Your Local Neighbourhood Sex Shop: Trinity Romance Shop

The town of Squamish, British Columbia is nestled just 40 minutes north of Vancouver and 40 minutes south of Whistler. Dubbed “the outdoor recreation capital of Canada,” there is every reason to believe that Trinity Romance Shop might make Squamish an indoor recreation capital as well. This women-friendly, sex-positive sex shop has grown and become an integral part of the community.

Sexlife Canada chatted with Eric Armour, founder of Trinity Romance Shop about opening a boutique in a small town, phthalates and creating a great space.

SLC: Why did you start up Trinity Romance Shop?
EA: I started Trinity Romance Shop in 2004 when I was 25 years old. At the time I was working in both the service and sales industries, but was feeling like I needed a little something more. Sexuality had always interested me, and I made use of the nearest urban centre of Vancouver to attend fetish nights, and shop for sex toys, and accessories. At the time you couldn’t even buy good quality lube in Squamish, so sensing a market need, and fusing a personal interest in sexuality, I made an abrupt decision to open a sex shop.
   Once I had made the decision, I spent the next 7 months furiously researching the whole industry and learning the good, bad, and ugly of it all. Taking the knowledge of what I needed to run a smart, ethically-minded, woman-friendly boutique I found a location in Downtown Squamish and got to work putting together my very own sex-positive space for the community. One of my missions was to carry strictly phthalate-free sex toys, and to educate consumers on what that was all about. In a nutshell I wanted a change, I wanted to see the industry change, and I wanted to make people feel good about their sexuality. Those were the driving forces that put me here today.

SLC: Do you face any difficulties operating a sex shop in a smaller community?
EA: I’d say the biggest difficulty selling vibrators and dildos in a small town is the size of the town itself, and the fact that it creates a smaller market to do business in. It’s also one of the reasons I launched our website, and am currently working on relaunching our home party business.
   If by difficulties you mean were there people that were adverse to the idea? I’d have to say I live in a pretty open-minded community full of amazing people that were both warm and supportive of my venture. It was definitely something I was wary about though, and was also a driving factor for my fundraising efforts via our annual James Bondage Fetish Fundraiser. To date we’ve raised 35k for our local women’s centre, 10k for public art, 10k for mountain bike trails, and 2k for Tsunami relief in Sri Lanka. By building the integrity of the shop, and feeling a genuine love for the community I live in, I’ve definitely felt the love back.

SLC: What specifically have you done to make your space sex-positive and women-friendly?
EA: As I mentioned above we are very conscious of the materials that sex toys are made of and choose to carry strictly phthalate-free options, meaning the toys we sell won’t off-gas toxins into vaginas, rectums, or mouths. The space we created for the shop is also really inviting with warm colours, and tasteful displays. Throughout the fall, and winter months we also host a variety of workshops and classes in the store. One of the ones I put together that was well received was the History of the Modern Day Woman, and the History of Sex Toys.

SLC: What, do you think, we all can do, as a society to ensure this?
EA: Educate, educate, educate! The more we know about how themes around sexuality evolved in our society the more prepared we are to deal with all of the differences that are out there. I also feel there is a real need for pleasure based sex education. Too much of what young people learn is absorbed from fantasy-based porn, where you’re not seeing the appropriate use of lubes, and foreplay. Nothing against the fantasy, but the reality around what goes into those scenes needs to be exposed and understood.

SLC: What is your favourite part of running Trinity?
EA: There are so many fun things about running a funky little sex shop—where do you start. I’d say probably the most rewarding is helping people create amazing experiences where they get to explore their sexuality, and intrinsically, themselves. Besides that I’m really getting a kick out of writing our blog these days, and coming up with all sorts of fun articles to share with the world.

SLC: Please describe the ideal shopping experience for one of your customers.
EA: Easy. Having somebody come in that has never used a vibrator before, but is rather curious, yet rather shy about the whole topic. Being able to disarm that fear by presenting a warm, open, and educational format where they can choose whatever they like with the full assurance that they’re getting something that is going to work really well for them. Then have them leave set up, subscribed to our monthly e-letter, and genuinely excited about their new sex toy. I think assisting somebody to explore their sexuality is an amazing gift for store, and customer alike.

SLC: Do you think we'll ever see specific regulations for phthalates and other materials in adult products?
EA: I really hope so. Europe is starting to really crack down on them, so that sheds some hope. It’s going to happen here too, but probably not for a while. If I could offer some advice to help expedite the process, please write your local MP and let them know you think it’s wrong that companies are allowed to sell products that off-gas toxins into mucous membranes regardless of which mucous membranes they find themselves in.

SLC: What are some of your plans for the future of Trinity Romance Shop?
EA: Right now we’re getting ready to roll out a whole new business model for our home party business, and will actively be recruiting Trinity Romance Party Pro’s all over Canada within the next month, so that’s really exciting. We’re also continuously working on our website, and blog to bring in new products, and fill the blogosphere full of sage advice.
   I think somewhere down the road we’d like to open another location in Vancouver, and Whistler, but right now we’re focused on making our Squamish store a destination for locals, and tourists alike.