Founders and owners Jennifer Downey and Henry Keiluhn have sold the Ambiance chain, founded in Northeast Ohio in 1981, to Lover's Lane, a Michigan-based adult store with 32 locations in the Midwest.
“We are excited because there are consistencies in our business models,” Downey said in a press release. “Lover’s Lane sells similar items such as gift lotions and massage oils for couples, doesn’t sell X-rated videos, and their stores are located in suburban shopping centers like all of our stores. Their sales staff also works to provide the romantic resources for people to find the products they want and need to enhance their romance and love lives.”
The dream of turning Ambiance into the Blockbuster of adult stores, ones targeted to soccer moms and everyday couples in the suburbs, came true.
From a 2003 Scene profile of the company, which at the time had quickly and surprisingly made CWRU's Weatherhead School of Management's list of the fastest-growing companies in Cleveland:
The company launched in 1981, when Henry Keiluhn, a Scene music writer turned audio salesman, noticed a tabloid headline while standing in a supermarket line. "Home Sex Toy Parties Heat Up California," it read. He started hosting similar parties in Northeast Ohio.
At the time, Downey was a stock trader moonlighting as a model. A mutual friend introduced her to Keiluhn, who was looking for a swimsuit model for a brochure.
The two hit it off, professionally and personally. She organized his home and finances, which were a mess. He in turn made her his spouse and business partner.
"No girl wants to go down to Brookpark Road. I want moms to feel comfortable," Downey told Scene back then. Instead of skeezy backroad outposts with hardcore porn everywhere you looked, Ambiance stores were clean, well-lit, and not out of place alongside strip mall chains.
"The store for lovers," the catchy slogan that paired well with Ambiance's guiding principle that “Monogamy shouldn’t be monotonous,” has for decades been a company that bypassed X-rated videos for products targeted to couples with generous, friendly non-judgemental customer service.
“Ultimately, we were innovative in the friendly, supportive way we presented our products for mature adults,” Downey said in the press release announcing the sale. “For 40 years and multiple generations of customers, we helped couples connect, love, and support each other. We know that when they do that, it teaches their children what a loving relationship looks like and we expect Lover’s Lane to carry on with our philosophy.”