On one of Mount Prospect’s busiest corridors is an inconspicuous building, but behind its windows is one of the village’s newest and most controversial businesses.
Tykables was established online in 2014 to design, manufacture and distribute diapers for adults. Owner John-Michael Williams runs the store, which is filled with oversized children’s toys.
Williams said Tykables caters to three groups: adults with medical incontinence, people with Asperger’s syndrome who have episodes of incontinence from anxiety, and the Adult Baby Diaper Lovers community.
ABDL are grown men and women who regress to baby-like behaviors, sometimes for sexual roleplay.
Williams opened the brick and mortar store in April after the Mount Prospect Village Board approved the business license. But when colorful building blocks in the storefront caught the attention of passersby, residents became curious.
Eventually, a YouTube video where Williams invited people to “come and play” surfaced, and the disapproval of residents peaked at a June town hall meeting.
Mayor Arlene Juracek said her constituents’ biggest concern was the potential exposure and impact on children.
“This looked to be a store attractive to children, and there is a fair amount of foot traffic of young kids going past the store,” she said. "They were concerned that the children’s curiosity would be piqued and they would look into the business and be confronted with a different lifestyle.”
Although residents are dismayed, Juracek said she has no constitutional or moral justification to close Tykables. To appease the town, the village board asked Williams to remove all outward signs and intrigues from the storefront.
The board continues to monitor the business to ensure it stays inconspicuous. Williams said he keeps the door locked at all times, has an over-18 policy and has assured officials and residents there is nothing to worry about.
“One of the common questions is, basically, ‘are you having sex in there?’” Williams said. “That’s not happening ... Nothing of adult nature goes on in our store.”
There has not been much scientific research on the ABDL community, said Kevin Hsu, a clinical psychology researcher at Northwestern University. The little research indicated a sexual incentive for at least some Adult Baby Diaper Lovers.
One of the theories behind the sexual motivation is a brand of sexual masochism.
“These guys dress in diapers and roleplay as babies, infants, because it is humiliating to them,” Hsu said. “The idea of having to be taken care of, perhaps even getting spanked or soiling themselves, these kinds of things are sexually arousing to them for the mere fact that to them it’s a humiliating, degrading act.”
Williams said wearing a diaper every day is a completely non-sexual form of relaxation. He says being part of the ABDL community reminds him of a time when responsibility was not part of his vocabulary.
“For me, it’s a comfort that you can’t quite describe,” Williams said. “It’s hard to let go and to forget you have bills to pay, you have all these things to do. It’s hard to forget those things. And this is a way to help do that even for a short period of time for a lot of people.”
So Tykables keeps operating, managing its teething pains and growing by the month, Williams said.
Meggie Morris is a freelance journalist. Follow her @Meggie_Morris.