(Note: This story appears in the June 2022 issue of SE Magazine)
Among the sites to see in D.C. include the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and … the adult retail store, What’s Your Pleasure.
hat’s Your Pleasure originally opened in 1981 as a video rental store during video’s golden era. Operating as Capitol Video Sales, the owner opened multiple locations in Washington D.C., including a store in Capitol Hill and several in the Dupont Circle section of town.
Capitol Video was a dominant player in the adult movie market for 20 years until eventually consolidating stores into one prime location in Dupont Circle in Northwest D.C.
D.C. has traditionally been a conservative city for adult stores. The 1970s saw the eradication of all D.C.’s peep shows, arcades and adult-themed clubs, leaving only a handful of strip clubs with grandfathered licenses remaining. The few purveyors of adult toys, clothing and accessories operate as friendly competitors in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia marketplace. As the Washington population skewed younger, the clientele has evolved as well with many college-aged and young professionals being more open sexually.
Gradually, toys, clothing and other accessories joined the mix and the company would soon become one of DC’s busiest adult stores.
In 2017, when the owner was considering retiring from the rental/retail business, he reached out to his friend Rosser Maddox, a real estate broker, for advice with selling the business. After a quick review of the company’s operation and staff, Rosser’s wife Micale decided instead to purchase Capitol Video. After a few false starts, Micale eventually purchased the store in 2019. It is now a woman-owned and -operated business. Micale believes the best attribute of buying the business was its staff of four full-time employees with combined experience of more than 60 years in the adult industry. Their knowledge and hands-on experience were key factors in the Maddoxs’ decision to buy the company. Before going into commercial real estate, she and her husband had over 30 years in retail in the same neighborhood in electronics stores and appreciate the value of steady, reliable and personable personnel.
A decision was made by Micale and staff to reinvent the look, image and atmosphere of the store to bring a more contemporary feel to the business. The name “What’s Your Pleasure DC” was added with a new modern logo, a robust website and a mid-COVID move across Connecticut Avenue to a completely re-built and redesigned store. High-end flooring, new fixtures and digital lighting created a new look and feel for the retail space. A Sonos sound system and a top-notch POS system were installed to complete the upgrade.
SE Magazine spoke with Rosser and Micale Maddox about trafficking in pleasure in the nation’s capital.
SE: What is it like to operate an adult shop in the U.S. capital? Is the majority of your clientele college-aged students from Georgetown, suits from K Street or something else?
ROSSER: Since the creation of What’s Your Pleasure DC (WYPDC), the clientele has changed significantly with more than half of our business coming from women. The mix overall is a blend of straight, gay, trans, gender-fluid, male, female and couples from college age on up.
SE: How do you feel What’s Your Pleasure is accepted in D.C.?
ROSSER: Being on the same block in downtown Washington for 25 years-plus gives us the advantage of being part of the neighborhood and we operate in harmony with our business neighbors.
SE: How would you describe your brick-and-mortar traffic vs online traffic? How do you strike that balance?
ROSSER: Our in-store traffic is robust thanks to our extremely walk-friendly location. We are fortunate to be only a block from DC’s Metro station and have lots of hotels, clubs and restaurants nearby. We are open seven days a week, so our walk-in business is brisk most days.
The addition of our website (wypdc.com) adds additional business and allows curious customers to see what’s in our store. We also provide free shipping on any size order for those that can’t get to us in person. We also find the younger customers like to shop online and just stop by for quick pick up of their orders.
Being on the same block in downtown Washington for 25 years-plus gives us the advantage of being part of the neighborhood and we operate in harmony with our business neighbors. — Rosser Maddox
SE: How did the pandemic impact your store — were you forced to close, did you go online only? Have any of those changes stayed as COVID restrictions have phased out?
ROSSER: Like everyone, we were hit hard by the pandemic and had to close from March 2020 to June with limited curbside pick up and modified services until August 2020. Luckily, the government PPP kept our staff safe and funded until we could re-open. During this time, we really upgraded our website and delivery services in order to survive. We also took the opportunity to move across the street and into our newly remodeled store. Interestingly enough, our new location was an adult store back in the ‘70s and ‘80s with a great reputation so we still have customers that come in from back in the day.
SE: How would you describe the atmosphere at What’s Your Pleasure?
ROSSER: We really worked hard and we feel successfully in making WYPDC a bright, friendly, clean and well merchandised store. Our staff is second to none in making customers feel welcome and provide exceptional customer service with their expertise. Everyone in our industry sells the same with few exceptions. The difference is all about customer service and we understand maintaining our relationships with our clients is essential to our continued growth.
Entering the store, you are presented with a softer product mix that includes clothing and health products like lubes and massage lotions along with party games and gift items. Further into the store it moves to vibrators, dildos, strokers and mainstream gear. Fetish, specialty and edgier products are further back allowing a customer to decide their own comfort level when shopping. Music, atmosphere and a friendly and welcoming staff make for a very pleasant shopping experience.
SE: What’s the most popular product or product category at What’s Your Pleasure?
ROSSER: By far, the most popular products we sell are vibrators followed by clothing, cock rings, dildos and fetish gear. We cater to all interests including edgier products that aren’t necessarily fast moving but nonetheless have a loyal audience. We carry fine leather products we import from a Japanese manufacturer, metal gear from our suppliers in China and other non-mainstream gear for lifestyle enthusiasts. It’s not unusual for some of our customers to spend upwards of $1,000 dollars in a single visit. We hear from customers from other areas tell us they have never seen a selection of products like ours in their home city.
We think this is the reason our business has nearly doubled in the past three years with Micale’s leadership along with the name and location change.
MICALE: I think it’s important that our customers discover something new, different and unusual every time they visit,” says Micale. “Even products that they may not purchase provides them with new ideas and help broaden their sexual horizons.”
For more information, visit Whatsyourpleasuredc.com.