Keep Them Coming: Shop local for your sex toys and leather gear
The internet has brought us access to many things we might never have been exposed to when it comes to sex, fetishes, and kinks. It’s also given many of us the chance to buy vibrators, leather gear, and implements quickly and discreetly when we want to try something new.
Sex toy sales are through the roof since the pandemic began. However, this also means we’re more likely to fall prey to companies that create inferior toys and gear that break easily, contain products dangerous to genitalia, or just don’t look as good in person as they do online. Then, to a dark corner of the closet or the trash they go!
Let’s not add more unwanted nylon, pleather, flimsy metal, and plastic to our landfill. Quality gear can be an investment, and even if we know it’s important to our and our partner(s) safety, sometimes it’s difficult to hand over that hard-earned cash. But I found three local businesses that take pride in what they do, each focused on serving the kinkster community without shame, stigma, or charging an arm and a leg.
I knew about Ray Margo and Sinsual Steel from my time around the kink community. He once opened his bag-o’-goodies for me at an outdoor Consent KC meetup full of gear he handmade. As a Domme and former band nerd, it was smirk-inducing to see something that looked like xylophone mallets turned into “Beater Balls” with a lathe-turned handle.
Margo has been creating handmade BDSM implements since the early ‘90s. He made his first flogger as a donation to a fundraiser auction “just for shits and giggles,” he says. But after the auction, some folks came up and wanted to commission him for personalized gear.
The name Sinsual Steel came from Margo’s original desire to create high-end steel kink furniture. When the ‘92-’93 recession hit, he pivoted to handheld items, which still had demand and an affordable supply chain. “Easier, too,” his partner Linda quips, to which Margo adds: “Once I bought the lathe, people really took notice.”
For 11 years, up until the 2020 shutdown, making implements was his full-time focus. Before the pandemic, Margo made the majority of his sales at live shows, conventions, and parties.
Margo takes custom orders and he strives to make pieces unique. He also offers repairs on his items, though he’s only had to fix a few pieces. He puts it simply: “I enjoy my craft.”
Red Hare Leather caught my attention in a Startland News article from August and after I saw Brittany Tilander wearing one of their harnesses on Instagram days before, I decided to reach out. I was curious to see their studio and ask about the breadth of their leatherwork. Founder Faye Steiner-Woods has been selling their creations primarily at Strawberry Swing and more recently has started selling kink gear.
A common complaint I hear is that plus size people have a hard time finding kink and fetish gear that fits. Steiner-Woods agrees that struggle is real, and that’s something they want to change.
“Leather gave me a sense of sexiness I struggled to find in most clothes,” they say. Now, they love helping people feel that way, as well.
Steiner-Woods made a point of noting that their goal is to make wearable gear affordable, even taking gear on trade that can be repurposed. They also don’t charge more for larger sizes. For the most part, they’re figuring out on their own how to shape a piece without using established patterns, often reconceptualizing something they’ve seen on the market.
“I find it pretty easy to reshape an ill-fitting piece of gear,” they say.
Steiner-Woods offers custom fittings for locals, or out-of-towners can send in measurements.
Driving through Westport one day this summer, I noticed Video Mania on 39th Street was now EMCity. A quick online search showed me we have cause to rejoice—there’s now a local leather and kink store in the heart of Westport! It’s not Kansas City’s first, but it seems to be the only locally-owned, non-franchise brick and mortar sex shop at this time.
Turns out I met one of EMCity’s owners at a Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce event a few years back. My business mentor, Joel, summoned me over under the premise of helping me score a guest for my Keep Them Coming podcast.
Joel started the introductions with, “Kristen, this is Stan. Stan, this is Kristen. He has the largest sex toy collection I’ve ever seen.” Stan laughed a bit and said, “Oh Joel, you just don’t know enough people.”
Stan’s proclivity for the provocative led his husband Clint and him to join owner Kevin, all of whom asked to not be identified with their last names, to open EmCity May 9, 2020.
“The day they said KCMO could reopen, we flung open the doors,” says Clint.
Their tagline of “fun things for fun people” is cute, though a bit tame for what they do IMHO. They are a sex shop complete with vibrators, butt plugs, and bachelorette gear, but they are also a custom leather shop.
EMCity purchased Leather Masters in Dallas a month after opening to become the licensed manufacturers for the brand, and they have since moved their operations to Kansas City. Now the business has three leather workers on staff.
“If we don’t have it, we can probably get or make it,” Stan says. Not only can they make custom sizes, they have a wide variety of color options available.
Have more sex shops or gear creators you think I should check out? Any spicy products you think I should write about in this column? Send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget to exercise, meditate, and masturbate (and try doing it with a locally-made product!)