If you do your laundry at the Mermaid Laundromat, located on Knickerbocker between Starr and Troutman streets, you might be in for a surprise should you decide to duck under the silver streamers that hang over the door to a kiosk tucked into a corner. Feminist zines, condoms, lube and t-shirts fill the tiny space – appropriately named The Troll Hole – in the corner of the spacious neighborhood laundromat. After months of collaborative planning between proprietors Hayley Blatte, Justin Shock and Monica Yi, Troll Hole celebrated its grand opening with a party last Wednesday night.
The juxtaposition between regular Bushwick residents doing their laundry, emptying out their machine and adding their detergent and drinking, zine-reading, sex toy-talking attendees added to the surrealness of the tiny space. Sex shop? Zine shop? Community center? The deepest depths of Alice’s rabbit hole? It’s hard to pin-down exactly what Troll Hole is, but that’s not necessarily a coincidence. “We wanted something accessible and fun,” described co-owner Monica Yi. “Sex shops are serious and sterile.”
Accessibility and openness is key for the 3 owners, who emphasize how much they value supporting, and being involved with, their community. “We want to use our class privilege, that’s what gets lost in these kinds of businesses” said Yi, aware of the need for businesses to work with and for the community it resides in.
For example, though Troll Hole very much acts as a store (note that you have to be 18 and older to enter however), they also have freebies like zines and condoms available to anyone who walks through the door, er, streamers. “Having free stuff was important to us,” Shock explained. They plan to host classes and community activities in order to expand their involvement. “We want it to be accessible to as many people as possible” Shock added.
Though the store’s offerings are minimal, everything within the space has been thought through collaboratively and carefully curated by the owners. Nonetheless, the eclectic shop is still a work in progress, and there’s clearly room for growth. The only sex toys on offer on operning night were one tiny vibrator, Ben Wa balls, and a pair of handcuffs, though there was a nice selection of lubricants. An attendee who arrived searched for a moon cup, which the shop plans to stock, but was disappointed to discover that those are not yet on the shelves.
However, the selection of curiosities, toys, and sex-positive, feminist paraphernalia will continue to expand, as will the book collection, which consists of assorted zines and volumes by classic feminist authors such as Rupi Kaur, Audre Lorde and bell hooks.
Store hours will vary based on the owners’ availability (all three owners have full-time jobs: Yi is a freelance graphic designer, Blatte is an artist, and Shock works in retail), so hours will be updated on the store’s Facebook page daily. The shop will likely be open past 9pm often— convenient for anyone stopping in to do their laundry in the 24hr Laundromat.
After a few rounds of delicious punch, the smell of detergent fumes and the humdrum of the large crowd, attendees left the opening party in a most peculiar, dream-like state of mind, some wondering what the space will look like upon their next visit. Hopefully the space continues to be as well received it was on opening night. Given the continued support and delight of the opening night crowd, however, the proprietors have nothing to worry about.
The Troll Hole is located inside the Mermaid Laundromat, formerly La Blanquita Laundromat, at 226 Knickerbocker Avenue between Starr St and Troutman St, off of the Jefferson stop on the L or the Central stop on the M. Hours TBD. The telephone is 253.250.6578. Visit the shop’s website or indiegogo page and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.