Business Times - 13 Jun 2009
If you seek a toy
Mr and Mrs Smith and Rondavous have gone to great lengths to keep the erotica shopping experience discreet and comfortable. By Amanda de Guzman
NESTLED in the plum area of of Upper Bukit Timah, Mr and Mrs Smith's new second floor addition seems like any chic, apotek-style boutique. However, when you take a closer look at the three-week old shop's wares, you will be in for a naughty surprise. So new that the wood varnish still stings your eyes, entrepreneur Ian Ong's latest venture into erotica is even more comfortable and exclusive than the flagship store located a floor below. The shop is by appointment only and features a separate entrance from the original store, as well as an aesthetic departure from the sexier, darker boudoir-like boutique down below: sunlight streams in, lighting up the stylish display, which includes an impressive variety of lubricants, vibrators and flavoured body paint.
'We have CEOs coming in all the time,' says Mr Ong. 'On average, each couple will spend around $800 to $3,000.'
Both sections of Mr and Mrs Smith are couples-oriented, and Mr Ong has gone to great lengths to make his genteel clientele comfortable. There are no giant dildos or whips and chains and his very professional staff is specially trained to make clients feel at home.
'It's more private, more of a sanctuary,' he says. 'People know they are entering a discreet and respectful environment.'
The store's unthreatening ethos is exemplified by what Mr Ong prefers to call the line of Liberator couches and seats, which are specially designed to enhance a couple's sex life and have gained impressive popularity after the opening of the original boutique in October 2008. A sleek black chaise is present in the new store, a chic pony skin draped on it. 'It's not sex furniture,' he says with a smile. 'It's position furniture. Sex is all about angles.' He adds that along with Conceive Plus, the sperm-friendly lubricant he carries in the store, the furniture is engineered to aid in conception.
His store is less about novelty than it is about necessity, evidenced by his work with local medical practitioners that have resulted in his products being displayed in certain clinics in the Thompson Medical Centre.
This carefully calibrated environment is not surprising, given that Mr Ong - who counts the Cookie Museum, a luxurious cafe in the Esplanade as one of his ventures - is well-known to be a talented businessman, and combines this acumen with what he says is a passion for improving people's sex lives. His vision for Mr and Mrs Smith is a two-year lifestyle plan that includes educational workshops, and collaborations with high-end resorts and spas in the Maldives and Seychelles, a project that will send couples on luxurious romantic getaways.
Mr Ong states that this will begin in October, while the series of sex workshops - which will feature local doctors and sex therapists from abroad - will start in August. 'My first priority is education,' he says, stating that he wants to improve the 'quality of intimacy' between couples. 'One of the key components to a beautiful relationship is sexual health. I want to help couples become more creative.'