It was a fixture in the D.C. gay community for 40 years, but on Oct. 31 The Leather Rack quietly closed. On Nov. 1, it reopened as Adam & Eve, a leather and fetish store catering to both men and women.
''We honor the legacy of The Leather Rack and aspire to live up to its name,'' Russwin Francisco, Adam & Eve's owner said in a press release issued Nov. 1. ''With the new store, we hope to attract a broader customer base regardless of gender, sexual orientation or identity.''
Under its previous identity as The Leather Rack, the store at 1723 Connecticut Ave. NW, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, served as a hub for the LGBT community since moving there in 1991.
Touted as the ''flagship'' of adult-oriented businesses, the Leather Rack not only provided patrons with leather attire and BDSM-related gear, but established relationships with several community organizations and area bars to support causes important to the District and particularly to the LGBT community.
''The Leather Rack caters to the gay community, and we love them, but we wanted to branch out,'' Francisco tells Metro Weekly. ''We'll continue to be part of the leather community and we'll still participate in events like MAL, but we want people of all genders, regardless of orientation, to be comfortable in the store.''
In another sign that newer residents are gentrifying and changing the face of one of the District's oldest and most prominent ''gay'' neighborhoods, Francisco says that more people, particularly younger heterosexual couples, were coming to the store and shopping for leather or BDSM gear. That, coupled with the growing trend of online vendors experiencing a higher demand for women's gear and accessories, prompted the business to try and capitalize on that demand by offering more merchandise for women and changing its branding to be more inclusive.
''It's no longer dark or scary or hidden to go to an adult store,'' Francisco says. ''It's much more accessible, and females will often go to a store to buy toys or gear for events like bachelorette parties or baby showers.''
Jim McGlade, owner of The Leather Rack, says his business had been considering changing its offerings to include more women's items for some time. McGlade, serving as a consultant to Adam & Eve, says a decline in Leather Rack traffic in recent years can be attributed, in part, to online commerce, leading fewer customers to ''brick and mortar'' adult-oriented stores.
At the same time, McGlade says he also saw the demographics of his customers changing. While more than 80 percent of his Leather Rack customers had been male, he says the gender ratio at Adam & Eve is much more balanced.
''People are more open and diverse,'' McGlade says of women and heterosexual couples becoming frequent clients. ''Right now, it's all about inclusion.''
Francisco says changes to the store are not dramatic, but instead largely involve expanding the types of merchandise. Most of the former Leather Rack staff continue to be employed at Adam & Eve, he adds, stressing that the store will continue to offer items popular among gay men primarily.
Francisco plans to have a grand-opening event in February or March, once he's able to stock the store with enough merchandise to fully appeal to an expanded customer base of women and couples.
Adam & Eve is located at 1723 Connecticut Ave. NW. Call 202-299-0440 or visit bitethefruit.com.