Sex Toy Vendor Tom Nardone: 'Weird Job But Someone's Got To Do It'

Tom Nardone
Tom Nardone

In Troy, Michigan, an affluent city just north of Detroit, there is a 14,000-square-foot warehouse full of hemorrhoid creams, vaginal tighteners, anal bleachers, home enema systems, lots of vibrators, and a special room, where those vibrators undergo what may be the most scientific testing in the world of sex toys.

"Trying to separate out the junk from the nice," says sex toy vendor/pioneer Tom Nardone (above), the king of this palace. "It's a weird job, but someone's got to do it."

Nardone never intended to get into the sex toy business, but he ended up transforming it. He first founded ShopInPrivate.com in 1998, an e-commerce site for all the things that a person may blush to buy in person. Then in 2008 he acquired Vibrators.com, which sells around 100,000 vibrators a year. But his real innovation came in 2009, when Nardone -- a former test engineer for a helicopter company -- founded the Vibrator Institute and developed specialized equipment to measure a vibrator's properties.

While other sex toy sellers advertised their wares with a manufacturer's description or personal reviews, Nardone wanted to provide a more objective, standardized way to help customers choose their most intimate of accessories. "As a retailer, Tom is kind of on the front lines," says California Exotic Novelties spokeswoman Desiree Duffy. "He knows what women and couples want."