(Note: This story appears in the June 2023 issue of SE Magazine)
For the emerging adult toy retail brand, Edonista, whose objectives are universally expansive conversations around sexual wellness, a more fitting recruit couldn’t have joined their frontlines than their new Director of Sales, April Hoopes.
Hoopes’ welcoming face is recognizable across all aspects of the industry. At first, shy and unsure, the roots of Hoopes’ nearly two decades in the industry were humble and human, beginning in 2007 as a retailer at an adult store chain in Cleveland, Ohio. The stories from her years in the stores are innumerable, hilarious, frightening and ultimately relatable. The yield of a passion for the work of education and sales, Hoopes has advanced with no end: from sales associate to store manager to district manager. By 2017, she had migrated from retail to manufacturing with a specialized position in sales and education at Evolved Novelties, and in 2021, she accepted the position of Director of Sales at Nu Sensuelle.
Busy with their interspersed glimmers of strangeness, Hoopes’ road stories represent the difficulty of an unimaginable traveling salesperson’s fatigue. However, consistently, her door-to-door store trainings have demonstrated a service unmatched. The maturity of her position has introduced greater responsibilities, sometimes demanding that Hoopes wears all the hats. But her limitless dedication has not gone unnoticed: In 2022, StorErotica presented Hoopes with the well-deserved “Brand Ambassador of the Year” Award, an award voted on by her peers including industry vendors and store owners.
Edonista has announced its great revelry in uniting with Hoopes to eliminate shame from the discourses surrounding sexual health. A team built largely of women, Edonista is proud to develop products which explore all kinds of bodies and preferences. Hoopes will be assisting the exciting brand, which was founded in 2021 by two cosmopolitan characters, to expand internationally in pursuit of a greater general awareness of sexual wellness and education. Industry professionals at every level and sector can expect upon meeting Hoopes as Edonista’s Director of Sales the same personal touch she has brought to her work since fronting retail stores nineteen years prior.
“Here’s a fun fact,” which emerges in Hoopes. “When I drive, I sing in the car like I’m at the Grammys,” she shares. “Cool. Everybody does that. I minored in college in vocal music. There you go. I don’t think anybody knows that.”
Dusting off the secrets she forgot she had, in this STOREROTICA Interview, Hoopes details her long and winding drive into the adult world (like, Ohio to California long!). Stops include: emotional support ponies, mermaid dildos, exotic dancing, sock sales, why she left the industry — and why she came back.
SE: Tell us more about yourself and your career. How did you get your start in the world of all things “adult”?
HOOPES: Do you want to start with the retail side of it, which began in 2007? Or do you want to start with the dancing side of it?
Because technically, I started in the industry as a dancer. That’s the part that not many people know about. And it was many years prior to working in retail, I worked as a dancer about three years on and off. I was a single mom, and dancing is what put food on the table, a roof over our head.
SE: As some of our readers know, we also produce the only national trade magazine and convention for the adult nightclub industry (ED Publications and the Gentlemen’s Club EXPO), so for us, that connection makes sense.
HOOPES: Absolutely. It’s not a part of my life that I am ashamed of, by any means. I made really good money. And it made me more comfortable with me, which was useful when I got into the sales side of the industry.
SE: Why did you walk away from that and into sales?
HOOPES: It wasn’t just going from one to the other. There were years in-between in which I took time off, I married my husband (whom I met while I was dancing, but that’s another story), and I got to be a stay-at-home mom for a bit. I went to school, too, and I got a degree, actually, in forensic psychology. That was what I thought I really wanted to do. I still binge watch True Crime TV like it’s my job, but it’s not what I want to do for a living.
And then, around 2007, my husband said, “Hey, there’s an Adultmart store that’s going up. Why don’t you apply, since you hate what you’re doing right now?”
I was working in a grocery store three days a week, so I could still kind of be a stay-at-home mom. But I did hate it, because, again, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. So I went in for an interview, and they offered me the job. I will never forget my first day and how overwhelming it was, because prior to that — despite being a dancer, despite being a mom — I had only been in one adult store my entire life: Ambiance. And in the early 2000s, Ambiance was mostly lingerie and very little adult toys. Walking into an Adultmart many years later for my first day of employment was totally different. I just remember looking at the walls stocked with toys and thinking, initially, “I can’t fucking do this,” and almost walking out.
And truly, the only reason why I didn’t leave that day was that it took me 35 minutes to get there. There was a lot of traffic, so I told myself I might as well just stick it out for the day, and I did. I came back the next day because we had a lot of fun — we talked very openly about things that I had never talked about before. I discovered in one day that I wasn’t the only one who was really awkward and uncomfortable. And if I wasn’t the only one who was really awkward and uncomfortable, then that meant that we had a lot to overcome. So that became and has continued to be my goal, moving forward: to ease people’s discomfort around sexual wellness.
“I came back [after my first day of employment at Adult Mart] because we had a lot of fun — we talked very openly about things that I had never talked about before. I discovered in one day that I wasn’t the only one who was really awkward and uncomfortable. And if I wasn’t the only one who was really awkward and uncomfortable, then that meant that we had a lot to overcome.”
– April Hoopes, Director of Sales for Edonista
SE: How long did you work at Adultmart?
HOOPES: I worked for Adultmart for seven years, first as a sales associate, then store manager, then area manager. I grew so much in that time and learned more than I ever thought possible. It was easily the greatest use of my time, because Adultmart became like my extended family. Plus, Adultmart is run by Rondee Kamins. Getting my start in the industry with this kickass, strong, independent, take-no-prisoners woman as your mentor is pretty fucking cool.
In this industry there will be many people that will come and go, and a select few will leave a longer-lasting impact than the others. I can honestly say that without Rondee, I wouldn’t be the person I am today or have come nearly as far in my career as I have. I will forever be grateful to her and Joel for the opportunities they gave me and for believing in me when I didn’t.
I remember at some point in my management transition saying to them, “I don’t know that I can do this,” and Joel looking at me and very sternly saying, “Don’t ever let anyone hear you say that out loud. If someone believes that you can do it, just get up and do it. Do it just to prove yourself wrong.”
Leaving Adultmart was, to this day, one of the hardest career decisions I’ve ever made.
SE: But you left because you wanted to move your career in a new direction?
HOOPES: I wanted to do something a little different. More, I guess. Maybe I just felt like at Adultmart I had outlived my usefulness there, like I’d done what I was supposed to do, and they just didn’t need me anymore. So, I went to Boudoir Noir, a smaller store chain. They had opened a store in Ohio they needed help maturing, which I took on. The bigger picture for me was that I wanted to get into a buying position.
I stayed at Boudoir for almost two years, but it didn’t end up working out for me how I wanted it to, and at that point, I got to be a little frustrated with the industry. I felt like it had let me down or maybe it wasn’t right for me. So I left Boudoir and actually the industry entirely.
I knew I wanted to change the world, to make a difference in people’s lives, and so I wanted to find a job where I could do that. I guess it took me getting out of the industry and then getting back in to realize that that was what I was doing all along.
But that revelation didn’t come until much later. In the meantime, and in continuation of my confusion, I took a drastically different turn. I got out of the adult industry, and I worked at the YMCA for nine months.
SE: Sure, the Young Men’s Christian Association, that seems like the logical next step! (laughs)
HOOPES: Yeah, I mean, let’s go from peddling packers every day to not being able to even mention sex and sexuality. So there was that. But fortunately, I had maintained friendships within the industry, and I had a friend at the time who was like, “I don’t know what you’re doing with your life, but this isn’t it. And we need to get you back in the adult industry, because I can’t watch you work for the YMCA one more day.”
In January of 2016, my friend informed me that, whether I liked it or not, I was going to be traveling across the country from Ohio to LA with her, and we were going to ANME, so that I could talk to people in the industry and try to get onto the manufacturing side of things. Well, it was the adventure of a lifetime, and it served its purpose, because, a few months later, I got the call from Greg over at Evolved (Novelties). And in March of 2016, I started with Evolved.
SE: What was that transition like?
HOOPES: Really hard. I thought it would be easy, honestly, transitioning from stores to manufacturing. Like, it’s toys, it’s sales, it’s adult and you’re selling the same thing, right? But selling to a store is very different from selling to the end consumer, because you’re actually going into a store and teaching them how to sell to the end consumer.
That aside, what I can say about Evolved is that there is absolutely no better human to start on the manufacturing side of this industry with than Greg Alves. That man prepared me for everything and anything and taught me exactly how to survive in this part of our world. The entire Evolved family is an amazing group of people. They are a huge part of who I am, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. And the work ethics that Greg instills in all of us definitely makes the transition easier. Plus, you can’t work with someone like Lucy D’Olimpio for five years and not become a better person for it!
SE: Tell me about the logic behind your next few moves. Did you get the job you wanted? How did you find your way to Edonista, and what do you love about working there?
HOOPES: When I was at Evolved there were six of us — including Greg on the road at any given time — but when I moved to Nu Sensuelle as Sales Director, suddenly it was just me. The idea was that I would have a team in time, but that didn’t end up happening, so I was trying to do the job of six people for two years.
I started as Director of Sales at Edonista in February and that’s been a different kind of challenge because we’re such a young brand. But I love that part and that we’re female-led and inspired. At Edonista, Azul is who I’m reporting to and working directly with. She and I work very closely; we text pretty much daily. Sometimes it’s about important stuff, sometimes it’s not, but we’re always in constant communication. We actually met in person for the first time at the Altitude Show in Las Vegas. It’s amazing the kind of bond building booth furniture together will create!
One of the things that was really important to Azul in creating the Edonista brand was a critical vision I share with her: She saw that there was a lack of education for sexual wellness in general, so she created Edonista as a toy brand which could start the conversation. In selling sexual adult products, we could talk with customers about how to use them, about sexual fantasies, about all of the things that people don’t feel comfortable talking about.
In general, I think that this education is working, because I see it changing with every generation — with my kids, for instance, that they’re more open to talking about it than I was.
SE: How do your kids feel about your work in the adult industry?
HOOPES: They know what I do. My 17-year-old son — all of his friends know. They think what I do is the coolest thing ever. When he had friends over for his birthday, he showed them my office, like, “Look at what my mom does.” I don’t care if they laugh about it, because it’s the beginning of having that open and honest conversation.
SE: I think that reinforces the message you’ve been saying so far, which is that people are uncomfortable with the topic of sex. And the first step is walking into that store or into your office and being okay with the fact that this is there. I mean, it’s this whole section of human health that we don’t talk about enough.
HOOPES: Exactly. So I used to get asked the question a lot, especially with having a daughter, “How did you talk to your daughter about sex?”
She was maybe 12 the first time we had the conversation. We were in the car one day, and I started to name random sexual terms. She got very, very red, and I asked, “Are you uncomfortable?”
And she said, “Uh-huh.”
And I said, “Okay, when we can have this conversation and you’re no longer uncomfortable, then you’re ready to have sex.”
I wanted to plant that seed, so that she knew she could come to me with questions, which later, she did. My daughter has been very open about her sexuality: she is bisexual. And that is accepted in our household, but it’s not an accepted lifestyle by my parents, for instance. And that’s one reason why we don’t speak to my parents.
SE: That’s unfortunate.
HOOPES: I think, again, it comes down to: We have to be able to talk about it. We have to have uncomfortable conversations. And we have to stop allowing the bigotry that is a closed conversation. My mom is a great example — she made it clear that she wasn’t going to approve of my daughter or her lifestyle and she also made it publicly clear on social media that she didn’t accept me or what I did for a living, so I had to let her go from my life. At home, we had a conversation as to why that’s not okay. Some people don’t want to be educated, and I can’t change that, but what I can do is raise the humans that I’ve created to be better, so that we then raise the next generation better.
Since 2019, the number of states which mandate any kind of sexual education has doubled to now include 39. But for a lot of adult people, their first education is still our stores when they walk into them. That’s why, for Edonista, our education is so important.
SE: Edonista is a fairly new brand. About how many SKUs do you have right now? And how many distributors?
HOOPES: Yes, we’re only about two years old. We have 33 SKUs right now, and we plan to limit to one East Coast distributor and one West Coast distributor. We just signed with National at Altitude as our exclusive distributor on the West Coast, and we’re still seeking an East Coast distributor.
SE: And how else do you see Edonista expanding?
HOOPES: I like to say, “We’re not trying to reinvent the vibrator.” We believe that pleasure shouldn’t be limited by someone’s budget — you shouldn’t have to choose between an orgasm tonight or keeping the lights on.
SE: Coming back to you, can you talk about what it’s like traveling across the country doing sales?
HOOPES: Not everyone can do it, but I wouldn’t give up what I do for anything. I love every day. Some days are harder than others and some days are exhausting. We do a lot of fun things we post on social media, but what people don’t see is the time away from family. I have a husband and three kids. I missed my son’s very first touchdown, because I was on a plane. My husband is an end-stage renal patient, and there have been times he’s been in the hospital, and I couldn’t be there. Those are the sacrifices.
“I remember at some point in my management transition saying to them, ‘I don’t know that I can do this,’ and Joel looking at me and very sternly saying, ‘Don’t ever let anyone hear you say that out loud. If someone believes that you can do it, just get up and do it. Do it just to prove yourself wrong.’”
– April Hoopes, Director of Sales for Edonista
SE: Do you have any fun or horror stories from your travels?
HOOPES: Despite what certain friends/vendors— ahem, Cherise and Kelly — will tell you, I’m actually a fantastic driver. Don’t believe ANY of their stories. Well, maybe some of them. But I swear I was authorized to make those U-turns, speed limits are “mainly” suggestions, not all the hotels are haunted and I’ve only danced on one bar.
I guess I learned that I don’t like California. No offense, California, but it’s one of my least favorite places. Word has it that if you’re a Florida person, you don’t like California, and I’m from Florida, so.
SE: Oh, we’re in Florida! I feel the same way.
HOOPES: Right? So when I grew up, I wanted to be a mermaid. And to this day, every time I see that they’re doing mermaid interviews, I wonder if I can just go and audition. Could I just be a mermaid? Can mermaids sell vibrators? Like, how can I make this work for me?
SE: You said you have a lot of creative freedom. And you’re halfway there already. It’s just the tail…that’s the other half.
HOOPES: Most of our stuff is water submersible…
Oh, here’s a story. I once took a flight from Omaha, Nebraska to Chicago next to a lady who had an emotional support miniature pony with her.
SE: And they let the emotional pony get on the plane? That actually makes me really happy, but I guess I wasn’t there. I just like saying “emotional support pony.”
HOOPES: Yea, which I didn’t have a problem with, my only question for the flight attendant was “Why is it that my laptop can’t go in the bulkhead row but her emotional support pony can?”
SE: Do you have any stories from your time in the stores?
HOOPES: Oh, plenty. The end consumers have even less filters than we do.
I used to have a guy who started out buying my $200 dolls and eventually upgraded to buying my mannequins. Usually, one every couple of months. He was an interesting one because he would ride his bicycle to the store. So, when he was buying the dolls, we’d have to take them out of the boxes and put them in black garbage bags for him so he could get them home. Once he graduated to the mannequins, we had to disassemble them, and I had to have my boss drive them to his house. It was a hard-and-fast rule that I wasn’t allowed to do that for safety reasons.
I also had a gentleman who would buy my socks and shoes. He was incredibly sweet and very polite. He would even bring me a replacement pair of socks that were brand new so that I wouldn’t have to go the rest of the night with no socks on.
Less sweet and insanely creepy was the customer who approached me and wanted to pay me to watch me masturbate. He had a big thing for Jenna Haze, and I used to get compared to her a lot when I worked in the stores. I did turn him down repeatedly, but it does highlight the ever-growing issue of the safety of workers in the retail stores. Though that’s definitely a lengthier discussion for another interview.
For more information, visit edonista.fun.