Fun Stuff for Big Kids. That’s how Andrea Collins describes the contents of The Glo Room, her business in Lexington. South Carolina. You can’t really call it a smoke shop because a lot more than that. The Glo Room is more akin to Spencer’s Gifts with everything from hand pipes, bubblers, oil rigs, Roll your Own essentials, storage devices and shisha to sexy costumes and adult novelties.
“It’s a collage of everything because I was sick of seeing the Rosta-hippie thing regurgitated all over the place,” says Collins, who started business in 2001 when she was selling smoke shop stuff at the local flea market.
Being in the conservative bible belt, there were few retailers catering to products intended for “adult use.” At the flea market, Collins gained a following from the alternative crowd who would drive hours for old school glass and metal pipes and lingerie at prices that weren’t a rip-off.
Eventually, Collins moved from a folding table to a 700 square foot retail space packed floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Having a store focused on a single product category would be simpler, says Collins, because there would be fewer order, less inventory and it would certainly be easier to organize. Luckily, Collins has the data stored in a safe place.
“Oddly enough, I can basically tell from memory everything that is available and how many we have,” she says.
On the flip side, more variety means more customers, and more customers ultimately means more sales.
“First-time customers will stop in to buy something we’ve posted about social media, and they’re amazed at all the different stuff crammed in this little bitty building that they’ve passed by a hundred times,” Collins says.
The pandemic has hit a lot of small businesses hard. But with people staying home and needing something to occupy their time, The Glo Room saw a rise in sales of cock rings, vibrating bullets, and flavored lube. Much of that inventory comes courtesy of Holiday Products. Lingerie is also flying off the hangers, especially after Onlyfans caught on. Collins says not only strapped strippers, but single moms, waitresses and even couples, who are out of work, have become regular customers after discovering they can pay the bills by being frisky on the internet.
The majority of glass available at The Glo Room is from independent artists. Handheld dry pipes in the neighborhood of $50 to $100 are the best sellers. Jellyfish Glass, based in Arizona, is a vendor Collins recommends for simple and affordable, yet creative and unique handcrafted pipes.
“We tend to carry a lot of old school pipes in a billion different colors,” Collins says. “People here don’t tend to buy the high-end stuff. Since marijuana isn’t legal in the state, you can’t really just set a $2,000 piece out on the coffee table and let everybody see it because you don’t know who might call the cops on you.”
Smoke shops and adult stores have historically been the estranged cousin to mainstream retail. Collins admits there a risk/reward factor involved with selling adult-oriented products in a place where people actively flex their moral muscles. One wife, who mistakenly thought The Glo Room was a massage parlor, cussed Collins up and down after seeing a charge from the store on the husband’s bank statement. When the store sold hookah’s, they were constantly getting prank calls from people who saw the sign in the window and wanted to know the prices for “hookers”.
“There have been several times where I’ve talked about either closing up or moving the business somewhere else,” Collins says, “but when it comes down to it, I love my customers.”
“I should probably be making a whole lot more money than I am considering how long I’ve been doing this,” she adds. “But the money I earn, I put right back into the business. It took a long time for me to build up what I have, but I just throw it back in there, rotate and do it all again.”
The Glo Room
Lexington, South Carolina