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COVID-19 survival: Halifax sex shop raises enough money to keep operating

Venus Envy on Barrington Street. Venus Envy/GoFundMe

Venus Envy in Halifax is the kind of retailer that has products people want in a pandemic, said Marshall Haywood, a sex educator and owner of the education-based sex shop and bookstore.

But as a business that operates and thrives on foot traffic, it took a hit when bars and restaurants downtown were forced to close during lockdown.

“We weren’t necessarily mandated to close in the first and second lockdown,” Haywood told Global News Wednesday. “But it still meant as soon as the bars and restaurants has closed … people don’t come downtown and it really affects all small businesses.”

Read more: Halifax project set to create accessible sex toys for people with disabilities

Even though Venus Envy provided curbside pickup and free local deliveries during COVID-19, Haywood said they still didn’t make as much in sales as in pre-pandemic times.

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Just before the end of May, the store had a day where it only earned $200.

On top of struggling with lockdown and sales losses, Haywood said they recently learned that they needed to move due to the redevelopment of the building.

“We’re moving begrudgingly,” said Haywood, noting that Venus Envy has called 1598 Barrington St. home since 1999, though the store won’t be too far from the older location.

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The store will be moving in July to 1727 Barrington St.

To help with the costs of moving, renovating and building a local website, Venus Envy launched a GoFundMe page, and within 24 hours it was able to raise $21,935.

“It was really hard asking for help because we are a business. We’re not a non-profit, so it was really hard to come to that decision,” said Haywood.

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“And honestly I don’t think I would have come to it myself, except that I had numerous people in the community who knew that we were struggling, and who told us that we should start a fundraiser and that they want to help.”

The money raised will also go into building a new website that will make pickup and delivery more accessible, and hopefully help drive sales again.

“Through COVID-19, we … learned that our website was not working well for us. Online sales are processed by VE Ottawa – and although we are good teammates, we’re not the same store,” Venus Envy said on GoFundMe.

The store did try to do sales over the phone and through social media, along with offering free delivery, but ultimately felt that a new local website was needed to make the whole process easier.

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“It feels really good to be uplifted by the community…. It feels really special and I’ve just been a weepy mess,” said Haywood.

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