The History of Adult Stores: Part I (1962-1977)

Although sex toys have been around for centuries, adult stores have not. Today we see adult bookstores and video stores that sell sex toys, and boutiques that focus mainly on sex toys and lingerie. Moreover, many stores sell products online. And let’s not forget at-home parties. Adult stores, like sex toys, have expanded and have become more accepted not just in the United States, but also in other countries.

I believe adult stores began to appear in the United States due to the sexual revolution and due to various laws being passed. I also believe democratization has caused more adult stores to appear in European countries. In the past few years, at-home parties have become popular, as well as religious adult stores.


What began as a mail order business for sex education for women in 1948, Beate Uhse opened the world’s first adult store in Flensburg, West Germany in 1962. It was called the Institute of Marital Hygiene. Products included lingerie and “stimulatory products”, among other items. By 1971, there were 25 stores in Germany. The purpose of the company was contraception, and when education and pornography laws let up, the sex industry in Germany took advantage. The website launched in 2006, allowing customers to purchase online. In 2009, the company expanded to at-home parties and home delivery. There are now over 200 stores.


Kim Caborn-Waterfield founded Ann Summers. The store is named after his female secretary, Annice Summers. The first store opened in Marble Arch, London quickly expanded. Shortly after, David Gold, chairman of Gold Group International Inc., purchased the company and there are now 153 stores. It was his daughter, Jacqueline Gold, who developed Ann Summers’s at-home parties.

Israel’s first adult store was closed down on November 22, 1970. A court order temporarily shut down the store after protests from Orthodox Jews. I’m guessing this is around the time the store opened. I cannot find any other information. Another store opened in 1971, but products had to be ordered through a catalogue.


The first adult store opens in Canada. The Garden, owned by Ivor Sargent opened a store for ordinary people, selling adult games, lotions, gels, and magazines.

The Pleasure Chest  opens in New York and was the first adult store to create a “boutique” environment in the United States, much like we see today. The store opened two other stores in Los Angeles (1975) and Chicago (1977).


Phil Harvey and Dr. Timothy Black founded Adam & Eve, which began is the nation’s first mail-order contraceptive business. In the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration began to crack down on the adult industry. Federal Agents raided the store in 1986, interrogating employees. In Harvey’s trial, he was found not-guilty within 5 minutes. After ongoing legal battles, Adam & Eve expanded to almost 50 retail locations.


Masi Angela and her husband Erocle Sabbatini open Italy’s first adult store called Sex Shop Citta’ di Milano. The couple and their store closed many times by police due to resistance from a conservative public.

France’s first adult store opens in Belfort.

Jerusalem’s first and only adult store closes. Shlomo Sandwek, the owner, believed it closed due to demonstrations and petitions from those who lived in the neighborhood.


Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations store in San Francisco due to the need for sex information and sex toys. She sold the business to employees, who then opened 5 other locations. The store thrives on sex education, sex-positive events, and an antique vibrator museum.


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