The Deep South’s Dames of Dildos
In a Bible-belt state where sex toy stores are illegal, a church-going grandma, enterprising mom and sassy granddaughter build a booming business hawking penis pumps and butt plugs—and helping every person find their path to pleasure.
Waffle Houses, dollar stores and pawn shop billboards line the interstate as I ride the lumbering Greyhound into Florence, Alabama. The artsy coffee shop with dangling Edison light bulbs is the sole indication this is a college town. I wait at the “bus stop,” (really just a Shell station) across from the mall where Christy Boyd used to run a Great American Cookies store. The brown-haired, boisterous Florence native, a 50-year-old grandmother who speaks proudly of her breast-enhancement surgery and sex-positive lifestyle, drives up in her silver Highlander, rolls down the window and calls, “Hey Girl,” in a deep Alabama drawl. I immediately feel at home as we drive off to Christy’s current business: Sugar and Spice Adult Novelties, this small city’s only sex toy store.
Its Pepto Bismol-colored pink building makes Sugar and Spice stand out, but the rest of the exterior is fairly tame. Tubs of flavored lube bottles are visible behind the handwritten store hours sign, and while there are window ads for Screaming O sex toys, they’re far from pornographic (one features a fully clothed blonde woman holding a vibrator above her head). The muted sexuality makes sense, given that selling sex toys is illegal in Alabama.
Christy opens the door and greets her 32-year-old daughter Tiffany Replogle, who is sitting behind the glass counter filled with aphrodisiacs and hand-blown glass water pipes. A mom of two, with shiny long black hair parted on the side, Tiffany — shy at first, but sassy when she opens up — grew up in the shadow of sex toys. Her mother frequently hosted sex toy home parties when Tiffany was a kid, and came up with creative explanations when her child got curious. One day a young Tiffany and her sister stumbled upon a vibrator while guests were over. “They came out with that little rabbit,” Christy recalls. “And I turned around and I said, ‘Baby, will you go put my Mexican candle back up? You’re going to run the batteries down.’” Tiffany put it back. “And she never touched it again.”
Things have changed since then. “In my family, all we talk about is sex toys,” Tiffany says. “For my 30th birthday, my mom hired 10 female strippers, a male dancer and a drag queen.”
Christy shows me around the store, where the black bookshelves are filled with labia spreaders and pocket pussies. The place is a cornucopia of sexual technology, from vibrators to male and female sex dolls to a couples sex machine complete with an artificial vagina and penis. Purple anal beads dangle from a shelf adjacent to a bright red Ass Blaster Anal Tail #2 butt plug. Christy points out where the old jack-off booths once were (one is now used as an office), and opens the back door to show me the property she owns behind the store, which she plans to use to expand (the masturbation booths may return).
There’s one member of the family who’s not here right now. Christy’s 71-year-old mother, Mary, has gone home for the day. Her shift ended at 5 p.m. Sugar and Spice is almost certainly the only sex toy store in the Deep South run by three generations of women from one family. So, just how did these women end up hawking dildos to lawyers, correctional officers and preachers’ wives in a conservative city whose biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of blues legend W.C. Handy?