ANDERSONVILLE — Pioneering sex shop Early To Bed turns 20 years old this month — and the Andersonville store has arguably never been more vital.
Early To Bed opened in September 2001 as the first woman-owned sex shop in Chicago in a time when the industry was controlled by and catered to straight men. Billing itself as a “feminist, sex-positive sex shop for everyone,” Early To Bed has weathered multiple storms — including recessions and a pandemic — to become one of the city’s preeminent sex shops.
“The first 13 years of business were by the skin of my teeth,” owner Searah Deysach said. “Because I started the business from a place of passion, I was able to weather some of the storms.”
The pandemic forced Early To Bed and other stores to close in March 2020. Its reopening and anniversary have coincided with a coronavirus-caused spike in the nationwide sale of sex toys. Early To Bed has even expanded hours to meet the increased demand, Deysach said.
“One thing COVID has done is it’s caused people to spend more time with themselves,” she said. “Couples have been stuck together and are branching out and trying new things. It’s nice to see people take a messed-up situation and turn it into something that is a joy.”
Early To Bed originally opened at 5232 N. Sheridan Road, which was the first place willing to rent to the business, Deysach said. It moved to 5044 N. Clark St. in 2013, and it has remained there.
There were shops catering to gay men in Chicago before Early To Bed, but most of the general sex stores centered straight males and were not welcoming to women and queer people, said Deysach, a queer woman. That’s what motivated her to open her own shop.
“I was a very frustrated customer,” she said. “Chicago only had old-school sex stores that did not celebrate sexuality in a positive way. I said, ‘I know there’s a way to make this a sex-positive experience.'”
Early To Bed carries sex toys, books, sexual health products, kink supplies, gender expression gear and clothing for all people and sexual orientations. It is constantly adding products to be as accommodating as possible, Deysach said.
The store and its employees also work as a sounding board and resource guide for customers and neighbors with questions about their bodies or sexuality, she said. Before the pandemic, the store held workshops. Deysach also speaks at colleges campuses and social services organizations.
Even as sexual expression and acceptance has progressed over the 20 years Early To Bed has been around, there is still as much a need for sex education and sexual expression resources as ever, Deysach said.
“I keep thinking we’ll become irrelevant because of the internet,” she said. “Twenty years in, we’re still answering the same questions about sex and people’s bodies. The goal is to be a safe space, where you can ask any question and there is no judgement.”
Early To Bed is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
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