Owner Nenna Joiner poses outside Feelmore 510, an adult gallery.
Actually, as Feelmore founder and owner Nenna Joiner explained, there is no physical award - but the nation-wide and increasingly, worldwide, recognition for her hard work is definitely something tangible.
Exhausted after two weekends of traveling, Joiner fell asleep during the award ceremony. She awoke to a friend shouting, "You won, you won!"
The annual AVN awards take place in Las Vegas, which happens to be Joiner's hometown. Joiner visited with family, making a special visit to her father's gravesite to bury a Feelmore 510 flyer. And then of course it was back to the grind - Joiner runs Feelmore almost entirely solo, with help from "one to two people."
Joiner believes accessibility to the ownership level creates better customer service and encourages others to believe that it is possible to start your own business.
For example, Joiner recently shared her shop space on Telegraph - which has the feel of a high-end art gallery combined with a private lounge - with a local grilled cheese vendor doing a pop-up event.
"It's not only just about a box and putting it on your shelf, it's about active participation," she said. "And seeing and knowing for me how difficult it was to open up a physical store - I lend my space to other people, as well because it's good for the community."
For Valentine's Day, Feelmore will be celebrating with an in-store customer appreciation/store anniversary party. The shop first opened it's door on V-Day in 2011. The party will include a DJ and free gift-wrapping.
These days, Feelmore 510 isn't the only shop in town putting a sex-positive spin on the adult boutique experience. Last year, Oakland's Lake Merritt neighborhood became home to a Good Vibrations store - the infamous chain begun in San Francisco back in 1977. Since then, the company has been branching out and making sex-positivity and openness "more accessible to people," according to Oakland branch manager Yvette Haughney, who has been behind the counter of alternative-minded sex shops since 2003. She explained that all Good Vibes employees (there are five at the Oakland shop) are referred to as SESAs, which stands for "Sex Educator Sales Associate."
"We basically get more training on sex information than your average doctor does," she said.
SESAs are well-versed in answering all kinds of questions, ranging from toy how-to's, how to improve communication with your partner(s) and medical issues. Haughney acknowledged that many people feel uneasy about coming into an adult boutique.
"They feel they are going to be judged - like they should know what to do with their body or their partner's body and so therefore they're somehow inadequate. And that's not the reality," she said.
She said that part of Good Vibes mission is to make people feel that pleasure is their birthright - a message also displayed proudly on one of the shop's walls.
Through Valentine's Day, Good Vibes is offering several deals, like the purchase of a harness over $50 warranting 30 percent off an accompanying dildo, and 30 percent any toy after buying an item worth $99 or more. There are several Valentine's Day kits, which are 30 percent to 40 percent off though the holiday.
Haughney said another reason some people write adult boutiques off may stem from fear of being replaced by a toy.
"No amount of lube or toys is going to replace your partner telling you how sexy you are in the moment of having an orgasm," she said. "Toys are just a way to broaden your horizons, to experiment, to take yourself out of your norm."
However, there are those who prefer a wealth of sex and product-related knowledge presented to them in a more private setting - i.e., at private parties, like those given by Alameda resident Jackie JacksonDaley.
JacksonDaley, who jokes that she holds a "ABD" (All But Dissertation) degree from Alameda's California School of Professional Psychology, has been giving passion parties for 11 years.
She first got the idea to work for the Passion Parties, Inc. within an hour of attending her first party, thinking it would be a great way to make some money on the side. But with the job of taking care of her then 1-year-old son, born with a heart condition, which gradually led to other medical problems, there were few other gigs that would allow her the flexibility caring for him required. Plus, she loves what she does.
"The company is very supportive," she said. "It's a women-led organization."
Passion Parties are completely free, although, of course, JacksonDaley said she usually expects most attendees to make some kind of purchase during the event. The party starts with a presentation by JacksonDaley, which last about an hour.
"I start with products for bath and body, edible, massage and then we get to the toys. So by the time it gets to the toys, they're comfortable," she explained.
The presentation is followed by different games, like "Dirty Alphabet" and finally a period where guests can make orders - done in another room with complete confidentiality, called "the consultation."
JacksonDaley (now an executive director for the company) has hosted all kinds of Passion Parties - bachelorette parties, morning mimosa parties and parties in retirement communities. Her customers also range in experience. Once, a woman in her 60's approached JacksonDaley during the consultation to confide that she had never had an orgasm. After suggesting some products to her, JacksonDaley received a phone call from the woman the next day.
"She was like, 'Guess what?' And that was great. Really great," she said.
Jackie Jackson-Daley, Executive Director for Passion Parties, Inc.
1703 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
Noon to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; noon to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; Saturday noon to 1 a.m.
Good Vibrations, Oakland
3219 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday