Phyllis Heppenstall passed peacefully on August 5th, 2021 at her home in Scottsdale, AZ, surrounded by love and family members. She was born May 1st, 1941 in Long Beach, CA to Earnest Buck and Live (Carl) Buck. Phyllis was a force. Defying her upbringing and limited opportunities, the daughter of a church elder, wound up building a sexual wellness empire that has impacted millions of lives and created opportunities all around the country.

In 1981, Phyllis and her daughter Kris Butt created Lovers: a sexual wellness and lingerie company initially focused on women and couples. This concept was an absolute anomaly at the time in this very male-dominated market. Following her divorce, Phyllis was inspired by an article she read in Playboy about pleasure parties, which led to her starting her own at-home Tupperware parties featuring vibrators and sensual lotions. Although much more mainstream now, the sex positive movement in the 1980’s was very new and was shocking for many communities. Ever the pioneer, Phyllis created a momentum that grew quickly amongst this group of suburban women and within six months, Lovers grew to 32 employees. 

After successful retail expansion in Washington, Phyllis set her sights on expansion in Southern California and substantially grew the business’ presence and sex positive message. As she loved to proclaim, the “business is great”, and Lovers kept growing. Phyllis sold the company in 2012. Since then, the company has expanded and modernized into the Lovers that we all know today.

Phyllis’s greatest accomplishment was her three children who she is survived by- Kris (Wes) Butt, Rick (Su) Barnett, and Brian (Kim) Barnett, who all reside in Washington state. She had 9 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. Her other passion was her love of horses. Retirement allowed her time to explore a love that started in childhood. She ultimately won two World Grand Championships in Tennessee. From her daughter, Kris: “She would say that she would be riding her horse over the rainbow into God’s hands, and that she died peacefully surrounded in love.” 

With every customer interaction, toy purchase, and life enhanced, we honor Phyllis and her fearless trailblazing. Her legacy, purpose, and mission are core to the very fabric of Lovers. Her impact on us and the industry as a whole has allowed us the opportunity to make sexual wellness a priority and create safe places for all people to explore their pleasure. We love and thank you, Big P. 

“To You !

I have had an exceptional Time in life here on earth.

I have been blessed with amazing family and Friends.

Please don’t cry or grieve for me.

Smile, Be Happy, Be Colorful, Be Carefree.

I will always be “in your pocket” along for the ride.

I love you Always and Ever,

From “The Big P””

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Further Readings:

Revisiting the Feminist Sex Toy Revolution: Items
Vibrator Nation Book Review: BUST Magazine
How Sex Toys Revolutionized Women's Pleasure: VICE Magazine