A new leather shop will soon open in the space previously occupied by Chained Desires, the fetish store that closed in August. Notice how we said "leather shop," because customers are just as likely to find a leather belt at the new store, called Leather Underground By Maus, as they are a leather whip for BDSM play (though how they use that belt is really up to them, ya know?).
Owner Justin Lewis says he hopes to make leather goods for motorcyclists, leather clubs, and anyone looking for something well-crafted, as well as kinksters. A sign out front advertises bags, belts, and pouches in addition to leashes, undergarments, and vests.
But as any kinky person who's been around Baltimore a long time can tell you, the name Leather Underground, a fetish venue that occupied this same space before Chained Desires, resonates with local BDSM culture. It was actually the building's landlord who suggested Lewis, who crafts fetish gear under the name Maus, adopt the Leather Underground name, and Lewis says he hopes to continue that place's legacy of being "a cornerstone of the community, a safe place to go."
"We respect and acknowledge all different types of people, all different types of sexualities," he says.
That message of inclusivity is immediately clear in the store's interior, which is still being finished: The hanging slatwall has been painted to resemble a number of different pride flags. Lewis also indicated that the bondage gear and sex toys the store stocks will be in a separate room in order to welcome anyone who might not be into BDSM play.
For those who are, or those who have been thinking about exploring it, there will be classes, ranging from sessions on rope play to cleaning and caring for your leather or even crafting leather goods on your own.
Initially, the store's merchandise will be 40 percent goods made in house and 60 percent retail, but Lewis says he hopes to have 80 percent of his stock made in the store by the end of his first year. And though Lewis purchased some of the designs from outgoing Chained Desires owner Karen Fricker, he intends to stock more fetish gear for men than his predecessor.
For Lewis, the departure of Chained Desires presented an opportunity to centralize his business. After being diagnosed with cancer at age 18, he started exploring his own kinks and eventually started making gear himself. For the last couple of years, Lewis, 24, has been traveling to fetish conventions and other shows to sell his goods. Now he'll be able to sell in one location and bolster his web presence while also serving as a hub for the local kinky community.
"This isn't just a business for me," he says. "This is my life, this is how I live."
He hopes for Leather Underground By Maus to be open by the first weekend of November.