(Note: This story appears in the August 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
Noir Leather’s Bijou Fatale explains how being your most authenitc, weird, rowdy self could be the fastest route to helping people.
Noir Leather GM Bijou Fatale is definitely a small-town girl who has done well in causing a pleasant ruckus in the bigger city. Fatale grew up in the small Northern Michigan town of Pinconning, population: 1,204. After a stint of hospitality work, bartending and performing burlesque, Fatale was determined to improve through her bar career when a sales position at Noir fell into her lap early in 2021. Fatale was then an occasional Noir customer, not a regular. A friend suggested the job, and because Fatale had always fancied herself a weird, outgoing kind of person, a sales position at Noir showed potential for being a good fir. Initially, she wasn’t interested in management, but when it came down to a choice, Fatale decided, ‘Let’s run with being GM; you can always go back to bars if you need to.’
StorErotica Legal Correspondent Larry Kaplan spoke with Bijou Fatale about the contrast between bartending and retail management and the satisfaction she gets from guiding customers on a safe journey to sexual freedom and satisfaction.
SE: How long have you been with Noir?
Fatale: I started on May 20, 2021. Arbor took over on May 1, so I’m technically the longest-running employee.
SE: You’ve gone from bartender to performer to Noir salesperson and now, GM. Are these all points on a continuum or separate spaces?
Fatale: They’re all points on a continuum; that’s how I live my life. Everything is very connected. So each of those pieces, and each one of the things that I do in my life is inherently something that I enjoy that will meld into the next phase of my life.
SE: Do you get a lot of older customers that have been coming to Noir for a long time or that haven’t been to the store in a while?
Fatale: Oh, yeah, we get a really good mix of customers, from first-timers walking by to folks who have known Keith [Howarth] since childhood. It’s mixed reviews on how the store looks today. Many people liked the former chaotic, cluttered layout. But others love our greater selection and how the store has opened up. And they all appreciate how they’re greeted and educated by our knowledgeable, caring staff.
SE: What do you do to make customers feel welcome?
Fatale: I’m an outgoing people person. I have interpersonal and social skills that I’m proud of. I reinforce that we’re a safe space. I make sure that I can get anyone who comes in to feel as comfortable as possible, especially with sex toys that are in our back room. Because of my loud and outgoing brash way of talking, I can keep the spotlight off of people enough that they feel safer. I’ve had lots of experience with people. Body language and basic conversation can reveal how I should handle interacting with someone who may be nervous.
SE: What are your biggest challenges as GM and buyer?
Fatale: As a buyer, my biggest challenge is working within a budget. I want to stock everything in the store, so when I do order, I have a difficult time limiting it. As far as GM challenges, it’s all new to me. But so far, the most stressful part is that I have so much responsibility now. I’ve managed before, but I have a lot more responsibility now. So I put considerable pressure on myself. And it isn’t easy to ensure everything goes smoothly; shifts are covered, and people are communicating.
SE: As far as buying, which product categories do you handle?
Fatale: I oversee ordering whatever we need for the store, but my area of expertise is the adult novelties in the back, so mainly any sex toys. If I don’t know anything about a toy, I’ll educate myself on it. My favorite things to buy are lubes — I really like them, and there are so many options.
SE: What are your best-selling toys and products?
Fatale: You get beginners who just watched a build-a-sex-room video. They come in and want rope, easy-release handcuffs, tape and wax candles because they saw all of this stuff on TV and want to figure it out. When you get more experienced people looking for sex toys or expert things, I push wands because I think they’re crucial parts of anyone’s toy kit. If you have a clitoris, I push air-pulsing toys. I like to push things that will enhance that side, so we also push a lot of strokers to eliminate the stigma of men using toys. And our adult diaper products are a huge seller; you can’t buy them anywhere else locally at a store. Despite not making a significant profit, we always carry them so people have a brick-and-mortar store to purchase their diapers in a judgment-free zone.
SE: Within those sectors and categories, what are your best-selling brands?
Fatale: We like Shots, Ouch! and RealRock. We-Vibe, Womanizer and Doc Johnson are very big sellers, as well. Intimate Earth and Uber Lube are lubes that we push.
SE: What’s the best part of your job?
Fatale: The best part is that I can be my most authentic, weird rowdy self, and I get to help and educate people, which was always my goal growing up. As much as I loved bartending, the most help I could provide was being like a bartender-therapist. And I wanted to do something with a little more substance to it. I want people to do this safely because you can fuck yourself up by doing sexual things incorrectly. And I don’t want people to have to experience any of that. So I love that I get to help people.
SE: Tell me about your personal relationship with fetish.
Fatale: Before my time at Noir, I wasn’t in any fetish or kink community. I’ve educated myself over the years to be undeniably evident as an openly sexual person. I’ve had a relationship with BDSM, safe sex, sexual wellness, sexual health, particular fetishes and kinks, but I never did anything in an official capacity. So when I started here, it was kind of culture shock, because I, as an educated person, was led to believe that kinky, fetish communities are all just overtly, blatantly sexual and completely disrespectful or very clicky; in reality, they’re just a bunch of cool people doing cool stuff safely.
My relationship with kinks and fetishes began when I started working here and met professional dominatrixes, people who have been doing this for a living. And it has opened my mind to this new avenue of acceptance I can cultivate and explore further.
Larry Kaplan has been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications for 22 years. Mr. Kaplan is a broker in the sale and purchase of adult retail stores and adult nightclubs and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan at 313-815-3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.