SoHo’s Contact Sports Blends Sex and Athletics

And it's planning to expand

reprints


Imagine a sex shop, a sporting goods store, and a streetwear retailer rolled into one. Got it? 

contact sports, a new sports-themed sex shop at 43 Mercer Street in SoHo, aims to deliver that kind of experience, complete with a dark-wood-paneled design that channels a vintage locker room and pro shop. 

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Justin Kerzner, who co-founded the company with his wife, Chelsea, said that they came up with the concept for the store when they were driving around the city during the pandemic. They noticed that even with many of the stores on lower Fifth Avenue empty, the Museum of Sex and its retail store at Fifth Avenue and East 27th Street had plenty of shoppers. 

He thought it would be interesting to create a sex retail concept “but to do it in a way that feels comfortable … and could poke fun” at society’s awkwardness around sex. The idea, broadly, is about “sex as sport.” The decor includes vintage tennis rackets, basketballs, baseballs, trophies, boxing gloves, and a massive leather chair shaped like a baseball glove. Construction on the store began in January and wrapped in March, just before a grand opening on March 25. 

The shop has a large wall of roses in the front, which are for sale and help draw in curious passersby. 

“Customers will walk up to it and poke their head in,” said Kerzner. “It’s great from a retail ops perspective.” 

Much of the store has open, dark wood shelves with nameplates (like a locker room), and they are stocked with a broad assortment of goods, including candles, incense, body wash, pre-rolled cannabidiol joints and, as one walks farther into the store, adult toys. The aesthetic, dreamed up by interior design firm ringo studio, is Midcentury Modern, with green leather bench seats, brass metal detailing along the shelves and brass rods displaying a collection of rose-themed sweatshirts and streetwear. The displays closer to the front — next to the clothing — feature towels, water bottles and vintage magazines. The black-and-white tiled floor depicts a massive rose. 

“It’s about making people feel great about what they want to do,” said Kerzner. 

The plan is for the store to remain in its current spot at 43 Mercer Street for a year, until the owner redevelops and combines the space with a building next door. Contact Sports hopes to partner with “sports brands that want to get involved in the sex category,” including a “streetwear golf brand,” said Kerzner. He added that they were working on hosting more events in the store, including a post-run reception held recently for a local women’s running club and an upcoming event themed around Pride in June.

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.