Sex Toys for Soccer Moms
A Rockridge woman offers an online alternative to sex shops
Aimee Vorhaus’s Rockridge residence feels more Martha Stewart than Larry Flynt. The immaculately restored 1914 prairie-style villa is stylishly decorated throughout. There’s a kitchen filled with cookbooks and a playful puppy named Luka digging in the flower garden. But as her husband, Rick, heads off to work, Aimee punches the clock as the founder of Red Ambrosia, purveyor of—ahem—intimate goods. She says her business fills a niche for upscale shoppers who aren’t ashamed of their sex drive.
“I always thought that there must be a market for women like me—educated, open-minded women who might not feel so comfortable frequenting a sex store,” says Vorhaus, 33. Her visits to adult boutiques alienated her, because, she says, “I don’t have tattoos and piercings, and I’m not into wild experimentation.”
Vorhaus earned a master’s degree in cultural anthropology, with an emphasis on gender and human sexuality in North America, at Brown University. For her thesis, she spent a summer at a nudist retreat on the East Coast. “I spent most of the first day hiding in the bathroom, claiming to be putting on more sunblock,” she recalls.
Vorhaus’s Internet boutique peddles sexy products in a manner she intends to be tasteful. “Sexuality is such a significant part of our being,” she says. “However, I do think there is too much pornographic imagery everywhere in our culture, especially as it is used to sell, sell, sell.”
A visit to Redambrosia.com reveals a selection of intimate accessories, massage oils, erotic art and DVDs, cookbooks, and music CDs. Click a few more times, and you’ll find a G-string made of pearls, a battalion of battery-powered massagers, and some faux phalluses made of Pyrex (“medical-grade, dishwasher safe,” Vorhaus says). The most expensive item is a $900 vibrator, complete with gold-and-silver plating. Absurd? Not in a world where consumers drop $50,000 for a Hummer and a couple hundred for a BlackBerry. “The market for extremely high-end sex products is on the rise,” she says.
Redambrosia.com launched in November 2004. Business boomed immediately, thanks in part to a Playboy editor’s recommendation of one of her vanilla-scented lubricants.
The quick success validated Vorhaus’s decision to change careers. Until 2002, she had been an always-on-the-go event planner for the California Film Institute in Mill Valley. (She met Rick at a film festival party; their first date was drinks and a documentary about Eskimos.) Then, while on vacation in Baja California, she noticed a swelling in her abdomen. Tests revealed a large ovarian cyst. “I was given a hormone that put me through a temporary menopause.”
If event-planning burnout wasn’t a signal to change her life, menopause at 30 was. During her recovery, Vorhaus envisioned the online store. Rick, now her husband, was a sales and marketing veteran who had cruised through the dot-com boom opening sales offices for Excite. He looked over her plan and affirmed that she was onto something.
Vorhaus has found that Red Ambrosia’s clientele isn’t all East Bay soccer moms, as she had predicted. More than 60 percent of orders come from men, and more orders come from Texas than from any other state.
To expand her brand, Vorhaus is introducing her own line of organic massage oils, candles, and “lovemaking products” this month. “The first item is a beautiful keepsake box full of massage oil and boudoir balms, all 100 percent natural [and] made with essential oils noted for their aphrodisiac qualities.”
This morning, Vorhaus is putting her finishing touches—a sprinkling of lavender buds and a single peacock feather—atop wrapped items in a red box. She’ll mail it to a 70-year-old woman in the Lone Star State. The Texan had called the day before and gingerly described her husband’s erectile dysfunction, then asked what products might add a little zip in the bedroom.
“I put together a package of some massage oils, candles, a sexy DVD, and a fur mitt for soft touching,” says Vorhaus. “She’s going to rip that box open as soon as it arrives.”