Dames of Dildos
https://narratively.com/the-deep-souths … of-dildos/
In a Bible-belt state where sex toys 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.
The Deep South’s Dames of Dildos
In a Bible-belt state where sex toys 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.
Story by Hallie Lieberman · Photos by Abraham Rowe · Edited by Brendan Spiegel and Julianna Bjorksten · 6.9.22
The Deep South’s Dames of Dildos
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 (center), her mother, Mary, and her daughter Tiffany in front of Sugar and Spice in Florence, 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?
Aspitfire of a woman with a scatalogical sense of humor and enough grandkids to field a baseball team, Mary Pitts spent most of her career in a fabric factory until she started working for her daughter. Mary divorced Christy’s father decades ago; her second husband, Ronnie, helped raise Christy. Raised Methodist, Mary became a Baptist after marrying Ronnie, and she still goes to church every Sunday.
The Florence home where Mary and Ronnie raised Christy was so small “you could throw a shoe from the front to the back,” as Christy puts it. Most rooms didn’t have doors. One day Christy opened up a metal drawer in the house and found a possum. “I shut it so fast,” she recalls. While they were always poor, Christy recalls that her mom “would give her last dollar to someone.” At about 10 years old, in the early ’80s, she’d ride her go-cart down the street to pick up a baby boy from a family even poorer than hers. Christy would put the little boy in the back of the go-cart and take him back to her house, where Mary would give him a bath and a change of clothes. Christy played with him, then put him back on her go-cart and took him home.
As a teenager, Christy had little knowledge of basic sex education and things like birth control, let alone sex toys. In high school she had sex for the first time, and had a baby nine months later. She ended up not graduating (she got her G.E.D. a decade later). Then, six weeks after Courtney was born, Christy, at age 16, found out she was pregnant again, this time with Tiffany. The birth control pills nurses had given her after her labor hadn’t worked. “I had to call my momma crying,” she remembers. Eleven months after Tiffany was born, Christy gave birth to another daughter.
Christy consults a couple on their sex-toy purchase.
Christy married her high school sweetheart, and five years later had a third kid. But while she was pregnant, her husband cheated on her with her sister’s friend. Christy coped with the betrayal by popping her mom’s prescription Xanax and Soma. Soon she was hooked.
She and her husband split up, and despite her addiction, she managed to land a job at a grocery store, where shelf-stocking work was quickly replaced by the 80-year-old owner’s requests for breast-rubbing hugs. One day a rich 60-year-old drug dealer sauntered in. Christy started dating him and they married soon after.
A few years later, with financial help from her husband, Christy bought a gas station/restaurant. Mary, now retired from the fabric factory, worked there during lunchtime. She would “fix beans and cornbread and a meat and sell it,” Christy says. At the time, Christy was still using drugs and her mother often had to intervene. “She came in one day…I was passed out over the counter!” Christy says. “I was so mad at her ’cause she locked the doors and took me home, wouldn’t let me drive.”
After selling the gas station, Christy began working at a combination Great American Cookies and Pretzelmaker store in the Florence mall. Tiffany, 16 at this point, joined her a little while later. “Me and my friends worked for her,” Tiffany says. “It was real fun, you know, 16 years old and you’re making money and you’re working with your friends. All you’re doing is selling food.”
But Tiffany would soon face struggles of her own. She had remained close to her father. “I was his favorite,” she says. “I look just like him.” She was married and in college when her father, while traveling to a party, crashed his car into a bridge over the Tennessee River near the TVA’s Wilson Dam. He fled the scene — assumedly because he had warrants for his arrest and was afraid he’d go to prison. Yet he never turned up. His family searched for him everywhere. Finally, three days later, an off-duty officer in a boat accessed a remote part of the water and found her father’s body on a small island underneath a bridge. Police believe that he either fell or jumped off the bridge. Tiffany later had to identify her father’s body.
“Can you just imagine seeing something like that?” Tiffany says. “That’s going to fuck somebody up. …I dropped out of college because nobody prepares you for losing a parent…so I kind of just went into a big depression and started doing drugs. …I was already smoking weed. Then I started taking pills.”
Tiffany and her husband got a divorce. She moved to another city and shacked up with another guy. “He was on drugs and he was mind-controlling me to [the point] where he took me from my family,” Tiffany says. “I would be stuck in that house until he got home from work. And then I get accused of cheating whenever he’s out there cheating. …He wasn’t just physically abusing me, he was mentally abusing me. He had cameras on me, he had my phone tapped.”
After two years of the nightmare relationship, Tiffany had had enough. She planned her escape. She knew her boyfriend would be attending a funeral, and she snuck out of the house and drove back to Florence.
Around this time, a now 40-something Christy slid yet another tray of chocolate chip cookie dough into the oven at the Great American Cookies store that she now owned. After starting as an hourly employee in her early 30s, she had risen through the ranks, from cashier to manager to owner. She was proud of her store. Owning a franchise outlet was something she was capable of because she had escaped her addiction. She’d divorced her drug-addicted second husband. She was supporting herself and her kids after the unexpected death of their father. Her mom, Mary, worked for her too: pounding the cookie dough into large cakes.
Christy worked constantly at the cookie store. “She went from one obsession to the other,” Tiffany says. As the owner, Christy made a point of hiring recovering addicts, and she worked with the Alabama Department of Human Resources to hire women in need as part of a jobs program for women receiving government assistance. It was free labor for Christy (the state reimbursed her), but she was also passionate about helping them because she knew what it felt like to struggle.
One day in 2015, Mary told Christy she wanted to open up a clothing boutique in Muscle Shoals near Florence. Mary’s husband was showing signs of dementia. She wanted to get out of the house more, make extra money, have a sense of purpose. Christy said she’d help finance the store under one condition: In addition to carrying women’s sundresses and blouses, the store would have to stock what she simply called “toys.” Mary didn’t quite understand.
Mary arranges lingerie on a mannequin.
At this point, Christy, who first learned about home sex-toy parties back when she was 19, had hosted these in-home Tupperware-like events herself for a decade. Sex toys had become an important part of her life. Yet these parties weren’t accessible to all women; you had to be invited. If a Florence-based woman wanted to buy a sex toy and she didn’t know about the parties? Sure, she could buy one online, but how could she know what it felt like? How to use it? The sex education that came along with the vibrators Christy sold in women’s homes was missing from Amazon.com. She wanted to open a store where she could help provide that.
Mary didn’t quite get it, but she agreed. Soon, the back of her Sugar and Spice Boutique and More was filled with a rainbow array of silicone dildos, vibrating rabbits and rubber cock rings. Tiffany also came on board, trading slinging snickerdoodles for shilling sex toys.
Alabama is the last state in the Union that still has a law on the books banning the sale of sex toys. It is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year of hard labor or prison to sell a “device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” There is one way around the law: if you sell sex toys for “a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose.” Or as Christy says, “We call it ‘health stuff.’ …We just don’t use the word sex.”
Mary didn’t tell her friends about the sex toys in the back of her boutique, nor did she tell her husband, Ronnie, an “old-fashioned” guy. But Ronnie wanted to see what his wife was up to. So one day he traveled to Muscle Shoals and swung open the door to Sugar and Spice. After perusing the clothes, he ambled to the sex-toy corner in the back. Ronnie squinted at the wares, unsure of what he was looking at. He picked up a dildo, grasped it in his hand and declared, “What the hell is this?” He never came back. But “he don’t say nothing,” Tiffany says. “He knows she does it to get out of the house and make extra money.”
Mary, for her part, was just as uninitiated as her husband in the world of sex toys. In all her life, she had never used one, and she wondered what the hype was about. She decided to get one of the most advanced vibrators the store sold: a thrusting, eight-or-so-inch-long device. It was the type of sex toy even a veteran vibrator user might balk at, but Mary wanted to go big.
When she came home to try it out, she told Ronnie she was taking a nap, went into her bedroom, inserted the vibrator and turned it on. “It’s going up and down, up and down,” she says. She began to chafe because she hadn’t used lube. “I’m trying to turn it off. And I’m just going through all the speeds…’cause you can’t see what you’re doing.” Finally, she figured out how to depower it. “I ain’t ever gonna use that toy again. I was sore, very sore.” Mary eventually found a more manageable vibrator that she enjoys.
Still, it took a bit of adjustment for Mary to learn the nuances of sex-toy sales. “At first I didn’t like saying pocket pussy. I’d say pocket vagina,” Mary says. “And all the girls would laugh at me.” Once Mary got used to saying pussy, Tiffany would laugh even harder. “I’d have to go into the other room,” she says.
One day a female customer came in and Mary greeted her loudly, as she does every customer. She asked the woman if she wanted to see the “sex room” full of toys. A bit surprised by the offer, the woman said sure, because she’d never seen them before. Mary ushered her to the back room, and as the customer gazed at the vibrating rabbits, Mary noticed she was wearing a “Vacation Bible School” shirt. “I’ll get chewed out, sure enough now,” Mary thought. But she didn’t. Instead the customer said, “I’m gonna tell my [adult] kids about it and let them come in.’” A few days later they arrived at Sugar and Spice. “I can’t believe Mama went to the sex store!” one of them exclaimed. They left with a full bag of goodies.
Although Tiffany wasn’t bothered by hearing her mother talk about sex toys, she found talking to her grandmother about vibrators deeply uncomfortable. “I’ve heard this lady say maybe two cuss words my whole life. She goes to church every Sunday,” Tiffany says. It wasn’t easy “trying to explain to her what two-end does to a woman.” When she told her grandmother that a dual stimulator goes into the anus and vagina, Mary indignantly exclaimed, “No it does not!”
Tiffany tries on lingerie as Christy checks the fit.
Over time, Tiffany and Mary got comfortable discoursing about dildos. But while the three generations of women were working well together, Sugar and Spice itself was struggling. Sex toy sales were booming, but clothing sales floundered. Which was a problem, because most of the space in the store was devoted to blouses, not butt plugs.
Christy was reluctant to give up on her mother’s dream of a clothing boutique, but eventually she realized it was the only choice. She shuttered the store, with the plan to open a new place in Florence, this time selling only sex toys and lingerie.
Florence is a city of contradictions. A picturesque place on the banks of the Tennessee River, it has abundant wildlife but is known for its giant concrete dam. It’s full of Baptist churches, yet has a popular underground gambling scene. The city is overwhelmingly Republican (71.5 percent of residents voted for Trump), but it’s also home to one of the oldest universities in the state, which offers programs in women’s studies and Black studies. What Florence didn’t have was a place to buy vibrators, unless you count the Spencer’s in the mall, which has only a handful of cheap, small options. It was a sex-toy desert; the nearest sex shop was an hour drive away in Huntsville, which is also where the closest abortion clinic is.
Starting a store was risky, not only because sex toys were illegal to sell openly, but also because doing so meant you’d be talked about. In a city of 41,091 people, a place where families like Christy’s have been living for multiple generations, opening Sugar and Spice would cement her family’s reputation for raunch. Christy decided that regardless of what others thought, regardless of the law, this was what she wanted to do. “How can something that feels good be wrong?” she asks. “You’re not out here committing a sin. It’s your body.”
And Christy had big plans for her new place. Like she had at the cookie store, she would make an effort to hire recovering addicts. And the store itself wouldn’t just have toys. When traveling to Atlanta for her breast enlargement surgery, Christy came across a feature she wanted at Sugar and Spice: a place where patrons could watch porn films in booths complete with “glory holes,” and red lights that customers could turn on to show interest in casual anonymous hookups, all genders and configurations accepted. Using the booths required a membership fee, meaning they were not officially open to the public and therefore not subject to public lewdness laws, which only cover acts that occur “in a public place.” The glory holes also had a polite Southern touch: There were covers on each side, so if you didn’t want an unexpected dick popping up during your porn viewing, you simply kept the cover down.
Mary and Tiffany didn’t object to Christy’s new plan (although Tiffany didn’t like cleaning the booths, and Mary just planned to leave work by 5 p.m. so she wouldn’t be at the store when the action was happening). Christy went ahead and bought a space in town near a Jack’s burger joint and a plasma donation center.
For the Deep South, having a sexually free space like that was revolutionary. Naturally, though, not everyone was on board with it, so Christy took precautions. “In Alabama, in the Bible Belt, we were really scared,” Christy says. “We didn’t do any kind of advertising, just off my Facebook page.” Most of the advertising was word of mouth, which was pretty effective in a city where everyone is up in everyone’s business.
When Mary told her church friends where she was working, they were shocked. One “looked at me like I was crazy,” Mary says. What the friend didn’t know was that her own daughter shopped at the store, which Mary stayed mum about. “It’s my job,” she told her friends. “I don’t see anything wrong with it because a lot of people we sell to, [like] college students, don’t have time to date. …We sell to couples to make their marriage stronger.”
Although some of the churchgoers were appalled by Mary’s job, others shopped there, including one preacher’s wife who became a regular customer and got concerned her children might find out. One day she came in and said to Christy, “What if I die? And my kids see Sugar and Spice on my bank statement?” Christy took a beat then responded: “Girl, I got you! We’ll get you an A.T.M. right here.” But privately Christy thought, “Whatcha gonna do when your kids find all your toys?”
Tiffany and Christy review merchandise at Sugar and Spice.
Soon Mary became one of the best-selling employees at the store. Her age was an advantage, as it is with sexperts like Dr. Ruth, whose grandmotherly charm takes the edge off. “Several older people come in here. And they enjoy talking to somebody a little older that can explain things to them,” she says. One of these women was a 90-year-old who told Mary she was upset because she was unable to have intercourse. “I got a new boyfriend, and I ain’t gonna lose him,” Mary recalls the customer saying. The boyfriend was really patient and they did other things sexually, but the woman was concerned enough about the lack of sex that she had gone to her doctor, who suggested she get a vaginal dilator kit, which contains multiple sizes of phallic-shaped dilators. “You start off little and you go a little bigger,” Mary told the woman matter-of-factly. (Doctors send their patients to Sugar and Spice frequently. They even order penis pumps through the store, which are used to treat erectile dysfunction.)
One day, when Tiffany, Christy and Mary were working, a male customer came in looking for lingerie for his wife. Tiffany said she’d try it on to show him how it looked. Mary offered to snap a pic of her granddaughter in the negligee, as Christy looked on amused. “He bought the lingerie,” Christy says, adding that Tiffany’s “fake boobs” and natural salesmanship have helped close a lot of sales.
After a slow start, sales at Sugar and Spice boomed. Many days they sold $3,000 worth of toys, lingerie and adult films.
Then the pandemic hit.
Fortunately for Christy, the pandemic ushered in a surge in sex-toy sales. But her daughter and other employees asked her to shut down the porn booths because they didn’t want to clean them during Covid. Christy sent the wooden booths to storage and added more sex toys in their place.
Meanwhile, cookie and pretzel sales sagged because foot traffic in the mall slowed. Christy tried to cross-promote by bringing cookie cakes to the sex toy parties she hosted. But it wasn’t enough. On March 26 of 2022, Christy served her last cookie at her Great American Cookies and Pretzelmaker store. It was a sad time for her. “I know I was ready,” she says, but “it was still emotional.” She’d spent 18 years working up the ranks and now had multiple employees working for her.
Although Sugar and Spice weathered the pandemic pretty well, Mary did not. She contracted a case of Covid-19 so severe that doctors wanted her to go to the hospital. She refused. “I was afraid they were going to put me on a ventilator,” she says. “I’d rather just die at home.” Doctors brought oxygen to her house, and an infusion of monoclonal antibodies saved her life.
While Mary was on the mend, the family faced other obstacles. Tiffany was still struggling with drug addiction, and the store was robbed. It was the store’s third robbery in five years. The first was in 2017. When Christy watched the tape, she saw a hoodie-clad young woman open the glass front door with a key.
“I knew it was [Tiffany],” Christy says. Tiffany was struggling with drug addiction, and Christy never pressed charges. Eventually Tiffany got clean after encouragement from a new boyfriend, and she continues to work at the store.
Sugar and Spice was robbed again in 2019, when after closing, a man broke in and stole the cash register along with $150 that was in it. Christy installed a security system, but on Thanksgiving Day 2020 a man busted through Sugar and Spice’s wall in yet another robbery.
Aweek and a half after shuttering her cookie store, Christy picks me up from the Greyhound stop and we arrive at Sugar and Spice around 10 a.m. to a plumbing van and a coffee truck spray painted with “Let’s Go Brandon” parked out front. Mary, clad in sandals, white capri pants and a floral peach shirt, glasses perched on her nose, greets Christy, then announces that the plumber doesn’t need to be there because she just “made a number 2 and it went down O.K..”
About 10 minutes later, a high-pitched ring buzzes from the door, announcing their first customer of the day. It’s an older man in flannel who, when asked how he’s doing, says, “I’ve seen better days. My knees are acting up.” His doctor wants him to get surgery. Mary chimes in that her doctor said she should have surgery too because “my cartilage is worn to the bone.” She refuses and is “doing good on the CBD.”
The man buys two porn DVDs. After he leaves, Christy turns to Mary and asks, “Isn’t that the guy that flirts with you?” Mary confirms that it is. “He tells me about his sexual fantasies. I really don’t want to hear that. He’s nasty.” Laughing, she adds, “Even if he wasn’t, I still wouldn’t want to hear it.”
The Sugar and Spice storefront.
As Mary and Christy unpack a box of Fleshlights, an employee named Tina Wright, a bubbly, vivacious single mom, arrives. Tina used to work at the cookie store, and when Christy asked her to come to Sugar and Spice, she jumped at the opportunity. She prefers working here. She’s learned a lot about sex and says that, “Believe it or not, the customers that come in here are nicer than at the cookie store.”
Soon, a man in a camo hat enters. After picking out a masturbation sleeve he asks Mary, Christy and Tina for advice. “In y’all’s professional opinions, what would be one of the best water-based lubricants that you can buy?” Mary escorts him to the lube and picks out a brand: “My daughter likes Passion. She’s the one who runs the store.” Christy chimes in: “I only do like a couple of drops. …You don’t need a whole lot.” The man replies, “I’ll try not to slip and fall.”
After he leaves, Christy and Mary walk to the back of the store, hands overflowing with Fleshlights shaped like male porn stars’ anuses. “I’m gonna move the butt plugs over there…and we’ll have a shelf,” Christy says, pointing to the row of anal toys. She instructs Mary to put all the “butts and pussies” together.
Mary says she can’t bend down to put the Fleshlights on the lower shelf because of back issues, so she asks me to. Despite her back pain, she too likes Sugar and Spice better than the cookie store. Mostly, she loves working with her granddaughter and daughter.
The next day, Christy arrives at an empty store. The fully charged vibrators stand on the glass counter, waiting for a customer’s gaze. Tiffany is restocking the vapes up front, and Tina, dressed in jeans and knee-high black boots, is on the phone.
Tiffany explains that her mom decides what sex toys and lingerie to stock the store with on 2 a.m. ordering sprees. When they open a new box of strange toys, “‘We’ll make fun of her, like, ‘Is this your 2 a.m. ordering, ’cause you don’t even know what it is?’” Tiffany says. She and Tina discuss their best-selling aphrodisiac, the Pink Pussycat honey, which comes in a magenta ketchup-style packet and sells for $15.99.
Nikki, an employee with curly black hair, tattoos and green-painted nails that match her boisterousness, tells me that she also likes working here, and that Christy is like a sponsor to her. “I can call her with anything,” she says.
In the past few years, Christy has become more relaxed about promoting the store and less fearful of legal trouble, in part due to close friendships with a few lawyers, some of whom shop at the store. She even advertises on the radio now.
Sugar and Spice merchandise on display.
A 52-year-old man enters and asks if the store wants mint-condition porn DVDs. “My dad was a perv,” he explains. Tiffany declines. “Is the rumor true that there was a glory hole here?” he asks. “It shut down during Covid,” Tiffany responds.
Later that night, a 60-something woman is at the register, buying watermelon-flavored Good Head oral sex cream, and telling Christy that while she liked the Pink Pussycat honey, it didn’t give her an orgasm.
Christy tries to diagnose what was causing the customer’s anorgasmia. “Are you in a relationship?” she asks. “Or are you just doing toys?”
The customer says she’s in a relationship, and Christy suggests bringing toys into their sex play: “Maybe something with a clit stimulator because it’d be more like oral.” The woman likes that idea, and says that her boyfriend claimed he was going to buy her a clit vibe from the store, but he never has. Christy continues trying to find out why her customer wasn’t orgasming. “Have you Googled your medicine to see if it interferes with orgasm?” she asks.
Midday, Christy hops into her Eldorado and drives through Florence, past three Dollar Generals, a Food Outlet and a vinyl record store. “That’s my store,” she says, pointing to a place called “Southern Vape,” which she owns. She now makes her own vape liquid, including the strawberry one she’s currently smoking. The strip malls give way to grazing cows and horses. Finally, she lands at her under-construction house on the banks of the river. Next door is a small cabin where Christy, her husband and one of her granddaughters currently live. Another building houses ATVs, cars and a sex machine. “But it’s been years since I’ve even got to play with that thing,” she says woefully.
In the future, she wants to rent out the cabin as a sort of sexy Airbnb, where guests could use the sex machines, then hop into kayaks and go fishing. It would be sanitary, she says, complete with condoms and brand-new dildos. “I could get enough customers from the store. Hell, if they’re cheating, I’ll have it cheaper than a hotel room,” Christy says. “When the wife comes, just don’t let them blow up my house. …They’re going to [cheat] anyway, so I’ll take the money.”
Christy helps a customer with her purchase.
We walk into her 3,200-square-foot under-construction house, funded in part by her sex-toy-store income. “All that is double glass doors,” she says, pointing at the back of the house overlooking the river. One of the rooms she’s most proud of is the hidden room behind a fake bookcase that slides open to reveal a door, where she will house her sex machines and toys. As construction workers loudly hammer nails, she tells me that she’s planning on putting a massage table, sex chairs and toys in there. “We’ll lock it down,” she says. “The kids won’t know.”
On May 2, federal marshalls arrive at Sugar and Spice looking for clues on the whereabouts of Vicky White, a Florence correctional officer who went missing on April 29 with an incarcerated man who’d escaped from prison while awaiting trial for murder. Marshalls traced Vicky’s credit card to a recent Sugar and Spice purchase. She’d been there at least once before, during a Febuary 12, 2022 sex toy party for correctional officers, and apparently had returned shortly before fleeing with the man.
Christy lounges on a sex couch inside Sugar and Spice.
“She was in our store on wed [April 27] buying lingerie,” Christy wrote me in a text message. Nikki had recognized her; she’d been Sugar and Spice worker Anna’s C.O. when Anna was incarcerated. While scanning Vicky’s lingerie at the checkout, Nikki talked to Vicky about prison. Tiffany also had Vicky as a C.O. during her own stint behind bars. Both said that Vicky was one of the nicest officers, a C.O. who let them have smoke breaks when they weren’t technically supposed to.
National news media descended on Florence and hovered outside of Sugar and Spice, capitvated by the fact that Vicky had gone shopping at a sex store shortly before fleeing with the man. Christy refused an on-air interview because, as she said, “Alabama is a no-sex-toy state. …I was scared they would twist my words and I might say something to hurt the store!” She didn’t allow her employees to talk either. She worried about Vicky’s parents, who lived in Florence. Eleven days after Vicky went missing with the prisoner, she was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sugar and Spice had gotten national attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Still, Christy is far less fazed than she would have been years ago. Her attitude has largely shifted: from fear of promoting her sex boutique, to pride in what she has built. She now dreams of opening more Sugar and Spice locations.
“I want to have a franchise one day,” she says. The little corner in the back of her mother’s boutique has now blossomed into a booming business, and one day, she hopes, a sex-toy empire in the South.
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