Does sex still sell? Owner of the Supposedly “Best Adult Store in the Country” Answers

Virginia- from – Alison Miller didn’t plan on getting in the business of selling adult toys and DVDs, but now she runs what was recently voted the best adult store in the country.

We had heard that adult stores do better business during a recession, but Miller says that isn’t necessarily the case — but she’s not doing too badly, either.

BizSense visited Taboo, at 6021 W. Broad Street, to ask Miller about the business and her plans:

Richmond BizSense: How did you get started in this business?

Alison Miller: I was in school at VCU for fashion merchandising and had a plan to open a retail store. I wasn’t leaning towards adult but actually wanted to do punk rock clothing. I ended up working here part time and worked my way up to manager and then to part owner. After three years into Taboo Linger it was failing. Her motto was “Richmond’s upscale lingerie store,” so she was very heavy on conservative lingerie and no movies and a couple of toys.

She wasn’t doing too well and wanted out and asked me if I was interested in taking over. It was scary and risky, and as soon as I did I dropped lingerie from the name, brought in more movies and toys and changed the whole image. I rebranded the whole thing, and it took off. That was seven year ago.

RBS: How much did you buy it for?

AM: Let’s say not much. It wasn’t worth much. She had already given me a small percentage of the business. I gave her a bunch down and paid her back over 10 months.

RBS: How has it changed since you took over?

AM: The space has gotten bigger. We knocked down walls, and this office belonged to someone else. Aside from that, the focus has become a lot more heavy on DVDs and toys. The clothes we have now are younger and trendier. I change it for the better as often as possible, keeping an eye on what’s selling and what’s popular.

RBS: How has the recession affected the business?

AM: It has affected us, but it definitely took longer to affect us, and I’m sure it is affecting us less than a lot of businesses. The adult merchandise is something that makes people happy, a lot like alcohol. When they don’t have extra money to spare, they are still going to spend it on stuff that makes them happy.

RBS: Have you encountered any problems with your vendors?

AM: We have had a couple of vendors go out of business, but there is always someone else out there to take their place. Some of the vendors have started offering better deals. When I get lower prices, I pass it off to customers, so everybody wins there.

RBS: And I understand you were recently robbed?

AM: Robbed on August 16, my birthday. I was at my parents’ house and got the call from an employee. It was pretty awful: [the robber] stole 4,000 DVDs, a computer and stereo system. He was actually just arrested a couple days ago. Had a great picture on security camera posted on the news, and they found him. He still had all the stuff, hadn’t gotten rid of anything. I am looking forward to my day in court.

RBS: What is next for Taboo? Where do you want go from here?

AM: I would love to open another one; I’m on the lookout for a spot and really looking into next spring. I tried once before, but the ordinances all around here are very strict. A couple years ago I had a spot and at the last minute found out I couldn’t be there.

RBS: You were recently voted best adult store in the country.

AM: The Store Erotica awards happen once a year; they put out a magazine and tradeshows and are one of the biggest adult industry companies. They had their award show in September. We were nominated among eight or 10 other independent adult retailers across the country and put online for the public to vote and we won. We flew out to Vegas to accept the award, and all the other businesses are on the West Coast except for one in Minnesota. Not only a huge honor to win best independent retailer in the country, but to really represent Richmond and the East Coast.

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