All the Way with Venus Envy

Posted by Wayves Volunteer Hugo Dann 21/04/2013

By Shelly Taylor

In 1998, I was looking for a way out of the fledgling business as a caterer and personal chef I had started just  the year before. The catering business was really challenging and competitive and I had been cooking for so long at that point, I really wanted a change. I thought I'd open a nice, quiet little shop that sold books and sex toys geared towards women and since I didn't have any retail experience, or really any kind of experience besides cooking and bar tending, I was very realistic about my chances of making a go of it. When I'd tell people my plan, I'd always add on that I had only signed a one year lease, and if at the end of that year, I had to close, well at least it would have been an interesting experience.

What I hadn't expected, and am forever grateful for, is the fact that I had lucked into something that the amazing Halifax community ended up really liking. And, in a small city like Halifax, it doesn't take long for word of mouth to make or break a place, so we were very fortunate that the reviews were favorable. That isn't to say that we didn't have our detractors, there were some very vocal people who thought lots of what we were doing was very wrong, but somehow that first year ended and we were busy enough to move away from that tiny store in the south end to the middle of main street.

At the same time, I hired the first full time employee who transformed my little scraps of paper and notes to myself into a highly organized system, a move that allowed Venus Envy to become a viable business, not just a very stressful hobby. Marshall Haywood would become the owner of VE in 2008, but back in those days it was just the two of us running the store until one day we realized we needed staff, people who would improve the business with their ideas and expertise and allow us to grow into the busy place that VE is today. 

These days, Marshall and the fantastic staff at VE continue the day to day goodness of bringing shame-free sex information to the good people of Halifax, as well as offering in-store; off site workshops to a wide variety of people, including health care folks, social services providers, and educators. The store continues to be a strong supporter and center for the queer and trans* community, taking part in pride, the dyke and trans* march, collaborating with all sorts of other organizations to make Halifax the amazing place it is.

I miss owning the Halifax store, being a part of the day to day operations, as well as a part of the community that I first came out in. But I love that the two VEs continue to work together to promote healthy sex and break down the stigma surrounding all kinds of sex and gender related stuff. I feel lucky to have been a part of this move towards acceptance and continue to learn from the people I work with, both in Ottawa and Halifax. I'm super excited to come back to Halifax to throw our 15th anniversary party on May 3. We're raising funds for the VE bursary fund and having a fantastic time doing it! Also, as a way of saying a little thank you, we're offering two free workshops during our anniversary week! Check out All About Oral on Monday, April 29th and Erotic Talk on Wednesday, May 1. 

Editor's Note: For 15 years, Venus Envy has followed a community engagement business model that has played a huge role in developing Halifax's queer and feminist communities. Venus Envy has been s an invualuable info resource and frequently served as an ad hoc community centre. LGBTQ service organizations such as Halifax Pride, NSRAP, Pride Health. the Halifax Sexual Health Centre, and just about every queer or feminist cultural event, have all benefited from Venus Envy's staunch and tangible support. And that includes Wayves! Happy birthday, Venus Envy! And thanks. Here is a link to the complete list of this week's celebrations.

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