Friday, October 5, 2012

From Donuts to Dildos

Henry Keiluhn and his mother, Edith 
In 1981, Henry Keiluhn stopped baking donuts and started selling dildos. For 15 years, Keiluhn worked alongside his parents Herbert and Edith at their bakery stand in Cleveland’s West Side Market. He hung up his apron after opening Ambiance as a home party business selling sex toys and lingerie.

Today, Keiluhn is vice president of the Store for Lovers, a successful retailer with 8 stores across northeast Ohio and in Columbus.

While the two businesses may seem wildly different, Keiluhn says his parents and the work ethic he learned at the bakery have helped make Ambiance a hit with committed couples. He even credits his mother with influencing his line of work.

One of Keiluhn’s favorite memories from his time working at the West Side Market is listening to Edith coax customers to the stand at the end of the day, trying to sell the few remaining strudel, torts and other baked goods. “She’d say, ‘Have a strudel. It’s good for your sex life!’” recalls Keiluhn. “With her German accent, she sounded like Dr. Ruth.” (Keiluhn admits the marketing ploy worked better on men than women!)

Herbert and Edith opened the bakery in the West Side Market in the late 1960s, a few years after emigrating to the United States from Germany. As a teenager and young adult, Keiluhn baked donuts and kolache and worked in the booth with his mom. “We talked to the same customers week after week, hearing about their lives,” says Keiluhn. They developed relationships with customers—something that’s also paramount to Ambiance.

“At the bakery, people would buy things for special occasions. It was an important part of their lives,” says Keiluhn. “Our customers at Ambiance come in for special occasions, too. It’s just a little more private!” The Certified Romance Consultants who work at Ambiance’s stores often get thanked by customers for helping create great anniversary celebrations or recommending a sexy outfit that spawned a romantic evening—and
some happy pregnancies, too.

Keiluhn’s parents no longer run the bakery. His father passed away in 1994. But much of what Herbert and Edith taught him lives on, including Keiluhn’s appreciation of a healthy love life. “My parents worked many, many hours every week in the bakery,” says Keiluhn. “But that bedroom door was closed several times a week!”

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