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A cozy little sex shop on a stretch of Venice

Times Staff Writer

YOU would never call this part of town chic. But Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista has the essentials: sex, death, food and great jeans. The stretch roughly between Grand View and Lincoln boulevards is classic commercial L.A.: drab and fascinating, its optimistic bursts of entrepreneurial energy alternating with its decrepit and dying ventures. By car, it all blows past in a blur. On foot, the neighborhood comes alive.

A new clothing store called Anonymous lines its mannequins up like soldiers on the sidewalk each day, forcing pedestrians to consider the merchandise. Gallegos Mexican Deli, a venerable family take-out shop, moved here from Santa Monica a few years ago. (Santa Monica’s loss is Mar Vista’s gain. That never happens.) A block away, a gleaming pink coffin, wide open, beckons customers into the California Casket Co.

And then there is Freddy and Eddy, sandwiched between Coiffures de Paree and Global Coach, a used car lot. Freddy and Eddy is a mysterious little storefront that is easy to miss. This is by design.

Its brick facade has two front doors and two picture windows. The windows are always curtained, and the doors are always locked. “Freddy and Eddy,” says the sign along the roofline. “Where couples can come.” This syntax immediately raises suspicions. Freddy and Eddy grace the sign, a pair of cartoon people with porcine noses. Freddy, the man, is smiling. Eddy, the woman, looks a little perplexed. Soaring above them is a giant billboard for Martha Stewart’s new show, “Martha -- Unsifted.” Somehow, the thought of America’s bad, bad diva of domesticity looming like a dominatrix over Freddy and Eddy is just too delicious. That’s because Freddy and Eddy is a sex shop. For couples. The proprietors, Ian Denchasy (Freddy) and his wife, Alicia (Eddy), are on a mission to improve the marriages of America. They have been together for 17 years, they explain, and they want your marriage to be as fulfilling as theirs: “I mean, look at her,” said Ian, grabbing Alicia and pulling her onto his lap. “She’s totally hot!”

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Except for their screaming libidos, the Denchasys are like any other 40-ish working parents of a 6-year-old son. “We’re very milquetoast,” Ian said. “I don’t have a tattoo or a piercing on me.”

The family lives behind a white picket fence on a quiet, leafy street near their store. Ian and Alicia love to cook, they love to entertain. And they love to ... well, manifest the passion they first experienced when they met. Fear of losing that passion, in fact, is how their business got its start, how the Denchasys ended up leaving their comfortable jobs as computer instructor at a local elementary school (him) and legal assistant at a local law firm (her) and became proponents of wild sex for the very married.

Earlier this year, they opened their little sex shop around the corner.

At first, the older women who patronize Coiffures de Paree next door were scandalized, said Danny Hernandez, who has operated the beauty shop with his sister for 50 years. “They couldn’t believe it,” Hernandez said. “And I was surprised the business went in there. But I told them, ‘This is how things are going nowadays. It’s just the times.’ ”

The Denchasys are pretty surprised too. This unexpected turn in their life has its roots in a play date that took place about 4 1/2 years ago, when Kealii, their son, was a toddler. Alicia was at work; Ian found himself at home with a quartet of moms and their kids. “Women are goofy sometimes when they have a male audience,” Ian said, “and they started asking me all these sexual questions.”

Any parent can relate to how the conversation unfolded: Ian was disconsolate because his post-baby sex life had taken a dive. The moms thought he sounded pretty active (at least compared to them), and what’s more, they were too tired for physical intimacy anyhow.

The conversation deeply bruised Ian. He was not just worried by the idea that his wife might share the other moms’ blase attitude toward sex; he was, as he put it, “out-of-my-mind traumatized.” Did Alicia, he wondered, feel the same way as these moms?

In a word, yes. “I was very overwhelmed by having our first child and making sure everything was perfect,” Alicia said. “Our relationship was put on the back burner.”

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Ian immersed himself in the world of women’s magazines. The magazines counseled patience; his was wearing thin. “Honestly, this may sound really terrible,” Ian said, “but I asked the question: Is this the rest of our marriage?”

Alicia was shaken. “I thought, ‘Oh, of course. I’m sorry. Let’s work on this.’ ”

Ian suggested they start a sexually charged website for their own amusement. They would call it Freddy and Eddy (his favorite characters from the movie “Used Cars”). They would review videos and try out products aimed at enhancing their sex lives, and it would be just for them.

“And then,” Ian said, “people started finding their way to the website, and they were e-mailing us, and I would be like, ‘Who are you?’ They’d say, ‘We’re in the same boat as you. We enjoyed your review, where can we get that?’ ”

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And so a business was born. The Denchasys are earning more money than they did while salaried, delivering sex toys and product reviews to a hungry populace. They spend six hours a day at their store, filling orders from the website, which sells only products that they have reviewed in folksy but direct language.

On weekends, they book as many as five couples a day for private appointments.

The store, designed to be as unthreatening as possible, has four rooms, including a comfortable living room with couches, a TV and lots of books about sexuality. “We put a TV here ‘cause our kid likes Cartoon Network,” Ian said.

Off to the side, there’s a “toy room” with all the products you might imagine, many of them “dishwasher safe.” There are a couple of stripper poles, which telescope for easy storage. Another room has a bed with some kinkier equipment. Everything is for display, not for use. “The doors all close,” Alicia said, “so if you’re not comfortable looking at that stuff, you don’t have to.”

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Now, it would appear, the couple’s media moment is dawning. On Oct. 6, they will debut an advertorial column, “Behind Our White Picket Fence,” in L.A. Weekly’s “Best of Los Angeles” issue. It will serve as the opening page to the publication’s adult-themed ad section, said L.A. Weekly account executive Paul Sanchez, who recruited the couple. “We hope to demystify something that is such a huge industry in California,” Sanchez said. “There are tons of folks that buy and use these products and don’t know which way to turn. These products are not simply bought by 7-foot bald tattooed giants with piercings and corsets. It’s not a lurid thing.”

The Discovery Channel Canada program “Sex Files” has filmed a segment on sexual satisfaction featuring the Denchasys. The television show “Blind Date” has filmed several of its couples’ first meetings at the store.

And in perhaps the strongest sign that the Denchasys have arrived, they recently turned down an appearance on a network show because, said Ian, they were wary of being mischaracterized as “the perverts down the lane.”

Perverts, never. Down the lane, yes.

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This is the first installment of a new feature that will look at the smaller but telling textures of the metropolis.


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