By Amy Fendley
It’s the one thing Whistler seemed to be missing, or is it? It would appear that the November opening of a retail love shop, promoting safe-sex in town is sparking quite a bit of controversy.
The Love Nest has operated in North Vancouver for 23 years. Tony and Kira Cailes has been the owners for 12 of those years and say that they do not operate a triple X Granville Street sex shop.
"It’s a feathers, not leathers type of love shop," said Tony. "It’s a very couples-oriented shop, and we know people will shop here because we already have car safaris of people stopping in our Vancouver shop on their way to Whistler. It’s a bedroom-oriented store that sells sheets and toys, lotions, products and books."
The shop will open in the space previously belonging to Sole II Soul, which went out of business last month.
Bonnie Munster, a Whistler resident and parent, is concerned that the opening of a sex shop is one step closer to an unhealthy environment for kids.
"We don’t need it, just like we don’t need gambling or other smut shops," said Munster. "Here we have a chance to set an example, to promote a healthy environment. There were three businesses lined-up to go in there, so it’s not a question of money and if it was me, it would be somewhere else."
One of Munster’s main concerns is that the Love Nest is going to move in next to Le Chateau, a regular hang-out for girls as young as 12.
Le Chateau managers refused comment.
"I have no control," explained Don Wensley, Whistler realtor and landlord of the building, who feels the store will create interest in that area. "These young people have had a store in Vancouver for 12 years now, and it’s a very respectable business. I have no objection to opening up a love shop. We already have six escort services in Whistler, and I really don’t see this kind of adult store as offensive in any way. Young people can go in, it’s not going to hurt anybody. Just wait and see, it won’t be offensive, just a little more interesting than a t-shirt shop. It’s not an illegal use of the space, and if anything it’ll be an incredible asset for dysfunctional old people.
"Besides, the odds are that the 14 year-old already knows more about sex than his or her parents," said Wensley.
The Cailes met while they were on separate bike trips from Vancouver, eight years ago. They say that opening up a shop in Whistler is just another phase of their romantic adventure.
"I was riding my bike to Mexico and fell in love with this woman, also on a bike, and we held hands all the way there," says Tony, adamant that he is not a member of the ‘trench coat tribe’. "For our honeymoon we rode our bikes across China. Now we want to ride our bikes in Whistler. We’re heavy bike people, we like to ski and play. We know there is a great niche here for the shop, it’s a romantic town.
"Banff has a love shop, and I don’t want to open another T-shirt shop," he says. "After living and working in Banff, for me to bring business back to the ski industry is a real dream come true."
The couple say they have spoken to concerned Whistler parents and that for the most part the responses have been positive.
"We’re definitely not marketing to little girls, there will be nothing sexually explicit in the windows," says Tony. "People have to realize though, the precious girls everyone is so concerned about will eventually fall in love with the rogues of Whistler. And it’s no secret that Whistler has an STD problem. Selling condoms in a fun environment may help people to keep their STDs to themselves."
Marilyn McIvor, a public health nurse, says that Whistler has an extremely high rate of clamydia when compared with other communities.
"We have a young, single population, 69 per cent of Whistler residents are under the age of 34," says McIvor. "And we all know that condoms help to protect against STD’s."
The Love Nest will prohibit the entry of minors into the shop.
"But if a couple walks into the store holding hands, we’re not going to hesitate to sell them condoms," said Kira. "We don’t want to stir the pot, we don’t want a battle about this, we’re not trying to convert people, we just think people will be pleasantly surprised.
"I also understand that this is a small community and that this is a normal reaction."