complicated legalization of cannabis in New York has begun to open doors for people who would otherwise operate in murky legal territory. Sex workers are no stranger to ambiguous laws, and the team behind Emerald Smoke Entertainment thrives in this gray area. Launched in February 2022 after a split with another group, partners Cat and Blair share their hopes for their growing industry.
FP: Tell me a little bit about your story.
Cat: I do a lot of online modeling, online sex work, brand promotions, and I was contacted last year by the cannabis market. I modeled with them until we ended up going our separate ways in mid February and formed Emerald Smoke. And our team is primarily built of queer, trans, nonbinary sex workers who wanted a comfortable place to learn more about cannabis and share information and destigmatize that as well.
Blair: I’ve known Cat for a while because we’re kind of in the similar spheres of the sex work and modeling. Obviously ever since the pandemic everyone’s kind of been inside, so this has been a really good opportunity to meet some new people. I love cannabis. This is kind of like a way to branch out.
FP: So it sounds like Emerald Smoke has gone through some transformation to get to the point where it is today. Tell me about that.
C: We all wanted to have fun and be cute and smoke weed and get the information out there. You can’t just be involved with cannabis and say it’s not political, because the legalization of cannabis alone is political. We were talking about equity and helping smaller businesses showcase their work.
B: Do we want to talk a little bit about ways that white people in the cannabis community can give back to black and brown community? I know in some of these events where we go to, if you have 20 booths, ten of them should be free or a very low sliding scale. There needs to be some sort of placement of people within that community that are often criminalized and stigmatized. I’m just going to say it: Where’s our bail fund?
Cat: Offer and hold space for black and brown communities. They need their safe places the same way our queer communities need their safe place.
Cat: We want rehabilitation. First and foremost, when cancel culture came out it was for the correct reasons, and being weaponized to what it was really made a lot of people forget that you can get people to reflect and repair problems. If you can’t be honest with yourself about how you’ve perpetuated stereotypes, how do you expect to impact the community in any major way?
FP: Last question. How can people support what you’re doing?
Cat: Honestly, money is great, but at the end of the day we want community building. We want people to really reflect on who they’re buying from, reflect on what they’re doing and where their money is going. Find a smaller business you support. Find black and brown businesses you support, buy from queer people. Make sure you’re doing the work. Selling weed or smoking weed isn’t what we’re about at the end of the day. We’re about being accessible and fair to everybody. Be loud and authentic about it. If you see something and it’s wrong, fucking do something about it.
To mature is to embrace progress and learn and improve from your mistakes. The narrow, cis-male focus of adult businesses in Rochester has yielded to an industry build around inclusion, education, and communication. These four businesses are a cross section of the larger adult market in Western New York, and hopefully an indicator of what’s to come.