Outside of seeing “Deep Throat” in 1972, Larry Garland’s experience in the adult entertainment industry was non-existent. It certainly wasn’t on his mind when he was born in Connecticut or growing up in Arizona, or when he went to the University of Virginia and earned a BS in architecture. And when he finally started his own business in 1974 after moving to Colorado, it wasn’t even the focus of Eldorado Trading — a name now synonymous with quality adult products and (most importantly to Garland) superior customer service.
So just how did Garland get from Point A to Point X? The story is as interesting as the man himself — and if it weren’t for Kmart, he may never have become one of the most respected and beloved figures in the industry.
The more our retailers know about the products, the more they can educate the end user. —Larry Garland, CEO, Eldorado Trading
“Eldorado Trading Company started out as American Indian Jewelry Traders in the fall of 1974; in December, Kmart began carrying Indian jewelry. My ex-partner and I thought, ‘Hmmm, that’s probably not good for us,’” Garland recalls, nothing that they quickly looked for a different business to explore.
“In the ’70s, smoking accessories were in great demand, so we jumped in. In the ’80s under Reagan’s administration and Ed Meese’s justice department, the government came after the paraphernalia industry as ‘the cause of the drug problem in this country.’ As this battle between the industry and the government went on for most of the ’80s, I was looking for alternatives to distribute. We tried costume jewelry, sunglasses, rock and roll accessories and tapestries, rainbow decals, Rubik’s Cubes — you name it, we tried it. Then we found the Kama Sutra line and some cosmetics, including the Tantric massage oil from Topco. This segment showed the greatest potential, so that’s what got us into the adult/pleasure products industry.”
Eldorado has since grown into an award-winning distributor of adult toys, party supplies and lingerie, a success story built on two of Garland’s business pillars: knowledge sharing and customer service. A self-described “people person,” Garland has done it all in his career, exhibiting leadership, business sense and vision — but also picking, packing and shipping orders, cleaning the bathroom and sweeping the warehouse.
“Knowledge is king,” says Garland. “The more our retailers know about the products, the more they can educate the end user. Over the years, Eldorado has attempted to teach and train our customers by having our vendors come train our team on site, so then we can share with our customers.”
The company recently launched its Customer Resource Center (CRC), an online collection of educational and sales materials from over 70 manufacturers. They also maintain a YouTube channel that contains over 600 product demos and sales presentation videos.
“Marketing to women is the biggest change and a huge driver of business. Cal Exotics helped pave the way with new packaging aimed at women customers. Generally speaking, women don’t necessarily want to see a picture of a naked woman on the box cover of their sex toy,” Garland says. “We have also seen an evolution in the female consumer. They are far more discerning when it comes to their bodies and pleasure products — they look for quality, value, functionality and body-friendly design.”
Garland notes that the first “mainstreaming” event for the industry was when the hit HBO series “Sex and the City” (in its ninth episode in 1998) featured Vibratex’s Rabbit Pearl vibrator.
“Since then, many shows have brought pleasure products into the public’s consciousness. The biggest impact to date is the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon. This should get another shot in the arm next year when the Hollywood version of the movie is released. Since Eldorado first entered this market in ’89, I always believed that the lion’s share of customers was women — but no one was marketing or packaging for them. Our response was to target female stores like lingerie shops — not only adult bookstores or arcades.”
It’s no surprise, given Garland has always embraced change — another key to his success in both parts of his life: “The only constant is change, both in business and in life — so embrace it and don’t fight it. You should always underpromise and over-deliver. Always make it easy for the customer to buy from you.”
Garland has helped combat the misconception some people might have that people working in the adult space must be “different” or abnormal (“I have meet some of the nicest, most decent and goodhearted people in this industry”), and cites Larry Flynt as a constant source of inspiration. “I admire his courage and willingness to defend the First Amendment on behalf of all of us in the industry.”
Garland is a board member of the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association that advocates on behalf of the entire adult business community — distributors, manufacturers, retailers, e-tailers, content producers and performers. “I accepted a position on FSC’s board to become a voice for the growing pleasure products sector of the adult industry. We all have a stake in our future, and becoming an active supporter of FSC ensures an enduring and profitable business environment for us all.”
And that dedication to service extends to other areas, ones that have also included the involvement of Garland’s wife, son and daughter: Eldorado is proud to be able to give back to the community by financially supporting Food Share and disaster relief when it can. “My wife Wanda and I have been proud and active supporters of Boulder and Broomfield Counties’ Community Food Share program for the past 15 years. Eldorado has contributed companywide every year since 2008.”
Garland has also been very active in the Boy Scouts, helping many scouts go through the program and helping several of them (including his son) earn the rank of Eagle Scout. As Boulder residents, Garland and his wife also support the Boulder County Autism Society, and Garland has coached youth soccer for seven years. Other passions include his 34-yearold horse, and the opportunity to travel around the world for both work and fun.
“I must say I am very thankful for the recognition that I and Eldorado have received through the years,” says Garland, who has come a long way from truck-jobbing through the heartland of America in Astro Fleet Chiefs (“basically big potato chip trucks”), breaking down in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and waiting for a new engine to arrive from Detroit. “Without our team, customers and vendors, these would not have been possible. It is truly an honor and a humbling experience to be so highly regarded by one’s peers.”