The next time you’re crossing America’s western expanse of desert and rocky plateaus, keep your eyes peeled for a pair of giant, illuminated lips or pink neon lights.
In a state that’s red in both political climate and geological surroundings, Personal Preference is Arizona’s own little oasis of pleasure.
The Mesa theaters are very popular and many customers come specifically to enjoy them We sell at least 3,000 movie passes a month.
Respectively located in Mesa and Fort Mohave, owner Vince Cherryholmes operates these slices of adult heaven with his wife and son, Brenda and Austin, and business partner Christine Bryant. Cherryholmes’ stores are as full-service as it gets for pleasure product brick-and-mortars, offering all of the latest brands, vibrator technologies, and exotic films playing in the shops’ multiple adult theaters.
Like an old west watering hole or promising gold mine, pioneers make the long pilgrimage from tiny, middle-of-nowhere towns like Laughlin, Nev. or Needles, Calif., to reach their own mother lode of ecstasy. The shops bring in a diverse array of sexual seekers, from retirees to blue-collar workers to upper class couples. Cherryholmes supplies his weary travelers with free coffee and cakes to supplement their purchase of System JO lubricant or a CalExotics vibrator.
“Both stores offer our customers a full line of movies, two theaters at each location, and an array of miscellaneous novelties,” says Cherryholmes. “We offer personalized services to our customers, and the sales staff are up-to-date on the latest trends in the industry.”
When it comes to customer atmosphere, Personal Preference has struck a unique balance between being progressive and sex education-focused while cleverly maintaining one of the adult industry’s most (in)famous staples: the porn theater. Shops that offer “video arcades” or theaters, which have been mostly phased out for similar boutique-type retailers, have earned a less-than-sanitary reputation in recent years. Cherryholmes prides himself on keeping the kinky while ditching the creepy.
“Our customers can enjoy our stores in a non-judgmental and nonthreatening environment,” says Vince. “We cater to all lifestyles, but also focus on making females and all couples feel welcome.”
Picturing an adult theater, often hidden away like a dark cave at the rear of a sex shop, stirs visions of sticky floors and unwelcome voyeurs, but Personal Preference is out to change all that. Cherryholmes has turned this adult shop tradition into a gathering place for kink-positive couples. Most adult retailers treat video booths and porn theaters like forgotten relics of the past, and that’s when these old-school staples are even left standing. Vince has given his stores’ theaters a modern makeover with a surprisingly inviting atmosphere for all sorts of curious couples.
“We continuously update our theaters to make them the most comfortable and relaxing for our customers’ enjoyment,” says Cherryholmes. “The Mesa theaters are newly remodeled and the Fort Mohave theaters are less than two years old. We spend a lot of time keeping those theaters clean and updated.”
As it turns out, Vince’s approach has unleashed a hoard of horny Arizonians looking to meet up with other swingers or take exhibitionism out for a spin.
“Customers at both stores repeatedly return to our theaters and share their positive thoughts on the stores,” says Vince.
The theaters play host to themed nights for couples and the LGBTQ community, and are even the old stomping grounds of snowbird senior citizens returning to the Valley of the Sun for the winter.
“The Mesa theaters are very popular and many customers come specifically to enjoy them,” Cherryholmes said. “We sell at least 3,000 movie passes a month.”
Entry is free for couples, and Vince rolls out the exclusive velvet rope to create a comfortable ambiance for newcomers, reserving one of his theaters for couples only. But if you want a coveted seat on Cherryholmes’ cozy theater couches, you’d better arrive early. On weekends, the Personal Preference parking lot could rival that of Disneyland.
“The theaters and store attract so many customers on Saturday nights that you will often see Vince directing traffic in the parking lot,” recalls co-owner Brenda Cherryholmes.
Personal Preference has also rolled out another exclusive innovation with a nod to an old pleasure industry standard: product training sessions — for both staff and consumers. Manufacturer-led product education meetings have long been coveted by store customers, who are always curious for a peek at the next big thing in sex toys.
“We are working with our distributors and manufacturers to set up product trainings for employees along with customers in product usage and product technology,” says Vince. “Customers have already shared their enthusiasm and interest in future customer-based trainings for 2018.”
Last year, the small Arizona chain added another four decades worth of knowledge to their business plan. Thomas Rafferty, best known for his former roles in managing distribution sales and retailer coordination, recently jumped on board the Cherryholmes’ team. Rafferty left the bitterly cold winters of Michigan to bring his expertise all the way to the wild west of Fort Mohave.
“After being in the business for over 40 years, working with major distributors and a manufacturer, I decided I needed a change of pace and needed to learn more about the retail side of our business,” Rafferty said, who has taken the helm of the Fort Mohave location, where he heads up store operations and acts as jack-of-all-trades and Vince’s right-hand man.
“It has given me a whole new outlook on the responsibilities and challenges of store owners and managers,” Rafferty said. “I am able to expand my education in the business. Learning how a store operates and being able to have complete control over store operations has opened my thinking on new ways to draw in customers.”
In the coming year, Team Cherryholmes is headed for stardom in the Grand Canyon state. Expansions and upgrades are planned to encompass the stores’ construction, product lineups and customer events. Expect more lingerie and dance wear, more sex toys for men, and, of course, that signature warm welcome of walking into a family-owned business.
“We’ve worked hard to create and maintain a store that is comfortable and safe for all that visit it,” Cherryholmes said.