But sex toys appear to be the biggest put-off for many. The other women I speak to in Mermaid Laundry are Latina, black, and Asian, and range in age from their twenties through their fifties, sharing few immediate similarities except having never even considered entering the Troll Hole corner of the laundromat. Even a laundry employee says she has no idea what’s sold at Troll Hole and never cared to learn.
“It’s the adult gifts part that makes people be like, ‘Oh no we don’t want to come in,’” Yi says. “I had a couple ladies come in, and be like, ‘Oh my god,’ because they see the bondage photos.” Being in a historically Catholic area, Troll Hole’s sex merchandise is perhaps the loudest accidental indicator that the shop is for neighborhood newcomers. Particularly for the many Bushwick women who care for their own or others’ children, a shop they wouldn’t bring a kid into is one they likely won’t enter.