Dino Palmiotto has dreamed for two decades of having a welcoming, successful adult retail space and nothing, not even a pandemic, was going to derail his vision.
Dino Palmiotto darted around the Nordstrom-bought furniture and professionally designed dungeon, expertly fulfilling his role as host at the grand opening of his Exposé Boutique in San Diego, adjoining his existing gentlemen’s club (Exposé).
Between the handshakes, double-checking event details and welcoming in new customers and old friends, he barely found a moment for himself.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I choked up a couple of times just to see the staff and how much fun they were having,” says Palmiotto of the grand opening on June 19. “It was just different. I mean, it was nothing that I could ever have expected. I’ve done a lot of grand openings and opened a lot of businesses, but it was very different.
“We slammed it out of the park,” he adds, pointing out that he wasn’t sure the store would materialize once the COVID pandemic hit. “The biggest complaint of the night is I didn’t have enough parking, and I just doubled my parking lot!”
Despite Exposé Boutique’s rousing success, Palmiotto admits he was in unchartered territory. Sure, adult stores are a dime a dozen. But Exposé Boutique isn’t striving to be “another adult store.”
Rather, Palmiotto’s desire is for Exposé Boutique to become a high-end establishment for adult pleasure seekers to find products, but also talk about their own lifestyles, get recommendations, embrace their sexuality.
“The world’s changing. It’s 2021, let’s give these people a safe place to go,” says Palmiotto. “They now have a safe place to meet up and talk about their sexuality versus going to Starbucks and feeling like they can’t take their time or compare floggers in the open.”
Not even two months after that grand opening, Exposé is already seeing varied clientele sift through its doors.
“Customers are just coming in off the street,” Palmiotto says. “The response has already been overwhelming. Ladies come in and say ‘This is the Nordstrom of adult stores.’ There’s a huge clothing selection. There’s a huge shoe collection. It’s just not sleazy. It’s a nice, clean store.”
In addition to the plethora of clothing and shoes — Palmiotto says Exposé carries the most “Pleaser Shoes” in San Diego — the new shop is also a flagship store for System JO.
And there’s the dungeon.
Palmiotto enlisted the help of friend and master designer Downtown Willy, who has been making furniture for the past 40-plus years, for the construction of the dungeon in the store — complete with bars.
“Why not own a real piece of custom dungeon equipment instead of mass-produced crap,” Palmiotto said.
While BDSM isn’t the store’s sole focus, Palmiotto has revealed plans for classes, as part of the overall welcoming ambiance he wants the store to give off.
“The classes are real classes, not some hokey pokey person that says they know how to tie a knot,” Palmiotto says. “These are actual professionals in the industry. I want a real Dom (dominant in a dominant/submissive relationship) giving a class on spanking and whipping and teaching people the safety of the industry versus what they see on a TV show or some Hollywood production.”
Already, Palmiotto is hard at work on the second and third phases of his store before the grand opening’s confetti has been swept up.
He is working on a patio/bistro area that will boost the social interaction he’s aiming for that will incorporate food from the club’s impeccable restaurant. He’s already had customers request the patio for weddings and other such type events. The third phase is the online presence that would invoke a small social media platform as well as normal retail operation.
For Palmiotto, Exposé Boutique represents a culmination of his six years in the Marine Corps., running operations and logistics.
“It’s ironic, I’m stocking shelves of whips and other stuff versus components we need for the field and Marine Corps.,” he says. He’s subsequently incorporated what he learned to advance his store, fully automating it so the inventory requests on Monday are shipped out and by Wednesday, the store is automating replenishments.
“I’ve taken a lot of what I’ve learned in the military world and the civilian world and brought it into the exotic store world,” he says. “I believe in computers and automation and efficiency. I’ve pretty much automated the entire process.”
“I’m not going to lie to you, I choked up a couple of times just to see the staff and how much fun they were having … We slammed it out of the park.” — Dino Palmiotto on the Exposé grand opening
Whether it’s aesthetic or automated, Palmiotto has left no stone unturned when it comes to Exposé Boutique. To hear him describe the store, its environs, its product selection, its clientele, its potential — is to hear a man realizing his dreams in real time.
“This has been a lot of work. This is not something you pop up and ‘Boom, it’s done,’ and it starts making money,” he says. For someone who has worked 20-hour days making sure everything is just right, the grand opening is simply the beginning.
“I’ll know Expose has arrived when I see the social aspect and the retail aspect become the norm,” he says. “This has been a dream of mine for the past 20 years. I call it the business of making people happy. I wanted to see my dream through, I gave it all I had.”