Tool Box celebrates one-year anniversary


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From retail to education, local business owner Julia Schaefer hopes to continue expanding her business and educating the public.

Schaefer owns the Toolbox, 128 1/2 E. Washington St., a sex-positive shop, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on Dec. 1. The last year brought both support and challenges from the community, but many locals welcome the diversity of downtown businesses.

“I hope to offer more educational venues,” she said. “We started doing classes, and that’s been going really well.”

Schaefer sees education as one of the most important roles the Toolbox plays.

“Education and support are the biggest things,” she said. “It’s amazing how little people know about their own bodies and sex. There’s so much misinformation out there.”

Originally, Schaefer encountered trouble with her landlord when she first tried to lease the shop, but with time, that was cleared up, and she was able to sign it for a second year.

“The landlord has been much better since I moved in,” she said. “They worked with me, and we were able to renew the lease.”

This new year will determine the fate of the Toolbox.

“I need to be able to stay open, to make money, and have this really turn into something,” Schaefer said. “If it doesn’t make money in the next year, I’ll have to close my doors.”

The Toolbox celebrated its one-year anniversary with Mon Teaze, a local hair salon in the same building. Owner Monty Hendricks’ paintings are on display in the Toolbox.

Officials welcome the diversity that the Toolbox provides downtown.

“[The Toolbox] is important because it’s here and it’s thriving,” City Councilor Connie Champion said. “I think people like diversity in Iowa City.”

Geoff Fruin, assistant to the city manager, also supports a diverse downtown.

“What we’re trying to do is create an environment that appeal to many different populations,” he said.

Of those different populations, Schaefer desires to reach out to all of them that are old enough.

“It’s a really wide range,” she said. “That was one of my goals: to be open to everyone of consent age.”

One client believes there is a perceived barrier to shopping at the Toolbox.

“There’s a stigma attached,” Audra King, said. “A lot of people are of the mind that you just don’t talk about those things.”

And Schaefer sees her store as more than a sex shop.

“I would like people to know that it is not just a sex shop,” she said.

Stephanie Brentner, also a friend and client, recognizes the same issue.

“I think there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what this store and what this space is about,” she said.

Combined with education efforts, Schaefer welcomes local artisans to sell their work in her store. One room houses an art exhibit, and the other is filled with handmade and refurbished jewelry.

“I think it’s great that what’s she’s doing is trying to make people feel really comfortable,” King said.

She also believes Schaefer is more than her merchandise.

“She’s doing something good here,” King said. “She’s a small-business owner; it’s a female-owned business — all of the things you just don’t have a whole lot of.”

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