Four Beauties opens near UB South Campus
Sex shop promotes a 'safe sex haven'
Buffalo’s South Campus just got a little sexier.
Lorna Loster runs the only store near Buffalo’s South Campus that offers a plethora of novelty sex toys, lingerie, exotic dancer costumes and other intimate sex enhancers.
But Loster will never call her store a “sex shop.”
“It’s a fashion and intimates boutique,” Loster said. “That’s a title I came up with because I don’t want anyone to think ‘raunchy.’ People won’t sit there and say ‘Oh, you went to that sex store?’ They’ll sit there and say, ‘I went to the boutique.’”
Loster opened her Four Beauties adult shop at 3083 Main St. in the University Heights near UB’s South Campus. The shop officially opened on Jan. 23 and welcomes anyone with a valid 18-plus ID. Loster said the main intention of the store is to create a safe environment for people who are looking to explore his or her sex life.
Loster – an intended sex therapist who studied at the University of Pittsburgh – first worked at a sex shop when she was 18 years old. She quickly realized she wanted to work in the sex industry. After working at her first shop, she was motivated to one that didn’t make customers feel uncomfortable.
"I worked at one in 2004,” Loster said. “I tried to work there and I didn’t like the atmosphere. It was creepy to a certain extent. You didn’t feel comfortable in there.”
In 2012, Loster began the inception of an adult shop that wouldn’t make customers feel uneasy upon entrance while being able to enhance a person’s sex life.
The moniker “Four Beauties” references a Chinese legend about the four most beautiful women in the world – a running theme in the boutique. Above the register is an abundance of oriental décor, including posters, embroideries and wall art.
Loster said the addition of an adult shop in the Heights has not posed any issues or criticism so far, but the risk is present. Four Beauties is located near 28 schools where students under the age of 18 attend, according to HomeFinder.com.
But Loster is convinced there will not be a problem now or in the future.
“As long as the child is taught properly by their parents, it shouldn’t be an issue,” Loster said. “I don’t see issues coming either. I keep my storefront just like any retailer that sells lingerie at the mall. It’s not until they come inside when they see the rest of the store.”
In order to make the store comfortable for all customers, Loster keeps her “X-rated” products in a locked glass case at the register. She also painted the walls slick pink in order to give more of a “cozy and girly” vibe and to make people “feel more at home.”
Loster offers numerous products that are key to the success of her business, most notably lingerie and exotic clothing. Four Beauties offers sizes from XS - 6XL in order to appeal to the entire market. Loster also markets her clothing as “classy, but revealing.”
The shop offers shoes, accessories, novelty items, gifts and party supplies in addition to the clothing.
Although the shop has been open for roughly two weeks, Loster said the biggest sellers are fetish items such as stockings and whips. She said it is not a coincidence.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” – a critically acclaimed erotic novel that explores fetish and bondage – will hit the big screen Friday. The release of “Fifty Shades of Grey” led to a 7.5 percent increase in sales of sex-themed products, according to a report from research firm IBISWorld.
“A fetish is something that is much bigger than ‘Fifty Shades of Gray,’” Loster said. “Many people do it for a lifestyle, some do it for fun. It can go from very soft like light bondage and tickling, to really extreme stuff like … use your imagination.”
Loster said she has taken the right precautions to make the shop as friendly and comfortable as possible. From the outside, Four Beauties shows various lingerie items and men’s apparel with several signs that promote the wide range of sizes and other merchandise.
A red curtain runs around the front windows. It’s not uncommon to see adult shops around the country do the same thing. Most stores put up a curtain to prevent children and pedestrians from seeing the more promiscuous items. A sex shop must abide to specific laws in order to functionally operate. Less than 10 percent of the inventory can be phallic or vaginal-like products but they cannot be presented in the front window.
Loster abides by the law, but she put the curtain up for a different reason.
“I want the customers to feel comfortable,” Loster said. “Most adult stores block the windows off so little kids can’t see the raunchy items through the window. I do it for discretion. People who are new to the life can come in and no one would know if you came in or what you buy here. I want this to be a sex safe haven.”
One of Loster’s main goals is to turn skeptics about the sex industry into believers. She said a common misconception about adult shops is publicity.
“Most people think that [sex shops] are things to look down on,” Loster said. “They don’t believe it should be public. But most people need to know it’s something natural for all of us.”
UB’s South Campus has been a target market for Four Beauties due to the high number of college students that reside in the dorms and houses around South Campus.
“College is about exploration, not only through knowledge, but [exploring one’s] self,” Loster said. “Students are away from parents and are here to explore. I’m just a stepping stone to help further the process.”
Charlie Wanderer, a sophomore physics major, lives directly above Four Beauties. When Wanderer returned from winter break, he wasn’t aware that a sex shop would be opening below him.
“It wasn’t there when I moved in earlier this year, but it took us for a surprise when I came back from break and saw it opened,” Wanderer said. “The store doesn’t bother me though. It caters to different clientele that I’m not used to, but it keeps to itself and does its own thing.”
Phil Berg, a sophomore exercise science major, lives with Wanderer and was not excited about the opening of the shop upon returning from break. Berg said he thinks it will draw a “weird” customer base to the neighborhood.
Berg also said the location of the shop was not ideal, considering the proximity of Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, which is located a few blocks further down Main Street.
“It’s an interesting business to be opened up on a street with so many young kids running around, like the elementary school just down the street,” Berg said. “I don’t know what the shop will do to prevent kids from seeing their stuff.”
Nonetheless, Berg found humor in the opening of the store.
“I wasn’t concerned [with the shop]; it was more funny to me,” Berg said. “I never thought in a million years that I would be living over a sex shop.”
Loster plans to open two other shops around Buffalo in the future. The other two shops will specialize in specific apparel, rather than a conglomerate of adult products. She plans to have one of her locations to be in Allentown, a community in downtown Buffalo.
Like Four Beauties, she plans to promote a comfortable environment for the customers.
“My other store will be strictly toys and novelties,” Loster said. “Three in total, in different areas, is my goal. These will be places where you don’t feel uncomfortable when you walk in.”