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Romantic Nights for Two, a Store Made for Valentine's Day

The shop that specializes in lingerie and romantic gifts is in a Brommer Drive shopping center where almost all of the businesses are run by women.

Adrienne Vick says her biggest talent is that she can look at a woman and within seconds find a piece of lingerie that will look flattering on her.

But her customers on a packed Saturday before Valentine's Day say she has an even bigger talent.

"She makes you feel comfortable," says a man who was not comfortable giving his name while shopping with his wife. "She talks to everyone who walks in and makes them feel at home."

People shopping nodded, including one woman who teaches pole-dancing classes in Monterey.

"Open your door to Romance," says the business card for Vick's store,  at 1714 Brommer Drive.

The front of the shop is G-rated, with the kind of clothing that made Madonna a household name. It's done up in more pink than a young ballerina's bedroom. In the back are more adult products that you have to be 18 and up to buy.

Saturday the store is filled with couples and singles from 18-65 shopping for Valentine's treats.

"Men are easy to deal with," says Vick, who has been at the location for 15 months. "You show them one or two pieces of lingerie and that's it. They are done. Women are higher maintenance. You have to show them everything."

Vick started out selling adult gifts at woman-only house parties and then decided to launch a store that would cater to everyone. Unsatisfied with the products in the marketplace, she developed her own lines of products, some 27 of them, including hot apple pie edible lubricant that took six months to create.

"I sent a pie to the lab and told them I wanted it to taste like this." They finally got it just right, and like a winery, she has tastings of her flavored products for customers at the counter.

Santa Cruz may be unique in the nation for having three adult stores run by women, when other states ban them and even Pacific Grove, a big honeymoon spot, recently turned down an application from a woman who wanted to open a similar store. The city council there claimed it would be a bad influence. 

There are two adult stores downtown, , which as been there more than three decades and Pure Pleasure, run by a mother and her daughter.

Surprisingly, says Vick, the business has proven to be recession-proof.

"People are staying home more," she says. "It costs $40 to go to dinner, with some wine. Or you can buy this stuff and stay home and create your own fun. Our business has actually picked up a bit in this economy. The average customer spends $200 here."

Women travel great distances to buy from Vick spurred by the kind of personal service they can't get in a bigger place. Her running monologue keeps them entertained as they shop. The Valentine's prices included three pairs of colorful panties for $30.

"Give me three completely different looking women and I will make them each look great. I look at them and I know what to put on them. I had one woman come in and ask for a bathrobe. I said, 'Those aren't flattering. Let me dress you up.' She left happy.

"Some women who are plus-sized feel self-conscious about their looks. I know what they can wear that will flatter them. My goal is to make everyone who walks in leave feeling good."

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