Then she came up with an enticement to get people into the store: “Naked Mondays.” “I want everything in the store to be about sex,” Miller says. “Even the employees.”
The name pretty much says it all. Every Monday during business hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Miller and two sales associates at the store wear as little clothing as the law allows — in this case, Henrico County’s. “No visible nipples, no thongs,” Miller explains, adding: “but there are ways around that.” So far, though, she hasn’t been one to “push the envelope” to find out how, she says, because she worries that pushing the law might jeopardize her business.
In March 2002 Henrico County passed an ordinance that put a cap on future adult businesses opening in the county and effectively changed Taboo’s classification from a retail store to an “adult” store. This also meant she had to pay a one-time, $200 fee for an adult business license that she must renew each year for $100. And no one under 18 is allowed inside. What places Taboo in the adult business category, she says, are the toys.
Toys and adult movies and videos represent more than half of Miller’s inventory and half her business. She orders them at least once a week. It’s a departure from Taboo’s old days as simply a lingerie boutique.
The county ordinance did some good, indirectly, she says. It forced her to think about her business and how she wants it to grow. Before the ordinance, she had to limit the number of toys and movies so that their sales were about equal to or less than lingerie sales. Now that she officially has an “adult” store, she says, it opens the doors for her to increase her stock of interactive merchandise. Eventually she’d like to expand. Miller says the store is financially strong and has made a profit every month since she bought the business in December 2002. (She declines to disclose specific numbers.) She envisions something akin to the adult stores she’s visited in California, such as Hustler. For Miller, when it comes to sex, it’s all business. “I see it all as product,” she says — not something to laugh about.
But when she considers how Henrico County might welcome such a concept she shudders. The fear that the county could shut her down is why she says she’s afraid to call to ask if she can or can’t do something.
“The whole ordinance is really vague,” she says. More than this, she says she finds it frustrating and unfair that businesses have to kowtow to the county when they are operating legitimately. She points out the recent example of the nightclub Gold City Showgirls and its prolonged battle with the county. (Gold City recently shut down because of a leasing issue.)
Miller says she hasn’t been harassed much since she started the promotions. “I thought [police officers] would be in here all the time,” she says. So far, she’s only received a few calls from police to make sure her business is complying with the dress code. It is, Miller insists. She also received a phone call from someone claiming to be a member of the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, though she couldn’t recall the name. The person told her that he’d had some calls from concerned constituents.
Could be. It’s in the public eye.
The marquee outside the store reads: “Home of Naked Mondays.” Miller says she picked Mondays because they’re slow and dreary. Besides, a theme spices things up and makes going back to work after the weekend more tolerable, she says.
Today, for Miller, “Naked Monday” means a schoolgirl’s outfit: ultra, ultra sheer top, pasties, a very mini plaid skirt with suspenders, platform black Mary Janes, and white-lace thigh-highs. She wears her ash-blonde hair in pigtails that accentuate her many piercings. Miller, a fashion-merchandising major at Virginia Commonwealth University, seems to pull it off. She looks adorable.
She’s placed advertisements on 910 Sports Radio WRNL-AM to get the word out too. On a recent Monday, it’s difficult to tell whether they’re working. From 2 to 4 in the afternoon, a half-dozen or so customers come in. All of them are men. Miller concedes “Naked Mondays” hasn’t done much to boost sales among women.
Although, she points out, after a certain episode of “Sex and the City” in which Charlotte spends the entire weekend in her apartment, a gadget called the Jack Rabbitt — $37.99 — went flying from Taboo’s shelves. And one of her biggest sellers is a rubbery item for men called “Heaven in Your Hands — 32 FF.”
This stuff sells, she says. “And I don’t think people realize how many people come in,” if only to look and not buy something.
It’s a sign, she says, that Richmond may be warming to her vision of an expanded Taboo. It’s not farfetched to think she could even offer “sex-educationlike” classes in which people learn about the merchandise and how to use it. “Sexuality is totally natural and healthy, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it,” she says, adding: “And we’re not some seedy porn shop.” S
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