Super-Sized Love: Love Shack Rises From Humble Beginnings
In 2002, Love Shack of Lake Charles in Louisiana opened as a 1,800-square foot store located in a strip mall. Today, the family owned and operated adult retailer sits on 7,000 square feet along the I-10, one of the most traveled interstates in the country.
“It all started with a hope and a dream,” Love Shack owner Rhonda LeFevre said. “We had $3,000 in savings; we took it and invested it.”
Rhonda and Frank LeFevre are a husband-and-wife team that worked at a local casino prior to entering the adult retail business. Rhonda was the one that initialized the couples’ transition.
“I attended a home party with friends, and I thought ‘I could do this,’” she told XBIZ. “I knew I could present toys in a classier, more appealing way so I started my own thing. I bought a bunch of products directly from manufacturers and began hosting my own parties.”
According to LeFevre, her very first home party reaped $800 in profit, and she continued at it despite the risqué nature of hosting parties in what could be considered rough neighborhoods.
As word about home parties began getting around, LeFevre says laws prohibiting them were enacted, and that made her uneasy.
“I realized that I could open up a store,” LeFevre said. Before long, her and her husband left their positions at the casino to focus of Love Shack of Lake Charles.
Set in a strip mall shopping center, the original Love Shack of Lake Charles sported blacked out windows and attracted shy customers that blended in as patrons of the neighboring family-friendly stores. Three years ago, LeFevre’s ambition inspired her expand.
“I figured my kids are now grown, I cannot be 60 years old in this blacked out little store — I want more,” LeFevre said. “I had been eyeing this location for a long time, but it takes a lot of money and dedication. Fortunately, the bank supported us 100 percent.”
Love Shack of Lake Charles opened its larger location approximately six or seven miles from the original shop.
“We kept the first store open but it then it started dying down because this one was much bigger,” she said. “We put our heart and soul into this!”
Since opening up its original location, Love Shack of Lake Charles has seen its inventory evolve.
“In the smaller store, DVDs were our No. 1 seller so it overruled the store,” LeFevre said. “Since being in this new location, our toy sales have grown dramatically over DVDs compared to before. DVDs still sell, but toys are where it’s at.”
“Things that didn’t sell at the little store get higher traffic here — there’s more demand for higher quality, more diverse inventory,” she said.
Love Shack of Lake Charles’ shopper diverse demographic is primarily made up of tourists.
“We meet people from all over that are traveling,” LeFevre said. “I almost never see the same face in here.”
LeFevre credits its new location for offering shoppers a more discrete, women-friendly environment. Love Shack of Lake Charles also attracts visitors through billboard signage along the highway.
“When you create the right atmosphere, women feel more welcome,” she said. “Women don’t want to walk in a classic “adult bookstore,” they want class and comfort. We believe in bringing in people who were once scared of this industry and showing them the benefits and enjoyment it brings. We are always gaining new customers whether it is locals or tourists.”
Love Shack of Lake Charles also brings in female shoppers with in-store events. LeFevre says she’d like to expand on the concept in the future by hosting educational events.
“I’d like to have seminars in the back — parties are great and everything but I think it’s important to teach women about the toys — about their safety and increase their acceptability.”
According to LeFevre, her aspirations also include further expansion — though not by adding more locations.
“I just want to get bigger, not with multiple locations because I’m afraid that it makes you lose sight,” LeFevre said. “Nobody loves your business like you do. I can’t be at two locations at the same time and a lot of people come to our stores specifically for us.
“I just want this location to be bigger and better. I want every customer that walks in the door to leave happy and satisfied with what they came in for. With new products coming out weekly I want to continue to grow with the industry. I want it all!”