SID AZMI of PLEASE
Iconic actress, singer, playwright and screenwriter Mae West once said: “Good sex is like good bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.”
No matter what situation you find yourself in, sensuality sage Sid Azmi—owner of Park Slope, Brooklyn’s premiere self-discovery boutique, Please—can guide you to summiting the peak. Sid’s journey to embracing and experiencing her own sexuality includes liberating herself from a conservative Singaporean upbringing, devoting herself to a career in frontline healthcare, and mothering her son. Through these experiences, her empathic gifts, and her natural swagger, she brings a bold, liberated, and holistic sexiness to Please.
“Growing up, my family didn’t have much money,” Sid says. “I cleaned houses to help pay the bills, and I always felt so messy and unclean. But I found sexiness within, and from there, created my own internal system of sexiness.”
In March 2015, Sid opened her body-positive, sex-ed focused sensuality store Please at 557 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In every way, the store embodies her spirit. It deifies all trad sex shop expectations. It’s physicality blends in with the tasteful opulence of Park Slope commerce. The store’s façade boasts floor to ceiling windows and its merchandise—a highly curated bevy of goodies hand selected for qualities such as body safety, functionality, adaptability, and affordability—are elegantly displayed. Like the surrounding health and well-being establishments, Please nurtures community spirit through a robust program of workshops, get-togethers, and classes. In less than a year, Please has garnered local and national critical acclaim and garnered the support of the vibrantly diverse Park Slope neighborhood.
“Many people envision pink neon signs when they think of buying sex toys,” Sid admits. “I purposefully wanted the store to have open windows as a way to make people feel comfortable and convey a feeling of, ‘this is okay, you can hold your head high and own your sexuality.’”
Sid’s upbringing in Singapore shaped her in many ways. For much of her childhood, her family struggled financially. In one instance, when Sid caught an ear infection, her mother had to raise funds to pay the medical expenses through something of a baked cake food drive. Slowly the business outgrew its target expenses, until eventually, Sid was peddling the cakes at the local food court. “I remember cleaning dirty plates and spit off tables while thinking, ‘I am making an honest living and working hard feels good.’ That’s where I got my work ethic, from my mom,” she reveals. Eventually, the business became very successful, allowing Sid’s family to move into a condo with a pool.
Another formative moment occurred when one of Sid’s aunts, who relocated to Scotland for marriage returned home a changed woman. “She was my first hero. When she came back, she talked differently, her hair smelled different, and she seemed so positive and happy,” Sid recalls.
In 2003, at the young age of 20, Sid decided to embark on her own transformative adventure and came to America. Moving first to Boston, she enrolled in school to study psychology and radiology. Upon graduation, she would move to New York and go onto work at Brooklyn Radiation Oncology, Beth Israel, and world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she held the title of Chief Radiation Therapist for cancer patients. Interacting with people in such vulnerable and painfully complex moments made an indelible impact on Sid’s view of humanity and emboldened her nurturing and empowering soulfulness.
“Having people open up to me was such an honor,” Sid marvels. “We had deep conversations, and I learned that if you’re gentle and patient with people it allows them to open up and accept affection and warmth.”
During Christmas 2013, an episode involving a quest to find a tube of lube, inspired Sid to open up a sex shop. Shortly after, she quit her day gig, took on a two day a week radiation teaching job, and began homing in on her business plan and her retail vision. “I wanted a store that was nurturing, wholesome, loving and sensual,” she says. Park Slope was an attractive location for Please, not only because it was near home, but because the community is a melting pot demographic, including a mix of families, young professionals, and the LGBTQIA community. “I love the range of people who frequent the store. I always want this store to be diverse because I care about all people,” she says.
The Please staff is handpicked and upholds Sid’s enlightening and all-encompassing erotic ideals. “There are no judgments here—there are so many ways to experience sensuality, and my team is educated and warmly accessible to accommodate everyone,” she says. And even in her context as a boss and storeowner, her nurturing qualities come through. She remembers being asked by two of her staff members to meet their mothers explain what Please was all about. “It was an honor,” she says with a sweet giggle. “The meetings went very well.”
Though she’s clearly found a way to please herself--professionally, that is--the most gratifying aspect of her journey has been illuminating others’ paths to bliss. “Everyday I see people change before my eyes when they’re given a safe space to open up and talk about things they’ve felt insecure or nervous to explore,” she says smiling. “You see them walk out with a lightness in their step. It’s wonderful.”