Southern Brooklyn

Sex Shop’s Opening Slammed By Sheepshead Neighbors


A “sex shop” opened on Sheepshead Bay Road this Tuesday, and its risqué window display is getting residents hot under the collar, spurring one local politician to take action.

KamaSutra at 1717 Sheepshead Bay Road sells skimpy lingerie, sex toys, novelties and massage oils, in addition to a handful of unrelated merchandise like glass pipes and water pipes.

The owner, who declined to give a name other than “John,” said he’s been running shops like KamaSutra for thirty years. He thought Sheepshead Bay is as good a location as any to pimp his provocative products.

“A place like this is going to work anywhere,” he said. “We’re all the same. We all use lingerie, we use toys. This can work anywhere.”

But some residents and store owners along Sheepshead Bay Road want KamaSutra out, saying it doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.

“It’s disgusting. There’s only one word for it: disgusting,” said Lana P., the owner of Golden Door, an upscale jewelry designer across the street from KamaSutra. “There’s a kids’ store, a ballet studio, a karate school [within a block of the boutique]. This is a shame that they opened this in this area.” She also said potential vendors to her store who visit from Switzerland and Italy might get the wrong idea about her business when they see KamaSutra across the street.

But little can be done about the store’s existence. Adult establishments are categorized as those that stock pornographic materials, like magazines and videos, or have live shows. Those businesses are restricted from operating in residential neighborhoods or within 500 feet of schools, day care centers, houses of worship, or any other adult establishment. So long as less than 40 percent of the product fill that category, the shop can operate like any other business. KamaSutra doesn’t sell pornography. Sex toys are considered marital aids and do not contribute to the 40 percent; lingerie and novelty items are also considered separate items.

KamaSutra’s owner said neighbors shouldn’t be so quick to push him out, since his offerings could be far more provocative.

“This is the most neat, clean, low-profile store I have,” he said. “Nothing too aggressive.”

Most of the shopkeepers don’t seem as concerned with what the store is selling as much as they worry about the window display.

“It’s no problem for our clients,” said Lily Margayan, an employee with Brighton Beauty Supply across the street. “It’s not like they’re going to choose, ‘hmm – sex shop or beauty store?'”

Brighton Beauty Supply manager Sofia Aslanova agrees. “Let them stay,” she said. “Business is business. But it’s not for kids. They need to calm down the display for kids going past.”

“The biggest concern was that the window was risqué,” said Oswalt Heymann, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s chief of staff. Heymann said the office received a handful of complaints from constituents and business owners.

On a Thursday visit, the window had lingerie packages with nude women (nipples and such were digitally removed), several items depicting penises, as well as water pipes. And kids are taking notice; during our visit a group of tween boys stopped mid-pace to gawk at the window, and began daring each other to go in (one did, and was promptly kicked out).

“I don’t think this is the place for the store, and mostly I’m concerned for the kids,” said Sabina Furman, the owner of Rascals, a kids clothing and accessory store at 1730 Sheepshead Bay Road. Furman said she worries the window display may hurt her business, since, as a parent, she would not walk with her children – 7 and 10 – down that stretch of Sheepshead Bay Road. She thinks the window display may reduce foot traffic to her store.

“I don’t know where they should go,” Furman added. “Maybe they can stay here, but the window display is just crazy. I don’t think they’ll survive anyway.”

Cymbrowitz reacted quickly to hearing such complaints. His office spoke to representatives of the store, and they promised him that by Friday morning the display would be toned down.

“We want to be on good terms with the neighbors,” said KamaSutra’s owner. “We were told there was some stuff in the window that they don’t like, so we’ll take it out.” He said the glass pipes are among the things to be removed.

That’s good news to some residents, who welcome the diversity to Sheepshead Bay’s shopping district.

“I’m way more excited than I should be,” said Marina G. “I think it’s a lot different from what’s around here.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following photos show closeups of some of the items in the window display. Some may consider the images graphic. The images may not be safe for viewing in a work environment.

Comment policy


  1. OMG, they have bongs…this is awesome! The Smoke Bowl doesn't have any glassware or non-traditional pipes, and that deli on Sheepshead Bay Road with the little pink awning had a nice selection, but they closed down a few years ago. Since then, I've had to travel out-of-borough whenever I'm pipe-shopping. Did you see any other smoking paraphanelia while you were there? I definitely want to check this place out…and while we're on the topic, does anyone know of any head shops in Sheespshead Bay?

  2. There a store like this on Coney Island Avenue near Kings Highway. More discreet than this. Seems to me that the owner wants to be in people's faces.

  3. Politicians should stay the **** out of lawful/licensed private enterprises. 80% of jobs in America are created by small businesses.

    If the store, any store, got licensed by state and met all legal regulations to operate their at that location, then it’s nobody’s business to tell them how to design their storefront so long as they don’t break the law.

  4. Without going so far as to tell people how to arrange their storefronts, doesnt anyone think the way it looks in the photos is sleazy and cheap? Its my feeling that if it were a little more mysterious and sublime people might feel more comfortable going in there, instead of being seen walking into or out of that.

    Its great that this store exists, and I wish them lots of luck, but come on, I think children should not be seeing this sort of thing. This display looks better left for the inside of the store.

  5. And this sort of thing means that they will attracting more attention from children, who will go inside with the expectation of seeing more. After all, if this is what is visible on the outside….

  6. Frankly, from the window this place seems no worse than Spencer Gifts which is just about every mall, but I agree with Eitan that the window makes the place look sleazy. Which in turn makes the neighborhood look sleazy.

    With all the high end bridal shops up the street, I would imagine that their neighbors would not welcome them to the neighborhood.

  7. Now granted, I live in a conservative neighborhood, but nearby is a lingerie store with bras in the window. In between the bras and the outside world are these strips of opaque plastic so that as you walk by, you only see fuzzy outlines and the colors of the bras. It makes the store look so classy, and the best part.. no one is embarrassed to go in.

  8. Dude. Ever been to Te Amo on the corner of U and Ocean? Pipes, bongs, hookahs, you name it. And they even sell porn. Been there for years.

  9. Don't worry people this business is not here to stay. I don't know what the owner thinks and what kind of experience he has but to put a sex shop on the prime street is suicidal. The rent is high, location is not discreet, families with kids are running around, come on be real those places do not thrive on traffic and attract specific kind of clientele so the perfect location would be a discreet side street with low rent and definitely far away from kids. Owner will lose money and land lord will lose steady income.

  10. So because of the Afghan war everything else that's wrong should be put on indefinite hold?

    This is a local newsblog, not the website of the War Resisters League.

  11. Maybe the landlord had to rent to KamaSutra because no one else is opening a new business in a recession, did you ever think of that? And what do you mean “specific clientele”? People who have a sex? I'm looking forward to checking this place out. Don't be such a prude

  12. I would not be surprised if lease would be 10 years with the personal guarantee. In that case: kudos to landlord! Kids are usually happen when people have sex so Children Toy Store would be much appropriate at that place. And it generates much more profit cause parents like to spend especially in our neighborhood.

  13. we should kick all the closed minded fucks out of the neighborhoods. america where violence is ok and sex is bad. no wonder everyone i bump into is ignorant 😀

  14. You got to be crazy to sign a 10 year lease with a pg. Not on this block. No matter what type of business it is.

  15. Remember that this is a not a blog that covers US policy issues. So a comparison is rather irrelevant. That’s the point I’was making initially.

    It was news because some local businesses became concerned and complained to one of our local officials. A compromise was offered. The question is whether it satisfied the concerns of other local businesspeople adequately.

    As always, legal right is paramount here. This sort of store meets legal guidelines and thusly has a right to do business. The modifications are just asked for in order to maintain the comfort level of others.

    I don’t think that children will be traumatized or otherwise seriously affected by exposure to these windows but will exercise some curiosity about the contents within. I think that its better for all parties, including the store’s owners, to miminalize such interest. Kids will try to see more, as Ned observed. This is a natural behavior.

    As I pointed out elsewhere it has been perfectly legal for women to expose their breasts since 1992. But one does not see this on a general level. Not even in weather like we have been having lately, where the temptation is great. From a pragmatic point of view it doesn’t work. Our society lacks the collective maturity to treat such phenomena as a natural occurrence. Women are still being objectified more than is healthy. This forty years after the birth of modern feminism.

    Such concerns have a tangential relationship to the matter at hand. But they are the seeds for some of the objections raised when shops like this one open in a new location.

  16. I live in the neighborhood and I am not crazy about the store, i have no use for it. But I am sick and tired of citizens' rights being trampled. Since when does a neighborhood have the right to obstruct free enterprise ? I remember how they chased the gambling boat away a few years ago on some nebulous objections. What's next, do they trample on my right to free speech because they band together and find my opinion on an issue objectionable? Or maybe “the neighborhood” will decide that I eat too much chocolate. That's the road we're heading down in this land.

    Conclusion: I don't like the sex place, but the larger issue of freedom tilts me to saying I want that store there as a symbol of American freedom, and against people who think anyone else's opinions and values are to be disallowed.

  17. They're not breaking any laws, they have a right to be there. If you want children not exposed to anything, remove the internet from all schools and homes. But you don't have the right to impose your values to obstruct free enterprise any more than you have the right to tell me what to say simply because “it offends you”.

  18. You miss the point. This is news. There's no judgement inherent in the reportage. Additionally, as the owner did promise to tone down the display and made very little effort in that direction that too becomes news.

  19. The gambling boat wasn't chased away with “nebulous” objections. There were legal concerns.

    We're not having a debate about rights here. We're concerned because there should be a balance between free expression and consideration for community standards.

  20. I have two young kids but I don't have any issues with the store being there. In this day and age of the Internet, kids can easily find much worst things online.

  21. This just might be the very first time I disagree with you.
    I ought to make a t-shirt “I'm more liberal than Lisanne!” 🙂

    For one, I agree with Nik in re: war; and secondly, I don't think that display was (or is) anything outrageous.
    Ever been to the IFC Center on 6th Ave near W 4th St. in Manhattan? I'm sure you have. What do you think of the stores nearby?
    My family goes to the IFC Center regularly for the Intl. Children Film Festival presentations ( ). The first time we had an age-appropriate conversation about the items in the display, and this was not an issue ever since.

  22. What a day! I agree with “nick the rat” and disagree with Lisanne…

    Maybe we need a little more sex (not less) to help reduce stress and bring the violence down.

  23. yeah dude, try the 63rd Pct on Brooklyn Ave off Flatbush. They got a whole list of Headshops. Go there and ask, Tell them I sent you!

  24. Great! The only places that I knew were in Manhattan. Thanks, I'll be checking this place out real soon. The store should not have nasty stuff in the window for kids to see , but they are a wanted store to the area. I'll tell them to clean up thier window when I go to get some stuff for My wife and I …

  25. Again, likewise. My friends and I are all talking about going. Sheepshead Bay lacks a lot of things that other neighborhoods have and exist just fine with (let me just mention again how much the neighborhood needs a tea and coffee shop with places to lounge and study and create art and culture), and I'm personally glad to see the shop there, although I wouldn't have a problem if someone told them they needed to make the display more discreet. Have you ever noticed Babeland's store front? You know what the shop is for, but you don't walk in feeling like a perv.

  26. I remember when I lived in Florida, everyone got up in arms about a topless bar moving in to a space where a biker bar used to be, and eventually pressured the council to shut them down. It's simple: if you don't like it, don't go in.

  27. Listen everybody knows you are glen with serious sexual problems I know you want everyone to be bisexual or gay and we should all have sex changes.
    I am for the store but not people with mental problems. I went to war! you bent over, Go luck toy you!!!!

  28. This comment is out of line. No personal attacks; everyone here is welcome to comment on the stories and express their opinions. The only people who will be blocked are those that make others feel unwelcome. You’re walking that line.

  29. That’s not really relevant. Unless Lisanne wants to reveal more
    information on themselves it’s none of our buisness and it’s not your
    place to reveal that information. What ever bug crawled up your ass I
    suggest you squeeze it out, flush and wash and stick to the topic at
    hand, KamaSutra. If you have anything left to add to that discussion
    by all means share, otherwise it’s time to move along…..

  30. I think it is great to have a Kamasutra store in Sheepshead Bay…I think the people that are complaining are hipocrites or just boring people that dont have nothing else to do but complain…I say hipocrites…because they are probably the first ones that behind closed doors are climbing off the walls, upside down and all to please their partner… And they say they are worried about the kids…the kids dont know what kamasutra is and if they ask then maybe is time for you to sit down and explain the bees to your child before someone else does…

  31. I like it that there’s a store like that in the neighborhood, but its product displays really has to be toned down. Besides, the store’s name already says what the store is all about, they don’t really need to show it for the passing children and conservative ones to see!

  32. Though I am a lover of all things sexy; I will be the first to admit that some sex toys just look downright ridiculous upon first glance and some of the names are over-the-top enough to make anyone roll their eyes.

  33. . “It’s not like they’re going to choose, ‘hmm – sex shop or beauty store?’”

    Why not?


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