Editors Note: Box has closed and is no longer operational. For some reason their website is still active, including their store, but I know they no longer have stock, so please do not buy from there.
A few weeks ago I shared a post on Facebook asking for donations to help a feminist sex shop open in St. Louis. Little did I know that I had a mutual friend with one of the co-owners, Sarah. A few days later Sarah needed help finishing one of the walls of her shop, Box, and I volunteered to stop by. I got to talking with Sarah about what we’re doing at A Submissive’s Initiative™ and she said “That’s awesome! You should do a class!” I enthusiastically responded “I’d love to, but I’d also be really excited to do an interview about Box.” So I set up a meeting with Sarah and Willow, co-owners of Box, at Gelateria del Leone last week. In the back, at a small mosaic table under a tree that continually tried to hit Willow with falling twigs, I set my phone on record.
I’m here with Willow and Sarah from Box, would you guys like to tell me What is Box?
(W)Box is a feminist sex toy store that will be opening up in St. Louis but it is also a community space.
(S)Yeah, so some of the stuff we have there are classes, workshops, support groups, as well as what Willow said, the retail space. So some of those classes and workshops are going to be about the social taboos around menstruation, myths around women’s low sexual desire, clear boundaries, enthusiastic consent, how to hear “no” and take it well.
And half of it is going to be your midwifery, right? What exactly do plan on doing there?
(S) The midwifery practice, Bread and Roses Midwifery, the office is going to be on the other half of the space. Willow is going to provide childbirth education classes, I’ll provide prenatal care to homebirth clients and if we have any doula clients we’ll probably be meeting with them in that space. And then if you are having a homebirth, we also provide postnatal care up to six weeks. The last thing we are going to be doing there, which we are really excited about, is well-person care. So for folks who aren’t finding gynecologists that are able to communicate about bodies in a way that feels safe, specifically for trans and queer folks, we’re going to be able to provide pap smears, chest exams, things like that and STI screening if folks need that resource as well.
Payment wise, do you plan on providing a sliding scale?
(S) Yeah, I know that for us personally there have been times we had to look for care, safe respectful care that reflected our lack of financial stability at different times in our lives. So I think that is something we are excited to provide.
Are you working with other groups or organizations to provide that support or is it completely dependent on Box/Bread and Roses?
(W) There is a midwifery group that is partially in St. Louis and some of the folks have expressed interest in doing pap-smear days so that is one way we are looking to connect with folks but we haven’t actually approached anyone yet because no one has come to us asking for that. Once we open I think we’re going to try to do open clinic days once a month, so anyone who wants can come in and sign up for a slot and we’ll have other midwife’s there so we can take shifts.
So how many people are on your staff?
(S) Just us.
Just you two!
(W) Yeah, this is a new business. So there’s, it’ll be us. And we are bringing in other people as speakers, teachers for different classes and workshops and facilitators for support groups, which I find really, really exciting because it helps it really become a community space.
(S) We kind of decided it’s more important for us to really work our asses off and be able to bring in more inventory than it is to hire other folks. As a side note, and this hasn’t come up very much, we’re actually going to be an Industrial Workers of the World Collective once we have three people. Right now we’re going to be running it as a collective, with profit sharing and things like that. It’s not going to be like…. we’re not going to have employees.
So if someone comes in, they’re going to meet you two?
(S) Right. Right now it’s the two of us. All of our decisions are made 50/50.
So what are your goals for Box? What do you hope to accomplish?
(W) I’m really excited to be a community space. To provide the classes and workshops, but we’ve already started a conversation.
(S) So yeah, being able to comfortably talk about gender. Bodies is the most exciting part of this, for me, so, yes, I’m super excited to talk to people about sex toys and how to have orgasms, but I’m way more interested in the foundational stuff before we can get there.
As far as the shop side of it, what kind of products are you going to have available? I’m really excited to hear about what kind of alternative stuff you guys are going to have.
(S) Yeah, well first of all of our products are going to be body safe we’re going to be joining the Coalition Against Toxic Toys, so a lot of the toys that are out there are not rated. They are not FDA approved.
(The Coalition Against Toxic Toys) was started by Smitten Kitten, right?
(S) Yeah! So we’re really excited to be a part of that and to make sure that everything we bring into the store is safe to actually have in your body. And as far as the alternative toys go, we’ll have packers, we’re going to have actually a a couple of different kinds of packers actually, we’ll have circumcised and uncircumcised, soft and hard. We’re looking at a couple of different harnesses through one of our suppliers.
(W) We’re also going to be one of the only places you can get binders and be able to try them on. Also, we’re really excited about the harness because we’re going to have custom harnesses. There will be days you can come in and get fitted for a harness. So instead of just having to do the one-size-fits all briefs or the really awesome leather, but kind of slide down, you‘re going to be able to get the exact shape for your body. Same with binders. Also, we’re working with Bespoke, who are across the street and really amazing neighbors, are customers from Broadway. They are really amazing with folks walking in and being able to get the clothes that they want. So if you walk in and you’re like “I’m pretty butch, but I don’t want people to see my really feminine butt, it makes me feel uncomfortable,” they’re able to provided pants for you, for your body, that are all custom made and tailored to make you look how you want to look. Same way that they do that, we’re also going to provide the corset side of what they have there. So all of their corset designs, they’ll have one of each kind, and they’ll come in and do custom design work for folks. You can choose the fabric, you can choose the shape, how much you want to cover, if you don’ want to cover anything, so all of that we’re really excited about as well.
Can you tell me, I know you have some classes coming up, when is your first class?
(S) We’re still working on the programing, so honestly this is going to be up in the air. We are accepting events from the middle of June on.
(W) But our first scheduled class is on July 15th, Lactation Support for Families.
Can you tell me a little about that class?
(W) Michelle Valente is going to be doing a monthly support, similar to La Leche League, but a little less women-centric. So it’s going to be for all kinds of families, for example chest feeding, adoption families, like how to start lactating, all those kinds of things that are really exciting and kind of talking about the social aspects of that too. So not just “Breastfeeding is good for your baby,” yes, that’s definitely true but also “What does it mean to breastfeed in public?” and “What does it mean to be a man that chest feeds?” We’re really excited about that. All of our events are also listed on our website, with a description of each one.
Are people going to be able to shop on your website or is shopping limited to your store in St. Louis?
(W) We’re working towards setting online shopping up. We’re just trying to figure out the final logistics on that.
(S) Also, since neither of us have been business owners before we’re trying to figure out how much of each item to have. I think we’re going to open and see how it goes for maybe a month and then be like “Ok, we know how much of this vibrator we need.” We’ll put that on the website once we get more than that. Right now, we’re honestly getting two or three of each item and see how fast they sell.
(W) And that’s actually something I was thinking about this morning, do we want to do direct from distributor shipping or if we want to have things in store? It’s kind of both up in the air, but when we start we’re only going to have a couple of each item in the store. And online shipping is really exciting for me because I moved from Ohio in August, so everybody in Ohio is like “I want to buy!”
So you haven’t been (in St. Louis) that long! Did you move out here for (Box)?
(S) That’s a very funny story!
(W) I moved out here because my partner of seven years started Grad school at Washington University so that’s how I came to St. Louis.
(S) Willow and I met in a student study group for Midwives and Willow came and she had bright blue hair and I was sitting there and I was like well “same face, same face, same face, NEW face!” and I was really excited, she said maybe one thing and was very shy so I got home and messaged her Facebook and said we should hang out and little did I know that this would happen!
(W) My side of it was I go to this student midwife group and I had been doing all this research and contacting midwives in this area before I got here and I go to this student midwife group, and it’s funny that Sarah said “same face, same face” because the room was filled with people I would expect to see at a student midwife group and then there was Sarah, she had all these tattoos and these really cool ideas… and I don’t know what was said, it doesn’t matter what was said, but she made this face, like, “really?”. And I know it well now. *Sarah laughs* Like you were tired of the same BS that was going on. I was just like “I want to know who this person is” but I was really shy and I was trying to be respectful in a new space, in a new community, just trying to figure it out and then she sent me a message and I ran to my partner and I was “*gasp* I might have a friend!” And now we have each other’s keys and we’re opening a store!
Can you guys tell me about your own relationships and how you identify?
(S) We’re going to have to hide this from my dad. *laughs* I am a genderqueer identifying fat femme and I am in a polyamorous queer relationship. One of my partners is a cis-man, I’ve been with him for 3 ½ years and we live together with our dog. And then I’ve been dating another queer fat femme for a few months and I date a lot. *Sarah and Willow laugh* And I identify my sexuality as queer.
(W) *nervously laughs* I am a queer femme. Yeah, let’s just drop that right there.
I just want people to know that so they’ll feel more comfortable.
(S) Oh yeah! I really appreciate it because no one else has asked. No one has asked about our pronouns. No one has asked about any of that.
I know you (Sarah) use female pronouns right?
(S) And They. But I’m fine with female pronouns.
(W) And I use female pronouns.
Because everyone was referring to you (Sarah) has “she”, even your friends, I’m sorry I just assumed.
(S) No, no, it’s fine. It’s really hard for people to call me “they” because I present as very feminine. It’s not something I really care about but I do think it’s very interesting that even when I tell people to call me “they”, it’s like a day of that and then it reverts back to “she’. It’s fine. I’m not at all offended.
So you said you didn’t want your dad to hear that, but do your parents know you’re opening Box?
(S) Oh yeah! So my dad is super, super, like annoyingly excited about Box and very supportive. He doesn’t know anything about my relationships.
About being poly?
(S) Yeah. That’s the thing that he can’t swallow. He doesn’t know that I’m queer sexually, he does actually, but he thinks it’s a political thing and not like my real life.
Do you guys plan on doing anything for the kink community? What’s on your agenda for that?
(S) I would like to do some kink stuff. I think it’s a very rabbit hole situation, which isn’t to say we can’t do some and not all but we want to stay very conscious about what’s already out there, there’s no need to overlap. There are some cool organizations in the area already working on stuff and having munches and classes and stuff like that and I’d rather work with than try and double up on events. I don’t think that’s a necessary thing.
(W) We also really want to make sure we are supportive of what already exists and not take over anything. We’re only two people anyway. Everything that happens at Shameless Grounds we’re super supportive of, but we don’t want to draw away from them because they’re amazing and they’ve been personally super supportive of us so we want to make sure we’re not stepping on any toes. We are planning on doing Body Fluids 101, how to have safer sex with all different kinds of fluids as a kind of series like Blood Play, so we want to do some educational stuff with that but we don’t want to take over that. For supplies for Kink play we’re really excited to offer some light bondage stuff.
(W) There are some really amazing cat tails and crops that I am personally so excited about! They are beautiful!
(S) Then we’re going to have items you can order from us that won’t be on display at least in the beginning. We want to start the focus with gender and bodies then move to being more inclusive because we just don’t have the startup and honestly the space to offer it all. That’s the big thing. We’ll have body cushions, swings, poles, stuff like that, but those are the big ticket items we’ll have later on.
A huge “Thank you” to Willow and Sarah for answering all of my questions graciously and just being fantastic people to sit down and talk to! If you want to support Box’s mission, please consider visiting their Indiegogo campaign and snag some awesome goodies while helping bring this amazing space to St. Louis!
Box is located at 3350 Ohio Avenue St. Louis, Missouri 63118.