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"Sex-positive" shop soon to open in downtown Iowa City

BY JORDYN REILAND | NOVEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Two Iowa City women have found space downtown to open a "sex positive" boutique.

Julia Schaefer and Madison Montgomery said the idea came after a late-night conversation about opening a sex friendly shop in Iowa City.

"This year, early spring, Madison and I were talking about how strange it is that Iowa City being fairly liberal and a college town doesn't have a good feminist, sex-positive shop," Schaefer said. "That kind of snowballed into us deciding to start one."

The pair plan to open the store, Toolbox, in early to mid-December. The shop will contain a variety of items including books which cover feminism, gay and lesbian topics, how-to, a selection of toys, as well as jewelry.

The store will have sections exclusive to the 18 and older crowd, while the rest of the store will be open to all ages.

Though they have secured a space on 128 1/2 E. Washington St., above Jimmy John's, they faced local resistance in their search earlier this year.

"Our biggest issue was dealing with landlords who didn't want to the type of shop we were planning, or they just didn't hear us out all together," Schaefer said.

However, the owners said city officials have been positive about the recently acquired space.

"The city hasn't been an issue, [and] the community has been supportive." Schaefer said.

City Councilor Connie Champion said she was glad Schaefer and Montgomery found a place to open.

"Any retail is healthy for the downtown," she said. "Finding a location is always difficult… It's hard to find downtown spaces."

Schaefer and Montgomery also had problems early on establishing an account with a bank.

"We currently bank with University of Iowa Community Credit Union, and it has been cooperative," Schaefer said.

The Toolbox, like other businesses, had to follow business specific rules and regulations. One of the regulations says if a business is in downtown, the floor space covered cannot be anymore than 25 percent adult products.

"It's not exactly defined as to what adult would entail, it's sort of whatever you think fits into that," Schaefer said.

Montgomery said the goals for the store are to create an open and welcoming environment for people to purchase products and gather in the community.

"It'll be a resource for obviously products that aren't offered in Iowa City," Montgomery said. "It's important for Iowa City to have a place, we don't have anything like it."

Nick Arnold, the executive director of Downtown Association, said there are no different processes or regulations for the business if they wished to join the association.

"Any business is open as long as it is operating legally and in good standing," Arnold said.

In order to join the association, businesses must fill out an online application and pay a $250 fee.

Montgomery said they have not thought about joining the association at this time.

"We haven't considered it; it's something we'll talk about," Montgomery said.

Overall, Schaefer and Montgomery said their No. 1 priority will be providing an informative and caring environment for their customers.

"It's really important to have a business in which people who care are providing information and helping people be comfortable," Montgomery said.


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