Bordered in the Jackson Heights area of Queens, New York, one can catch the 7 train to 74th Street-Broadway and walk down Roosevelt Avenue to 93rd street and find some of the city’s most diverse sites from restaurants known for its tortas, tamales, and wonton soup to local family vendor shops. — And among the many shops along its route, you are bound to venture across one of the neighborhood’s first exotic sex shops.
The London Boutique adult toy stores completes the ultimate diverse atmosphere of Roosevelt Avenue.
According to The New York Times, this middle-class neighborhood is named after two U.S. presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is currently home to over 108,000 residents, North Corona to the east is made up of a large Latino community. Woodside to the west is made up of the rest of Jackson Heights residents, which consist of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis— and even the 20 percent non-Latino population that are Asian.
So, it should come to no surprise that the vibrant area is filled with hundreds of shops, bakeries, and botanicas.
Jackson Heights is an area where you can grab a $10.95 Sunday lunch at the restaurant Indian Taj in Little India then head over to 78th Street for a hot dog made from grass-fed beef.
“Jackson Heights is an evolving neighborhood,” Antonio Short, who was visiting the area for the weekend said. “The community is special and is home to many of my friends and many families from all over the world.”
“I once heard in a documentary film [In Jackson Heights] that over 150 different languages are spoken in the area,” Short added.
But what makes the historic district, which was established in 1993, stand out the most, is the presence of the London Boutiques. As within the entire Queens Borough, these are the only shops that locals can go to buy adult sex toys without having to go into Manhattan.
Located between Kelly’s Beauty Salon and a Queens Abortion Clinic, the London Boutique discreetly invites locals into the shop. From just looking at the storefront of the shop, an average visitor wouldn’t know that only through the door they would find hundreds of dildos, vibrators, lingerie for all body types and sizes, heels and bondage equipment, among many other adult sex toys and accessories ranging from $1 to $2,400.
New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, Greg Williams, had a similar experience when visiting the shop for the first time. “I’ve been stationed for work all over Jackson Heights, and I didn’t even know that this was here until today,” he said.
London Boutique has been open for ten years and has undergone significant changes over time, according to Margarita Bedoya, the store manager of the 73-03 Roosevelt Avenue location.
“Every year, we try to improve the store with tech stuff and new possibilities with our toys,” Bedoya said. “And because this industry is very technology-driven, toys are changing every year — it changes a lot.”
Within the ten years of being open, the adult sex store has become known for its customer service and its wide variety of toys and accessories, which has led them to gain hundreds of loyal customers who have continued to buy their merchandise and support them over the years.
From Latino to black couples looking at toys together to singles browsing the store, the London Boutique is rarely empty.
“A lot of people come in every single day. We are busy all the time, and also at night,” Bedoya explained. “In fact, we never close. We don’t close one day during the year, we’re open 365 days a year.”
London Boutique, which also has a location on 93rd street along Roosevelt Avenue, prides itself on keeping the store up to date with the latest toys and making a customer’s store visit feel like a fantasy by maintaining a warm intimate and comfortable environment. This can be seen literally in their 93rd street location where they have a built-in electric fireplace on the wall at the front door and are even selling lingerie inspired Halloween costumes.
“Our store has a very wide variety of toys; we try to have everything in the market. Our employees are also all very young. We try to be very fresh with our customer service,” Bedoya revealed. “We try to be very outgoing and friendly and make the customers feel very comfortable because as you know this kind of market is not very known for people to come in, they feel shy and intimated to come here. But when they do come here and shop with us, and they know how we are, they feel more comfortable.”
And if a customer still doesn’t feel comfortable with talking to one of the store’s staff, they can refer to the many built-in tv screens that display visuals on how to use certain items and how the toy compares to other toys alike.
“The store is great. I would definitely recommend to others,” Williams said. “You can tell that the London Boutique staff knows what they’re doing. They know just how to pull you in enough to get you curious and comfortable.”
But like most adult sex stores, the London Boutique, praised for its presence by some, still faces backlash from many homeowners in the community.
In an online forum posted in 2008 on jacksonheightslife.com, many locals voiced their opinions on the location of the shops. One user posted about closing the shop down because of how they felt it had changed the way the neighborhood was perceived. While others argued that Jackson Heights locals should be “lucky” to have a “good sex shop,” and that people in the community should be “expected” to be open-minded.
When asked her thoughts on the future existence of the shop along Roosevelt Avenue, Bedoya said she believes that people have warmed up to its presence over the past few years. “I think the neighborhood has taken the shop’s existence pretty well,” she said. “It’s been here for a long time, so they’re kind of used to it at this point. They come to both stores, and they know they can find toys and stuff for spicing up a relationship and having some fun.”