DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Stepping into the light
A quiet revolution is happening in the middle of downtown Port Townsend. I say quiet because the Vespertine Boutique, which has been open 11 days now, is a peaceful refuge.
The store is filled with art, candles, sofas, soft lingerie, books and toys for people older than 18. Owner Jaime Jaynes, 42, dreamed up this place based on her upbringing here plus her career elsewhere, plus her hopes as a 21st-century woman.
“In botany, a vespertine flower is one that opens or blooms in the evening, ” according to the shop’s website. In the front window of the store at 914 Water St. is Jaynes and the company’s credo.
“We support lifelong sexual health. We recognize intimate relationships and experiences change as our bodies age … our mission is to offer the best products and resources to support more pleasurable and safe experiences for our clientele at any stage of life.”
Considering myself a not-naive woman, happily in her later 50s, I walked in — and felt my eyes grow wide at the sex-positive titles of the books on the shelves. I’m a child of the 1970s, see, when boys and girls went into separate, darkened classrooms to see films about “family life.” Later, living in San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., I peeked surreptitiously into those shops specializing in “adult entertainment” and playthings.
Today, I joyfully report: We’ve come a long way out into the light. One of the first things Jaynes said when we met was that Vespertine caters to women in the second half of life.
“We value age, color, shape, and size, ” her website notes. Music to my eyes.
On Vespertine’s first morning, people strolled in, browsing and chatting like it was a garden party, Jaynes and her staff putting people at ease. By the following Saturday, we made a date to talk about the store’s first week.
It’s been busy, she told me, with women of various ages coming in, couples and men buying gifts and everybody asking questions about the products.
Jaynes and her co-workers — four employees plus her mother, longtime Port Townsend boutique owner Sue Arthur — are comfortable as can be talking about toys, physical therapy tools and apothecary items — and books, “so many books, ” she added.
As a young teenager in early 1990s Port Townsend, Jaynes was part of a coed group called Peer-In. A nurse practitioner, now retired, led the way, teaching the girls and boys together about mental, physical and sexual wellness. This provided a healthy foundation for the young woman who went off to art school in Chicago, then a career in fashion and brand marketing in New York City and Portland, Ore.
Then Jaynes’ father died in September. She decided to return to Port Townsend to be near her mom. She continues to work, remotely and full time, for Nike — “I’m a hard worker” — while starting up this retail venture.
There have been challenges such as the city of Port Townsend’s requirements that she pay extra business license fees if she sells more than 25 percent “adult entertainment” merchandise. Jaynes said she doesn’t blame current city officials for code written long ago.
Meanwhile, the ambience and products at Vespertine are 100 percent affirming of people, in all their glory.
“What warms my heart and soul, ” Jaynes said, “is we’ve sold a little bit of everything. We’ve touched on a broad spectrum of preferences.
“I love the conversations, ” she said.
Just as heartening: Jaynes has two sons.
“My lifelong goal, ” she told me, “is to raise two feminist sons who treat women with respect.”
Op-Ed Written by Diane Urbani de la Paz, senior reporter in Jefferson County