Capitol Hill is down another sex shop

(Image: Castle Megastore)

The E Pike Castle Megastore sex shop hasn’t been a very caring partner.

Court documents show the Arizona-based national chain owes nearly $300,000 over the lease for its now shuttered subterranean Capitol Hill location.

According to the lawsuit, the sex shop below E Pike’s Winston Apartments and the classic Seattle lesbian bar Wildrose quietly closed its doors earlier this year with time still left on its ten-year lease.

According to court documents, the apartment building’s owners filed a complaint in September demanding unpaid rent. A summary judgement in the case puts Castle on the hook for $270,932.76 including fees. Continue reading

How Referendum-90 on sex ed in schools could change the course for Washington’s LGBTQ students

Gay City is a Seattle LGBTQ Center that has pledged its support on R-90. Located in Capitol Hill, they provide testing and community for many LGBTQ people and are currently searching for a new home. (Image: Chamidae Ford)

By Chamidae Ford, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

Just days from one of the most divisive and consuming presidential elections in recent history, some of the other decisions on Washington’s November 3rd ballot are having a hard time gathering attention.

One of those smaller decisions that will still make a huge impact is Referendum 90, which asks Washington voters to support or repeal recently-passed legislation, Senate Bill 5395, that requires schools to provide comprehensive sex education. It’s a dire need.

“If safe spaces are not developed for youth to have these discussions, there’s a high chance they will seek unsafe spaces to learn or be misinformed,” said Melvin Givens, director of communications for Capitol Hill’s Gay City, a Seattle LGBTQ center.

The new law, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in March, sparked outrage among some parents and conservative groups. Opponents believe that the law would lead to inappropriate content being taught to children. The opponent’s successful efforts to place R-90 on the ballot garnered over 266,000 signatures.

A “yes” vote on R-90 would preserve the law; a “no” vote would repeal it. Continue reading

San Francisco’s Good Vibrations acquires Capitol Hill-created Babeland

Born 24 years ago on E Pike when sex toys for women were still entrepreneurial concepts, iconic Capitol Hill retailer Babeland is joining a larger family of sensual positivity.

Bay Area-based Good Vibrations has announced it is acquiring the Capitol Hill-headquartered chain of three stores and the company’s online assets:

 In a merging of two of the most iconic sex toy retailers, Good Vibrations, one of the first shops to create a friendly and welcoming environment catering to women and founded 40 years ago, has entered into an agreement to acquire Babeland, co-founded by Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning 25 years ago as an affirming, feminist, lifestyle brand. Cavanah and Venning are ready to say goodbye and move on to other pursuits after a momentous run of helping countless customers discover new pleasures and greater enjoyment in their sex lives.

Born Toys in Babeland just down the street from its current location at 707 E Pike, the first Babeland shop celebrated the business’s 20th anniversary in 2013.

“Capitol Hill in 1993 was the hub of emerging Seattle culture,” co-founder Rachel Venning told CHS at the time. “The neighborhood was packed with gay people, musicians artists, and creative people of all stripes. It was a great place to start a business that was based on a new concept: sex toys for women.”

Good Vibrations operates nine stores in five cities and will expand to include the Babeland shops including Capitol Hill’s flagship store and two Babeland stores in New York City.

“It’s been a joy and an adventure to start and grow Babeland,” Venning said in the announcement of the deal. “I have enormous gratitude for all the customers, staff, and community that have been part of this. I’m ready for a new adventure. Having Good Vibrations take over makes it easier to let go because we share so many of the same feminist values.”

According to the announcement, the Babeland brand will live on after the acquisition.


CHS Pics | ‘Consent Crawl’ brings messages against sexual violence to streets of Capitol Hill

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Thursday night, a small group carried a heavy mattress decorated with messages against sexual violence through the streets of Capitol Hill. Another mattress celebrating respect and consent — equally heavy — was also hoisted onto shoulders and carried by the group. Continue reading

#ExposeRape at V2 with artists behind Capitol Hill anti-rape poster campaign

Activists and artists behind an anti-rape poster campaign are following up on their efforts with a community gathering and art project on Capitol Hill.

The ExposeRape group is inviting the public to help create a giant display of public art while deconstructing rape culture at the V2 art space Thursday night. Creators of the #ExposeRape PSA posters seen around Capitol Hill will be at the 11th Ave space. A march through Pike/Pine is also planned.

With direct messaging like “know means know” and “don’t rape,” organizers of the campaign say they are seeking to expand the discussion of sexual assault in the city.

Our mission is to expose and broaden the way that rape is viewed and defined, bust rape myths and create consent culture through public art. We are not compromising in our message and we don’t have to divide rape by the communities it affects. By highlighting a diverse group of artists in this project we aim to represent a wide range of experiences, all with powerful messages in combating rape culture.


(Image: ExposeRape)

CHS recently wrote about Capitol Hill artist Eliza Gauger and her use of public art as form of psychic weaponry with her Hex of Obsolescence to protect trans kids. She is now fundraising to gather her Problem Glyphs into book form. The projects also harken back to the anti-gaybashing work of John Criscitello on the streets of Capitol Hill and the #CapHillPSA poster campaign.

Located in the former home of Value Village, V2 was established as a temporary art space while developers Legacy Commercial work out a way to develop the landmarks-protected building.

Thursday’s event will feature work from 13 artists, including regular CHS photographer Alex Garland.

PUSPUS, Eric Jolson Rhea Vega, Kaya Axelsson, Shogo Ota, Alex Garland, Oscar Arreguin Mendez, Ken McCarty, Crybaby Studios, CamCreature & Ms. 3, Amy Huber, Jazz Brown, Yoona Lee, I Want You Studio (Christian Petersen)

The #ExposeRape event starts June 2nd at 7 PM at V2, 1525 11th Ave. Visit ExposeRape’s website for more information. 

Symposium puts Seattle sex workers front and center

3Ei3yWH0It may be the world’s oldest profession, but sex work and its modern practitioners may also be the least understood. A five day conference in Seattle is attempting to turn that around and elevate the voices and concerns of people with “sexy professions.”

The second annual Seattle Annual Sex Worker Symposium will take place this week with private and public events held on and around Capitol Hill. Admission for most events is donation based. The conference kicks off Wednesday night at 8th and Seneca’s Town Hall where a panel of sex workers and activists will take “a hard look at the history of prostitution prohibition, and the effects that criminalization has had on people and communities who engage in the sex trade by choice, circumstance, or force.”

SASS is put on by the Sex Workers Out Reach Project, a national sex workers advocacy organization founded in 2002. Seattle-based president Savannah Sly said this week’s conference seeks to break the stereotype that sex work is only about human trafficking and high-end escorts.

HalfFliers“We see a constant need to have sex workers speak from their own platforms,” Sly said. “(SASS) allows people from all over the sex industry to present their own reality in their own words.”

SWOP casts a wide net when it comes to defining sex work. Sexy jobs may include “escorting, stripping, professional domination and submission, porn performing, peep show dancing, sacred intimacy, phone sex, and web camming, and more.”

A downtown rally and march for sex workers’ rights is planned for Thursday and a community health fair will be held Friday at Capitol Hill’s Gay City. On Sunday, SASS will screen a series of short films by sex workers at Central Cinema.

And while the conference will address sex work’s serious political and social issues, SASS organizers are also tapping into the fun side of the trade. The Harlot’s Ball will feature DJs, kinky performers, face painting, and a safe sex kissing booth at The Lo-Fi.

Tickets are still available online and many events are free or cost flexible. Here is the schedule of events.

Pike/Pine kink shop The Crypt gets the boot

If you’ve experienced spotty service and inconsistent business hours at Capitol Hill’s “harder, more extreme” sex shop, be gentle. These are rough times at The Crypt.

A sign has gone up announcing a “50% off,” going out of business sale at the 11th Ave purveyor of kink. “We’ll miss you Seattle.” We’re checking to find out the final day of business. Let us know if you’ve heard.

Behind the scenes, the store is getting kicked out. Earlier this week, the court sided with the sex shop’s landlord with a $11,706.22 judgement on unpaid rent against the company that operated the Pike/Pine store as part of a chain of six stores in Washington, California, and Colorado. Attempts to reach parent company Crypto Technology or its other stores have not been successful — every phone number we have found has been disconnected and the ecommerce website is gone.

CHS visited 11th Ave’s The Crypt last summer for a peek inside the Hill’s kink shop:

“We’re definitely harder, more extreme than other stores,” said manager Shawn Allen Hall, not far from the gagged mannequin hanging from a sex swing that greets customers at the front door. On the other hand, the seen-it-all staff are anything but hard and extreme. “We just want to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible,” Hall said.

The history we were told at the time went something like this: The first Crypt opened in San Diego in 1977 to meet the needs of the city’s BDSM community, but the Seattle shop became the flagship store after opening in the 1980s. Originally on Union and then Broadway, The Crypt made its move to 11th and Pine in 2007, replacing The Vogue nightclub.

The shop’s legend spread wider than its front doors and is part of a kinkier time in Pike/Pine before Basic Plumbing became a 24-hour diner. One story related to CHS — and wholly unconfirmed — claims crews preparing the Sunset Electric site for development found a sex room with kinky torture gear in the empty auto row-era building. Whether the gear was Crypt-branded or not, we’ll leave to your imagination.

It’s also not the first time CHS has covered a dispute between landlord Matt Basta and one of his Pike/Pine tenants. In 2010, Grey Gallery got the boot but its owner said he was happy to go.

So, how much, exactly does a sex shop pay for rent in Pike/Pine? According to court documents, The Crypt was on the hook for more than $7,000 a month:

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It must have been a good enough deal — according to the affidavit, the company signed a five-year extension in 2012.

The impending Crypt closure won’t leave Pike/Pine without a dedicated sex shop. Earlier this year, Castle Megastore made the move from its expansive Broadway location to a tighter fit beneath the Wildrose. Meanwhile, Doghouse Leathers got bigger on E Pike. UPDATE: While it operates in a different spectrum of sex, Babeland’s 20 years of business should also be noted here, of course.

Many will point at The Crypt’s departure as another sign in the realm of retail that Capitol Hill is fucked. With the exit of longtimers like Edge of the Circle and the incoming of big new players, there is plenty of opportunities for the little guy or gal to get screwed. But in the case of The Crypt, at least, a look behind the counter and the reality of a chain company like Crypto Technology reveals that size isn’t all that matters.

CHS Community Post | Finally! A Book Launch with Sex Appeal… and Flex Appeal

9781551525099This Saturday, October 19th at 7pm, Seattle author and collector David L. Chapman will launch Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975 at the Elliott Bay Book Company. At this book launch party, Chapman will share examples of his visual ephemera, and discuss the eroticized, politicized, and commercialized male image through history, exploring its fascinating cultural context by country and continent.

This free event will also feature three of Washington state’s very own hunkiest hunks, professional bodybuilders Benny Mobley and Michael Landon, and amateur Peter Cheah, who will give a choreographed posing demonstration.

Check out this excerpt from a Q&A with David L. Chapman and his publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press:

Q: What initially sparked your interest in bodybuilding culture—and how long have you been collecting bodybuilding artifacts?

A: Almost forty years ago, I found an old, rare cigar box label from 1894 that had a glorious lithographed, embossed portrait of bodybuilder Eugen Sandow. I was immediately intrigued by the image, and I began to search for facts about the subject. There was little reliable information available, so I began to widen my search. I was rather surprised to learn that there had been many professional strongmen in the 19th century, and some of them were pretty colorful characters. Bodybuilders originally appeared in sideshows, and Vaudeville had room for lots of really weird and wonderful performers. So I guess you can say that I was lured into the study of sport and athletics through the stage door. And I made sure to include the cigar box label in the introduction of Universal Hunks.

Q: Something that might surprise readers of Universal Hunks are the similarities between the style and poses of men in different geographical regions, and from as early as 1895. This parallel seems to suggest that colonial exports/imports worked to ensure a shared “universal” body ideal. Would you agree?

A: Purposeful exercise to build muscles began in Europe, and the models that those early hunks looked to were the statues of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The great powers of the Imperial Age exported the European concept of male beauty all over the world when they established their empires. Later, athletes discovered that they could break away from the classical models, and they began to pose less to display an antique beauty and more to show off specific muscles like biceps, lats or pecs.

Q: Let’s cut to a serious question: Who’s your favorite retro Hunk? If you could have Your Own Personal Hunk, who would he be?

A: Would you ask the mother of a large family who her favorite child is? I suppose that if you tied me to a table with a buzz saw blade headed toward my tender bits, I would probably blurt out a single name: Eugen Sandow. He was in at the start of the physical-culture craze of the 1890s, and he is the epitome of virility; more than any of the others, he knew how to use his muscles in a variety of creative ways.

Don’t miss the excerpt from Universal Hunks over at The Atlantic. 


Attention Pike/Pine lovers: Castle announces its plans for E Pike move

B9mHCAnIcAAatYJThe Arizona-based “megastore” chain known for mass-merchandising lube and nipple clamps still hasn’t confirmed our report but the sign doesn’t lie. Broadway’s Castle sex store is leaving Capitol Hill’s main drag for a new berth on E Pike in a former tattoo shop.

Sandwiched between the Wildrose and Bimbos, the buildout is in the early stages of the new 2,000 square-foot store. In November, the new Out of the Closet thrift store and the new home AHF Pharmacy joined Lifelong in a new retail, health, and office facility across the street from where Castle is readying its new home. Around the corner, longtime Pike/Pine purveyor of kink The Crypt still lurks. Down E Pike, Babeland celebrated its 20th anniversary on the Hill in 2013. Meanwhile, Doghouse Leathers is expanding on upper E Pike.

Castle joins a thriving and sometimes tumultuous Pike/Pine nightlife economy still coming to grips with the Woo! Girl and what feels like an influx of not always sensitive new visitors.

CHS reported on the planned move in December after the retailer’s management had toyed with an on again, off again move from its longtime Broadway home citing public safety issues on Broadway and the poor maintenance of Castle’s building.

Broadway, meanwhile, will need to deal with another gaping retail hole after the OfficeMax chain confirmed it is closing its Capitol Hill location after only one year of business.

Central Vacuum Repair shuts it down after 50 years, making way for E Pike leather shop expansion

The old storefronts will soon work together on E Pike just above 13th

The old storefronts will soon work together on E Pike just above 13th



The end of a more than 50-year-old Capitol Hill business will make way for a small pocket of LGBTQ growth in the neighborhood. It will also bring an answer to this frequently asked E Pike question: How exactly does a vacuum repair shop stay in business on Capitol Hill? The answer soon: It doesn’t, anymore.

The Wildrose just turned 30. Now Doghouse Leathers, another of the neighborhood’s defining LGBTQ businesses, is ready to expand after nine years as Capitol Hill’s outlet for male-focused kink.

In April, Jeff “Daddy” Henness and his partner Dan “Puppy” Daniels will be doubling the size of their 13th and E Pike shop as they expand into the Central Vaccuum Repair space next-door. Continue reading