Alison Barber of Taboo

I recently got the chance to speak with Alison Barber, owner of the Taboo adult shop located in Richmond, Virginia. The thing that drew my attention to Alison and Taboo is her use of inked ladies at her shop and in her promotions. Alison herself is a gorgeous inked woman and an innovative entrepreneur, which is why Taboo is nominated for the 2012 Inked Awards Achievement award.

What is the name of your business?

Alison: Taboo

Where is Taboo located?

Alison: We are in the west end of Richmond, our physical address is 6021 West Broad St.

How did you get started with your business?

Alison: It was an existing lingerie store when I started, it opened in ’99 as mostly lingerie. It was a smaller little place with old fashioned lingerie, with a tiny room and just a few toys and no movies at first. I started working there as a sales associate in 2000, about a year after it opened. In that time, the original owner brought in a handful of movies, but it was still pretty much just lingerie. She wasn’t doing so well, probably because she had a bunch of old fashioned lingerie and not a lot of movies and toys. I got promoted to store manager pretty quickly and then she decided it wasn’t working out, so then I decided to buy and take over the location. I changed the name, it was Taboo Lingerie, so I dropped the lingerie from the name and I brought in a lot of DVDs and toys. I changed the lingerie to be a lot more hip and current and not the stuff your grandmother would wear. It immediately took off and started doing better.

You have a lot of tattoos and all the girls working for you have tats, where did you come up with that concept, did you plan it or did it just happen?

Alison: It kind of just happened, it wasn’t really a conscious decision. I’ve always been into having cute girl sales associates. I’ve kind of had a ‘Taboo Girls’ persona in mind and I’ve always done Naked Mondays where the girls dress in lingerie. So the concept of having cute girls was planned, but as far as having them be Alt or tattoo girls, that’s more probably because of who I’m attracted to. I think girls with tattoos are cute. A few started working here, then friends of current girls applied, so it just spun from there. I’m not against hiring girls without tats, but it’s just worked out this way.

Can you tell me a little bit about the girls you currently have working for you?

Alison: Right now there are six of us. We get along great, we’re a family and all hang out. They’re all super cute tattooed alt girls that have their own personalities. We’re starting to hire for our second store, so I’m bringing on another 6 or so girls. Our family is growing, but we’ll always stay a close tight knit group.

Where is your second store going to be located?

Alison: It’s still in Richmond, but on south side. Zoning issues make it really difficult and I’ve been looking for a second location for 7 years now. I’ve realized it would be easier to take over the location of an existing adult business. I approached the owners of one of those sketchy stores that’s been around since the 70’s and knew they weren’t doing well, so I offered to take the building off their hands, a year later they said yes. It’s going to be two stories, twice as large as our current store.

You even do yearly calendars with the Taboo Girls, right?

Alison: Yes, we started in 2009 with the Taboo Girls calendar. I always had the idea of cute sales associates, but the girls have become so popular and really taken on a personality of their own, so we figured we needed to put out a calendar. We’ve been doing it since 2009 and it’s gotten better each year. It’s pinup style and risqu’e, but no nude, it’s more just for fun. The first few years didn’t have a theme, but 2011 was ‘Taboo Girls Do Richmond’ where we shot in local businesses. 2012 we did ‘Taboo Girls at Home’ where we were doing housework. 2013 is the best one by far, it’s ‘Taboo Girls Loves Toys’, each month we’re playing with a new toy and it includes a coupon each month for the Toy of the Month.

When it comes to sales, what sells better, DVDs, toys or lingerie?

Alison: It’s a mix, I’d say movies first, toys second, then lingerie. We have over 10,000 movies which we sell, rent and also take in trade-ins, we definitely have the best movie selection in town. I love movies, so I can’t help but order a ton of movies. We also sell a ton of toys and lingerie as well, we have the burlesque and pinup stuff, along with everything that is trendy. Lingerie changes like fashion, you can’t just order babydoll and rope sets, you gotta have everything to cater to every taste.

I see you guys also do events like ‘Hot Rod Rumble’, can you tell me a little bit about those?

Alison: We love doing events and helping others with their events, we vend and sell stuff, but we also have a spanking booth that we like bringing with us where we give spanks for a dollar each, which goes to breast cancer research. We like to go out, get dressed up, give out freebies. We walk around in booty shorts and hand out condoms, lube and DVDs and everything else. We do games, I have a ’61 Impala that I like to bring out and fill up with blow up dolls and have people guess how many are in there. We also like any excuse to drink beer in the sunshine, anything that will get us outside half naked and drinking. We also host our own events, last year we did a Halloween fashion show. We didn’t do one this year, but we’re hoping to have one in the spring. We usually have about 20-25 models modeling our lingerie with a band, so it’s a rock show/fashion show.

Taboo has won some awards like the Store Erotica National Independent Store of the Year, what are the other awards you’ve won?

Alison: We’re nominated super often, but the biggest one we’ve won is the Store Erotica Best Independent Adult Store which was a nationwide thing. We’ve been nominated for many AVN awards, O awards, Xbiz and we were nominated for the Muse award for creativity in business. We’ve won locally, Style Weekly put out a Best of Richmond and we’ve won the best adult store in Richmond the past two years. We usually get nominated for around 3 awards a year.

To find out more about Alison, Taboo, her Taboo Girls, and their events, check out their website at taboolicious.com and follow her on Twitter!

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