It's fluffed, buffed and rebranded. The welcome center to gay Atlanta's sexy times on Cheshire Bridge Road has undergone a months-long renovation that revamped its exterior and expanded its interior to make it more of an LGBT toy store and play spa.
That's the inspired vision that Michael Morrison has for Tokyo Valentino, the three-story adult play palace and retail store on Cheshire Bridge that was formally known as Inserection. To be sure, the infamous video booth and gloryholes remain, along with its sizable retail operation.
But it now boasts of a dance floor, more private rooms, showers and two large play rooms that came as part of turning nearly 6,000 square feet into usable space. The video booths remain on the ground floor but the goal for the other non-retail areas is sexy spa, said Morrison, the store's founder and CEO.
"We decided why not elaborate on that and make it more of an LGBT 24-hour spa. It's a unique gay business that we have here," he said.
The nearly $1 million renovation and rebranding project wrapped earlier this year and Morrison hopes that with the building's contemporary and inviting facade, along with its always-open status, that it can snag an after-hours crowd when the bars close at 3 a.m.
"We would like that crowd to come to our place. We don't serve alcohol and are not closed. We are a nice complement to Jungle and the other clubs on Cheshire Bridge," Morrison said.
'Atlanta has a very unique place here'
The project didn't come easy. It was put on hold in 2013 for a months-long fight against the city as it tried to rid the strip of adult-oriented businesses – including Tokyo Valentino, Southern Nights and several strip clubs – that were granted exemptions when city zoning regulations were changed in 2005. The businesses and supporters fought back, eventually defeating the changes championed by gay City Council member Alex Wan, whose district includes the area.
But that fight and the arrival of new, upscale developments next door and all along Cheshire Bridge prompted Morrison to push the renovation and rebranding. Say goodbye to Inserection and hello to Tokyo Valentino, an Atlanta take on a concept Morrison put in place with a similar facility in Miami.
"We wanted something new. The whole idea was to have something that people would look at and say what's that? And Tokyo Valentino is that name that makes people inquisitive. It's also androgynous. It could be a gal, it could be a guy. We wanted something that would be more progressive," Morrison said.
Now the Cheshire Bridge store is the flagship and provides a concept that Morrison said he'd like to take to other locations. More outlets in Atlanta? That's possible, he said.
"Atlanta has a very unique place here. That Cheshire Bride store is a nice location and really develops a gay audience there and a yuppie crowd that comes down shop for toys. Can we replicate that somewhere else? We would like to," Morrison said.
The project hit a few snags with city inspectors and was slowed by an intractable city licensing process. But Morrison said he's put that struggle behind him now that the new, expanded store is open.
"Hopefully [the city] is happy with our presence and we are happy running a good package there. Everyone has decided we are a responsible corporate citizen," he said.
And he hopes that the renovated facility might convince other business owners along Cheshire Bridge to reinvest in cleaning up their own buildings.
"We hope it raises the bar for everyone," Morrison said.