The staff at Good Vibrations aren't salespeople—they're SESAs, or Sex Educator-Sales Associates. The title was invented by the store to reflect not only the rigorous training that the employees go through, but also the open and empowering attitude that they project. They encourage questions about the stock of romantic accouterments, and dispense safe, respectful advice on enhancing erotic play. For the SESAs, knowledge is a stepping stone to pleasure. They've even employed the same sexologist and historian—Dr. Carol Queen—for more than 20 years to host a regular "Ask the Doctors" class.
Above all, the staff keeps a warm and welcoming shop—a characteristic that automatically distinguished Good Vibrations from its counterparts when it opened in 1977, an era when most adult shops were dimly lit and guarded by demons. Extending the positive, forward-thinking ethos beyond the shop's walls, the company has committed to environmentally friendly wares with its Ecorotic collection of natural lubricants—as well as eco-friendly packaging. The shop is also stocked with candles, costumes, and lingerie with the Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco locations carrying their largest supply of nightwear.
The Food Mill has been family owned and operated since 1993, though the store has been supplying organic and natural groceries since the '30s. More mom and pop than a supply stop on the Oregon Trail, The Food Mill carries the area's largest selection of bulk foods, vitamins, and supplements, as well as an extensive selection of organic produce. Pick up packaged pastas and Japanese food products alongside packaged nuts and top it all with allspice, cayenne pepper, and other spices. Gluten-free and specialty foods are found in abundance, as well as extremely helpful staff members (not for sale). They can help you round up the ingredients for a recipe or point you toward the supplement best suited for treating trench foot.
For Kamilah Crawford, skincare isn't just her job: it's her passion. After dealing with—and eventually correcting—her problems with acne and hyper-pigmentation as a teen, she fell in love with skincare. At Serenity Skin Care, her goal for each patient is to help correct conditions and create healthy, refreshed skin. Treatments include antioxidant and vitamin C–infused facials, blueberry Jessner peels, and acne back treatments. She also offers massages, waxing, and rejuvenating hand or feet treatments.
Elfreda Love opened A Love's Touch - Gifts & More as a way to share her handcrafted gifts and scented sugar scrubs with others. The boutique grew too large for her home, so she moved it to a cozy storefront in San Leandro. Today, her gift shop is a treasure trove of aromatic spa products, colorful jewelry, and whimsical accessories. Elfreda assembles her products into extravagant gift baskets and works with customers to customize designs to their tastes.
Launched more than three decades ago, Site for Sore Eyes now operates in more than 35 showrooms throughout the Bay Area. Staffers at every location share their dedication when pairing customers with head-turning eyewear and contacts. The company offers a $25 warranty that secures all of its products, replacing broken frames for free and furnishing half-price replacements for glasses that are lost, stolen, or transformed into an acorn squash. In case eyes require prescription tweaks, each shop sits next door to California-licensed Sterling VisionCare doctors of optometry.