In July 1974, Larry Flynt published the first issue of Hustler Magazine. Within a year, the sexually explicit magazine was a national hit. Flynt went on to expand his business into films, a casino, clubs and a chain of high-end erotic adult stores called Hustler Hollywood. From humble beginnings in a small town in Kentucky, the savvy entrepreneur now has a net worth estimated at $500 million.
“Mr. Flynt was very thoughtful about diversifying his business and we are super resilient during recessions,” said Hustler Hollywood’s Vice President of Retail Philip Del Rio. “Mr. Flynt’s perspective is, people are always going to talk about and have sex. It’s never going out of style.”
In 1998, Flynt decided to open a retail store in what at the time was considered a seedy industry, but instead of following suit and opening in a less-desirable location, he opened on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, helping to change some of the stigma surrounding adult erotic stores. Now, Hustler Hollywood is set to open a location in Boise.
The decision, Del Rio said, is in part because the retailer noticed how many of its products it was shipping to the area.
Del Rio said the company has been scouting a storefront in Boise for the past three years looking for the best location. Hustler Hollywood settled at 5805 Fairview Ave.—a 7,000-square-foot storefront with plenty of large windows to show off merchandise. Del Rio said that’s precisely the idea: The point of the store is to take away negative connotations about sex.
“We knew, of course, it’s a conservative state,” said Del Rio, “but there’s also a lot of liberal people. We’ve been looking for a high-traffic area because we aren’t ashamed of what we do.”
According to Del Rio, Flynt has always had a nose for where the market was headed. In 2006 and 2007, Larry Flynt Publications began making large investments into the digital world. Del Rio said that to this day, Flynt runs the business: “He’s still super spicy and his principles haven’t changed. He thinks people should be free to talk about sex on a daily basis with no shame.”
Flynt’s empire began when he bought a bar in Dayton, Ohio, from his mother and soon after decided to open a more upscale bar that featured nude dancers called the Hustler Club. He went on to open chains throughout Ohio and by 1968, each club grossed around $520,000 a year.
Besides owning lucrative businesses, Flynt has also been a proponent of free speech and sexuality, and has fought legal battles to protect them. He was shot during a trial over obscenity in 1978, and in 1983, he began sending a monthly copy of Hustler Magazine to members of Congress—a tradition that continues because he wants to change society’s view of sex as something that’s bad. In an interview with The Hill in 2011, Flynt said he “wanted to free the neurotics,” and if people understood sex more they’d probably get along better. This ideology leads the Hustler business model.
His retail business’ target demographic is women and couples, and when people walk in, they’ll see lingerie, perfume, lotions and gag gifts. Hustler Hollywood isn’t about assaulting people with sex toys when they walk in the door; rather, the store prefers to ease people into the experience, placing the most risqué items toward the back of the shop.
“We think about female and new customers and all of our employees are trained to give people a comfortable experience,” Del Rio said.
Each Hustler Hollywood store begins with a $1 million investment, and Del Rio said that the store will stock a little bit of everything in the beginning as it finds what works best in Boise. He said with the pandemic and people staying home more, the team has been excited to see categories of items that are selling better than ever before—items like masks, wigs and dress-up clothes, in particular. Del Rio doesn’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon.
Sales have skyrocketed since the pandemic and the company has seen a significant increase in sales since the lockdowns began. Del Rio said in-store and curbside sales have increased over 50% and online sales have grown over 100%, showing that despite uncertain times—or perhaps because of them—Boiseans are getting frisky. Hustler Hollywood is glad to help.
“We’re all about offering quality, fun products and erasing the shame about sex,” said Del Rio. “People will find something that interests them whether they’re experienced shoppers or first time lookers. We educate all employees to be able to work with and help anyone.”
A grand opening for the store has been set for Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 1-2, and the store will offer discounts, promotions, giveaways and gifts with purchases the whole weekend.