By Carla Branch
For years, Ann Ile has dreamed of opening a sex shop for women. Her dream come true is Lotus Blooms, King Street’s newest business.
The windows of Lotus Blooms display tasteful and expensive lingerie, some novelty items and some other items that might tempt those who wish to explore their sexuality to enter. Inside, the atmosphere is the same – understated, elegant and welcoming.
“My dream was to create a place where women and couples could come to get educated about and explore their sexuality,” Ile said. “We aren’t just another sex shop like all of those that people know about; we’re different; one-of-a-kind. We have created a space where people can come and ask questions and look at books and get information without being embarrassed. Now, if you want to read a book about sex, you have to go to a large bookstore. Here, you can sit on our sofa and look through books or just talk to one of us,” Ile said.
Ile and her business partner, Analena Graham, are nurses. “We understand how difficult it is to talk to a doctor about a sexual issue,” Graham said. “We don’t diagnose but we do answer questions and we can sometimes help women formulate questions to ask their physician. We are all about health and education,” Graham said.
Ile and Graham met at Washington Hospital Center where they still work as trauma nurses. Graham is a flight nurse with MedStar and Ile gave up flying to work in trauma resuscitation.
“We haven’t given up our jobs because we love what we do and we love this as well,” Ile said.
The shop sells an array of lingerie that is designed by European designers and European-inspired. “It feels good, is fun to wear and looks good on a variety of body types,” Ile said.
The “toys” are also one-of-a-kind. “They are well made and many of them are designed to fit the contours of a woman’s body,” Ile said. “We have things that are subtle to introduce couples to particular activities and other toys for the more adventurous.”
Graham designs corsets. “We have 12 different designs and I work with clients individually to design the corset that meets his or her particular need. Many of our corsets are made from organic material and are washable. If a woman wears a corset every other day, she can strengthen her diaphragm and, with proper diet, loose a dress size fairly quickly,” she said.
Corsets range in price from around $400 to $1000. “I can make them as simple or as fancy as you want and I have corsets for men and women,” Graham said.
The shop opened on Oct. 1. “We moved to King Street because shortly after we opened in Georgetown, our landlord foreclosed on us and we had to close. Many of our customers are form Northern Virginia and we just love the location,” Ile said. “We are close to a Metro station and the King Street trolley has been great. Also, the businesses near us have been very welcoming. We are looking forward to a long, successful stay in Alexandria.”