Category Archives: Pipedream Insider

Icky Goes From Fancy to Filthy Overnight!

pd3541-00_02Pipedream has released the Icky Love Doll, the latest inflatable Hollywood hottie from their controversial and best-selling Superstar Series.

In true Pipedream fashion, the nearly identical photos and hilarious copy poke fun at the young “Fancy” rapper, while the box image could be mistaken for the star’s video itself! The description on the back of the box reads:

Meet Icky, the down-under dirty girl who went from fancy to filthy over night! When this white trash wannabe isn’t busy busting out hit singles, she’s stuffing her snatch with more dark meat than a Thanksgiving feast! This big booty albino Aussie loves to rap, so pull out your man meat and watch her wrap her lips around your pleasure stick! Her stench-trench sucks dick up without a hiccup and she can’t wait to take you outback! Just add air and this light-skinned lezbo is ready to share her 3 luscious love holes with you!

“Nobody created products with mainstream crossover appeal like Pipedream,” said Chairman and CEO Nick Orlandino. “The publicity we receive when one of these celebrity dolls hits the market is priceless. Our customers will definitely experience rising sales as Icky blows up – literally!”

Customers are urged to place their orders now while supplies last.

Tales From The Road: Work Hard. Shenanigan Harder.

“Work hard, play hard.” There’s no more fitting place for this old mantra than the pleasure products industry. Fitting in some casual hang-time with your customers and fellow vendors isn’t just a post-trade show option; it’s practically a requirement! I have yet to attend a single event that didn’t involve an after-hours fancy dinner, cocktail party, or other sort of fun activity. Despite our under-eye bags and sore feet, everyone manages to zip downstairs to the hotel lobby to await the evening’s activities.

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Good eats and good times are how this industry gives back to its customers and brings them closer as friends. Quality time develops our relationships beyond sales numbers, which is just one of the perks of working in a tight-knit business that functions more like a community. There is rarely a dull moment in our laid-back atmosphere. Once we’ve shut down our event booths for the day, shenanigans are bound to happen somewhere!

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During my last trip to the Philadelphia area, our distributor customer took the entire collective of retailers and manufacturers to a local bowling alley. Though I had only planned on a quick pop-in with my co-worker, we were quickly whisked to an alley to play a round with some vendor friends. A fellow sales rep, disgusted by the thought of putting on those always-lovely, musty shoes, refused to lace up for her turn on the lane. My co-worker followed, repulsed by the 70’s color scheme and thousands of prior bowlers who had donned the shoes. In my tired, post-event state, I decided to rebel and follow my shoe-less bowling team’s lead. The staff were less than pleased. We spent the rest of the game trying to avoid the alley’s employee spies, which we called the “Shoe Sheriff,” the “Bowl Patrol,” and another, less savory name I won’t mention here. At one point, one of our team members even jokingly tried to bribe an alley staff member with $50 to turn a blind eye to our rebellious team. Instead of just playing a typical round, our bowling night turned into a hilarious game of “Dodge The Shoe Guys” as we roared with laughter every time another player got in trouble for wearing street shoes. The evening ended when one of the more humored staff members decided to allow me one last shot at the pins before he pulled the plug on our shenanigans.

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 As far as misbehaving on the job goes, refusing to wear bowling shoes is probably my worst offense yet, but at least I avoided having permanently-smelly feet at the trade show the following morning.

Pipedream Breaks Ground on Fourth Local Facility!

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We’ve has opened another brand new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility just a few blocks from our main Chatsworth headquarters!!! The new building will be our fourth local production facility, giving us the capacity to meet increased product demand and fill future orders.

Just months after opening our new rubber manufacturing factory, we’ve has been working around the clock to get the fourth building online and running at full capacity. With the newest building, we now own over 220,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing, distribution, and logistics in the US. Besides the fourth building, we and Jimmyjane have offices in San Francisco and Amsterdam, and will continue to expand around the globe to better service customers.

“We’re very excited to continue to expand in this ever-changing market,” said Chairman and CEO Nick Orlandino. “As the Chinese market continues to get more crowded, expensive, and plagued by piracy, we can control and manage these problems better by bringing more manufacturing back to the US. This will make us faster to market and more agile for private label and new product development. We will continue to maintain our 95% fill rates, and fill the channel with high quality products at fair prices.”

Q&A with Pipedream Products Chairman & CEO Nick Orlandino

Nick Orlandino has blasted through the novelty business to parlay an after school gig unloading trucks into an international, industry-leading pleasure products empire. His bold, edgy and aggressive style is definitely reflected in the Pipedream brand, which is hardly an accident. Orlandino seems to be onto something — and he’s got the products, awards and international market dominance to prove it.

For several reasons, Nick Orlandino is a fascinating interview subject. Cutting up and/or cherry-picking from our 30 minute conversation wouldn’t do this piece justice. To really get the Orlandino flavor, we present him raw and unedited.

Pipedream Chairman and CEO Nick Orlandino arrives at his Chatsworth office Friday, Feb. 27. at about 8 a.m. The Long Island, N.Y. native exits a fully loaded, blacked-out SUV while talking on his trademark old-school flip-phone and smoking a Marlboro Ultra Light. He buzzes himself through the Pipedream HQ reception area and turns the lights on inside his office. One glance at Orlandino’s decorated walls tells endless stories of family, business, friendship and history — but at 46 years old, one thing’s for sure: this guy is definitely going to need a lot more wall space.

XBIZ: How did you get started in the pleasure products business?

Nick Orlandino: I started in the Halloween and gift business in 1985. I got a job with this after school work program for credit and ended up in this little Halloween novelty company in Elmont, N.Y. I was unloading trucks and started working more and more, even during the breaks and the holidays. About a year later I started working the trade shows, developed a couple items, got involved in the gag side and it blossomed from there. Little by little, I got more involved and decided that I really liked the adult side. I said, “this is a good business — they actually pay their bills.” It’s bad in the Halloween industry; they don’t pay for seven or eight months. I didn’t really like the business side either; it was the creative side that I liked. David and Bob from Pipedream were big gag gift customers of ours. One day David and I talked at a trade show and he offered me a job, a few months later I moved to Los Angeles.

Pipedream Products Vice President of Product Development Rob Phaneuf joins us. One of Pipedream’s top guys, Phaneuf is a loyal and trusted Orlandino confidant and is credited as being key to the company’s rise in the last decade.

XBIZ: What inspired the launch of Pipedream Products?

ORLANDINO: Pipedream started as a small pipe and paraphernalia wholesaler.

ROB PHANEUF: Hence the name.

ORLANDINO: Bob Feldman came across the country in a van — he was selling out of a van back then. Then Bob and his father opened a little office in downtown L.A. David came on a couple of years later and they had a good little run for a while. Then the government stepped in and made paraphernalia illegal. The FBI shut them down and all that B.S., so they needed to diversify — and they looked to sex products. All of sudden Nalpac and Eldorado and all these guys from the paraphernalia trade needed to diversify so they all went into sex toys. It was a little business that popped up out of nowhere.

PHANEUF: For a long time Pipedream was known as a gag company.

ORLANDINO: They were doing mostly gift stuff so I came in and started building this whole gag line. I even said I wasn’t going to do adult — I said “I’m a gag guy.” But that was a very small business, just a couple million bucks in sales, seven or eight people in a small warehouse in North Hollywood — it’s not the Pipedream everyone knows today.

PHANEUF: We boxed jokes. You open the box and then the joke would be inside. Nick took that whole concept and put it on a card.

ORLANDINO: Eventually “Over the Hill” gags became a huge thing for us. That’s how it really started steamrolling for me — I had a couple of huge wins that first year and doubled the business in 18 months. I did a little Old Man Condom, a few other odds and ends, general importing stuff, some penis water guns and handcuffs, lighters, key chains. Back then I really wanted to hit the mainstream, so we were selling to Warehouse Records, Target, Hot Topic, Spencer’s. We sold door beads, black light bulbs, incense and fixtures. That went on for a while. I took that money and put it back into the novelty business to build up a line. Then I noticed, “These guys sell a lot of these vibrators.” So then we decided to get involved with vibrators. We got on the plane to China — I think I was 24 years old, totally wide-eyed. I saw a couple of factories over there — we had three, maybe four or five vendors at the time — and two in the vibrator space. They had very basic stuff. The factory owner and I sat there with a napkin, literally, and drew up boxes. That’s how the art started — we didn’t do art. “I want a blue box with a black line through it, you know, that says BangCock on it.” That was our art. Not very complicated.

XBIZ: How do you define Pipedream, what does it stand for?

ORLANDINO: My vision for this company was to make it a full-service manufacturer, which we have, over time, become. We started out little by little — a lot of hand operation stuff that was very mundane, very seat of the pants, and very rigged. As we grew we had to adapt in order to improve. We had to make and find machinery and implement some systems and procedures that we never did before and it worked for us. We had a lot of labor at one point, a lot of employees — everything was being done by hand.

XBIZ: How many employees does Pipedream have now?

ORLANDINO: Over 200, maybe 250. But in the old days, we were doing a third of the volume that we are now and still had 250 employees. That’s how much handwork had to be done.

XBIZ: What were some of the biggest milestones for Pipedream that led to where you are now?

ORLANDINO: Bachelorette was huge for us; we created that category and we still own it, as well as the trademark. There are things that we invented here, things that are staple, monster items that are still selling to this day and have been copied all over the world. Our take on inflatable dolls or the fur handcuffs for instance — we propelled that into a huge space. In 1996 I founded the first true B2B adult novelty show in the world, which I currently own and manage to this day. In 2010 we were the first to develop and create full-service planogram software, the Pipedream Planogrammer, for our products to be completely merchandised in any shape or size venue.

PHANEUF: This was exclusive web-based software that allowed retailers all over the world to make custom planograms of all our items. They could see what it looked like before it went into the stores and took all the guesswork out of merchandising. To this day we’re still the only company in the adult novelty space that has our own proprietary software.

ORLANDINO: Another milestone for us was in 2014 when Pipedream acquired the lifestyle luxury brand Jimmyjane. With my guidance and experience, we’ve been able to turn it into a viable, rapidly growing part of the industry and our business.

XBIZ: What are Pipedream’s most successful lines and why do you think those are such winners?

ORLANDINO: Probably Fetish Fantasy. That was a niche — there were only a few companies doing it and I said, “You know something, we’re going to try our own thing.” And we did. We developed our own approach to it and now we’re the biggest fetish company in the world.

PHANEUF: What we’ve done with the Fetish Fantasy line, more than anybody, is that we’ve added items that are not traditionally thought of as BDSM items like strap-ons and nipple stuff.

ORLANDINO: But they are fetish.

PHANEUF: Yeah, now they are. Nobody back in the day thought of that stuff as fetish. Strap-ons were thought of as something lesbians would use — not fetish.

ORLANDINO: We marketed all of that. Even the inflatable furniture, we’ve made everything into fetish. Nobody was marketing to fetish like we did. We took a lot of our existing programs and if it made sense to me — it’s a fetish. It’s not a “normal” product — it’s a “fetish.” It’s 35 percent of our business, Fetish Fantasy.

PHANEUF And Pipedream Extreme — the Fuck Me Silly — that would be the next big milestone.

ORLANDINO: Yeah, then we got involved in making some of these larger masturbator pieces. I was worried about that, to be honest. We were working with this factory in China on this big masturbator piece and we all looked at each other, and we were like, “Whoa! This is going to be $600 retail! That is out of the Pipedream comfort zone.” We were a lower-end company. We were always in the middle to the low end of price points. So this was way out of our normal range.

XBIZ: What are you most proud of as Chairman and CEO?

ORLANDINO: We’ve really established ourselves as a major, major factor in the world market of adult toys today.

XBIZ: Do you personally come up with ideas for the products/lines?

ORLANDINO: A lot of them, sure. I›ve named, developed, and have been involved with thousands of products.

XBIZ: And how involved are you in the day-to-day operations of Pipedream?

ORLANDINO: Extremely.

XBIZ: How would you describe the culture at Pipedream?

ORLANDINO: Our culture’s the best in the business, by far. It’s a laid-back atmosphere. Listen, I may have partners now, investors and bankers who wear suits, but that doesn’t creep into our everyday operation. We’re still the same company we’ve always been. It’s loose. How serious can we be? We sell sex toys. We make wind-up Barack Obama novelties. We are who we are. We’re not talking about doing a liver transplant next week, you know — it is what it is.

XBIZ: Talk about the importance of freedom of expression:

ORLANDINO: I was in the Free Speech Coalition and fought for a long time for 1st Amendment rights. If it wasn’t for people like me and the people who came before me, who went to jail, who got their stores shut down or burned down. You know, we had to put up with a lot of crap, worry about FBI blacklists — people have no idea and it really upsets me when these new people come in and have the nerve to snub us and give us the “Who the hell are you?” We’re the guys who invented and created this business. All of us should be respected.

XBIZ: The industry is changing all the time, which changes do you see as the most positive and harmful?

ORLANDINO: The positive thing is the mainstream exposure, obviously. It’s good for everybody. The more people we have to sell to, the better off we are. On the other hand, with all the ankle-biters coming in, the guys that didn’t pay their dues, who are not only reaping the benefits of all of our hard work, but they’re undercutting us or copying our items. It’s frustrating. You have the pirated stuff being sold on Amazon that’s not even legit product and they’re calling it ours.

XBIZ: What do you see as the industry’s biggest threats?

ORLANDINO: Just proliferation, that’s the bottom line.

XBIZ: How do you think direct online sales will impact the industry in the future?

ORLANDINO: They’re impacting the industry now. They’re definitely shrinking the margin for everybody. From the manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer, to the people selling on their own websites. There’s major price compression and we’ll see how it plays out. Again, I think you’ll lose some of these bottom feeders because they can’t afford to play in the game — the strong will survive. Pipedream has a strong foundation, strong backing, and will continue to buy some of these companies for our portfolio. We will survive, thrive and dominate in the new world order.

XBIZ: Where do you think the industry would be without “Fifty Shades of Grey?” How big was it?

ORLANDINO: I mean, we saw a 40 percent increase.

PHANEUF: We were first in the market with this kind of stuff. We’ve been shipping Limited Edition for two to three years now, since the book first came out. We got that line out when everyone was talking about the official line, and doing the licensing, and trying to get the “real” line. We said, “we’ll put out the Limited Edition line anyway.” We hit that market before anybody. We saw our increase about two years ago and are still enjoying it.

XBIZ: What makes Nick O different from other CEOs in the industry?

ORLANDINO: I’m younger. I’m very hands-on. I’m very aggressive, creative and passionate. I’m involved in various operations of the business. From shipping, sales, procurement, development, manufacturing, merchandising, marketing — you name it, I’m involved — and I’m still out here busting my ass. No matter what happens, I’ve always done that and that’s’ why I’ve won more awards in this industry than all of the other CEOs combined.

XBIZ: What do you like best about your job?

ORLANDINO: My favorite thing is to make a product, see people buy it, and to actually hear the feedback. “Oh wow, that was great!” or “these are selling like crazy.” That’s the ultimate high for me.

XBIZ: What’s the most valuable lesson you learned so far in the career?

ORLANDINO: There have been a few of them. I went head-to-head a few years ago with some of the major companies and we’ve settled things amicably, and we’re all still here to talk about it. You know, things happen sometimes and you get big balls, but you have to know when to tuck them in.

XBIZ: Where will Pipedream be in five years?

ORLANDINO: Pipedream is definitely going to be a conglomerate of many things adult. We’re constantly exploring and vetting companies to determine what the best road for Pipedream is going to be, both long and short term.

XBIZ: Do you have any mottos or philosophy that you live by?

ORLANDINO: I always say to my people, “We’re a shipping company first.” If we don’t ship this stuff out the door — it doesn’t get to where it has to go. If we’re too slow to market, it hurts everybody. So I always push that. And “come heavy or not at all” is another one. So when we’re working on a new program, that’s how we come — heavy — with a 50 or 60 SKU line. We don’t just get into the category — we take over the category. That’s our philosophy. We’re not screwing around. We want to OWN it, we want to own that piece of the market, and we eventually do.

XBIZ: Do you still play music? How do you relax outside of work?

ORLANDINO: I’m a workaholic. I’m on the computer 24/7. When I’m not at work or traveling for work, I find time to spend with my son and that’s relaxing to me. Sometimes (laughter). Hobbies? Not too many anymore. My hobby is my business. I really do love what I do, it’s something that’s in me and I can’t shut it off no matter how hard I try. I’m laying in bed, I’m thinking about it. I’m watching TV, I’m still thinking about it. Whatever I’m doing, I’m thinking about how I can make something or make something better. It ain’t gonna change, I’ve tried, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Pipedream and Jimmyjane Score 7 ETO Awards Nods!

pr-eto-nodsPipedream and Jimmyjane have swept another ballot this week with 7 total ETO Awards nods in the following categories:

  • Best New Female Product, Jimmyjane Form 5
  • Best New Couples Product, Fetish Fantasy Series Inflatable Lube Wrestling Ring
  • Best Fetish Products Brand, Fetish Fantasy Series
  • Best Pleasure Products Brand, Pipedream
  • Best Luxury Brand, Jimmyjane
  • Most Innovative Brand, Jimmyjane
  • Most Innovative Brand, Pipedream

“We’re honored to have so many nominations in so many categories,” said Pipedream Chairman and CEO Nick Orlandino. “We’ve worked hard to make our brands stand out among the crowd of choices in stores. Having that hard work recognized with seven nominations makes it all worthwhile.”

The 11th annual ETO Awards will be hosted amidst the ETO trade show on Sunday, June 28th. Voting is now open to registered users of erotictradeonly.com and will close on Thursday, June 11th. Vote now at erotictradeonly.com/eto-awards.

Pervy Playlist No. 4
Best Breakup Songs

We’re switching things up this week, exchanging our usual sensual sack sesh for a good ol’ fashion hate fuck! Breaking up is never easy, but feeding the soul with some tuneage is a quick and easy way to help release the post-break up blues without the morning-after regret of slashing their tires.

 

“Kokopelli Face Tattoo” by Andrew Jackson Jihad

Genre: Folk Punk with lotsa feelz

Best part: Hey dude I hate everything you do but I’m trying really hard to not hate you. Hating you won’t make you suck any less.

 

“Let This Go” by Eve

Genre: Bad ass lady Rap

Best part: Ya love girls, girls, but you lost the best. I had to get away, I’m past the stress. Mame told me, “baby girl, never settle for less.” Learn the hard way, hard days, I’m ready for next.”

 

“Shitlist” by L7

Genre: Riot grrrl

Best part: For all the ones who put me out. For all the ones who filled my head with downs. For all the squares that got me pissed. You’ve made my shitlist!

 

Check out the previous Pervy Playlists:

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

 What’s YOUR favorite breakup song? Let us know in the comments! 

Behind the Toys: 4 Things I Learned During My 1st Year in the Pleasure Products Industry

Time flies when your day job involves hotel hopping and sex toy shopping! A single year in this big-yet-small industry hardly does justice to all the places I still have to travel and customers I want to meet. Having worked in adult novelty retail for 2.5 years before coming to Pipedream, I was well-prepared to become a pleasure product specialist. Traveling across the country places me in front of all different kinds of audiences with no more knowledge of the novelty industry than what they’ve seen on retailer shelves. To outsiders, we’re a strange, confusing crowd, but in reality, we’re pretty regular ladies and gents (that just so happen to work with sex toys for a living!)

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1. There is no such thing as NSFW (almost!)

If you reviewed the history on the browser of any given pleasure industry employee, you’d be surprised… or not. Contrary to the biggest misconception about working for an adult novelty company, we don’t stare at erotic photographs all day, but a browser history of nudity and realistic dildos isn’t going to get you fired from the Pipedream office. Your Not-Safe-For-Work is our work! For those in the Art and Marketing Departments, working with images related to various topics in sexuality is all in a day’s duties. However, we do still treat the office as a work space. If our PR Manager is re-blogging nudes, chances are likely that she’s adding in a great article on body acceptance alongside the photos.

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2. Our office is more fun than your office… but it’s still an office.

From personal experience, I can tell you that inputting SKU numbers and prices into an Excel sheet is just as pain-staking and boring with sex toys as it is with office supplies. However, at least I can giggle at the dinosaur holding a Basix dong on the desk of the Senior VP of Operations while I do it. Yes, this is, fortunately and unfortunately, still a job. The grunt work doesn’t change, but the atmosphere makes it much more fun than doing the same kind of mundane tasks in a suit-and-tie environment. Our industry is rife with folks who want to change the landscape of sexual discovery, but there are also plenty of people who are happy to leave on Friday and not think about vibrators again until Monday morning. Even if commuting to the PD office is nothing more than a way to earn a living, I can’t imagine a better place for your 9-5!

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3. People are normal.

The personal lives of pleasure industry employees are a seductive mystery to outsiders. Are we unable to function in the bedroom without the help of something buzzy? Do we require prospective romantic partners to cite a heavy interest in S&M? And just what goes on at those elusive staff “product trainings”? To quote an industry colleague, “It’s just sales.” Our presentations are definitely more fun to attend than your average corporate meeting, but our work and personal lives don’t always intersect. You’re more likely to find a weekending Pipedreamer checking out an art gallery or attending her son’s baseball game than decked out in shiny PVC at a goth club fetish party. Our comfort with adult toys means we’re a pretty fun bunch of open-minded individuals, but those “product trainings,” are not, in fact, giant orgies, and there isn’t a massive swingers event at the end of every trade show. And now the proverbial bubble has been burst!

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4. Keep your reputation in check.

Though companies are raking in mainstream-level profits, this is still a niche industry. You’re bound to see the same faces at every trade show, customer event, and staff training, for better or for worse. Working in adult novelty can be a bit like returning to high school, but now that you’re an adult, you (hopefully!) have more ability to take control of your reputation. There are plenty of opportunities to make close friends, impress industry figureheads, and prove that it only takes 2 drinks to turn into a drunken mess, sometimes all at the same banquet table. When I’m out with customers and fellow vendors after-hours, I practice a form of relaxed professionalism. I’m welcoming and friendly to everyone I meet, but I never forget the reason for my trip: to work.

Check out more behind-the-scenes posts: 

Welcome to the Freak Show!
Exploring “Weird” Sex Toys, Part 4

What the hell is “weird” anyway? Strange and bizarre; “unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.” Sometimes we’re afraid of the unknown and instead of exploring our curiosities and filling ourselves with the knowledge of experience, we quickly dismiss things we don’t understand. Well guess what — ignorance ain’t bliss, people, especially in your pants! You may have popped your cherry years ago, but there’s still like, an infinite source of sensations to explore. Broaden the horizons of your ecstasy and experiment with a new shape, a new texture, or even a new fetish!

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Ceramix No. 10

Beetlejuice or Dr. Seuss – I don’t really care what you wanna compare it to, but this thing is adorable AND functional as hell. I’m already a sucker for non-traditional materials, but then you go and slap some stripes on it? #sold The ribbed shaft is juuuust enough to add that extra little oomph, but subtle enough not to overwhelm you with that curved G-Spot strokin’ tip.

If you haven’t tried our Ceramix dildos yet then I’m not really sure what you’re doing with your life. They’re perfect for temperature play just like our glass Icicles, but get this – each of the Ceramix dildos (and plugs!) are hollow, meaning your ADD-ass won’t have to wait for that shit to soak in ice-filled water. Nope, just run the tap right into that bitch and SHAZAAM your arctic fuck toy is ready in a snap.

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Fuck My Cock XL

BIGGER!!!! IS!!!! BETTERRRRAAAHHHH!!!!!!! …right? This remake of our OG Fuck My Cock stroker just makes me laugh every time I see it. Like, I really wanna give it a little smiley face and call it Brad. Even though this concept may look bizarre as fuck to some people, our gay reviewer friends have actually been head over heels for my boy Brad ‘cause he offers a total reach-around experience. Moral of the story? Don’t judge someone’s jam just ‘cause it’s not your cup of tea. Every sexual appetite is different and that’s totally O K A Y !

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Bonnie Rotten Spit Lotion

Don’t you lie to my face! You know you like that rough and messy shit. Even if you don’t need any help juicin’ up, you can never have too much lube – especially if we’re doing it in the butt. Plus, who doesn’t wanna fuck their favorite porn star? Drench yourself in Bonnie Rotten’s Spit and you’ll feel like you’re fucking the infamous Squirtwoman herself! This water-based formula will totes keep you wet, wild, and porn star ready all night long.

Check out the rest of the Freak Show:

Tales From The Road: Adventures in Austin

Austin, Texas is one of my favorite places to visit. The neighborhood bars recall the feel of a college house party, albeit turned down a notch for the 30-something crowd. Tasty vegan restaurants, vintage shops, and artsy nooks promise friendly hipsters, tattoo collectors, and funky types with interesting back stories on how Austin became home. The abundance of food trucks and the nightly mass exodus of bats from the Congress Avenue Bridge round out this liberal bubble in the middle of America’s most red state. Far from being the first to write about the city, this Texas niche lives up to the travel blog hype and then some, depending on whatever festivities are happening during your visit.

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My visit to Austin was centered around training a local store chain that was new to Pipedream’s training program. The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with our customers, especially those whose shops haven’t yet been paid a visit by the Pipedream Fairy (read: me!). New trainees are my favorite. They’re hungry for the kind of behind-the-scenes insight that only a manufacturer can provide. (I’m sure the goody bags in tow in my rental car aren’t a hindrance, either.) The goal of visiting retailers is to make a real connection with the staff. It’s my job to change their vision of “Pipedream” from a faceless Los Angeles company into that of a friendly, enthusiastic bringer-of-knowledge-and-goody-bags. At the end of the day, everyone goes home happy with a Fetish Fantasy handcuff coffee mug and a better understanding of how to sell our pleasure products.

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Curious about the traffic commotion to which I arrived, I was directed to the SXSW (South By Southwest) festival by some of my staff trainees. Though familiar with the event, I had no clue it would coincide with my trip. I only had an hour to wander the crowded streets, but in that short time, I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t in New Orleans. Musicians played all genres of music on every corner while creatively-dressed bar hoppers danced in the blockaded streets. Unwilling to leave Austin without a food truck dinner, I grabbed a delicious, portable spinach pie and hoped that I made it back to my rental car ahead of the meter maid (and I did).

Before letting me leave, though, the city decided to throw me the most random occurrence of any business trip to date. Out of the thousands of artists and concert-goers I passed on my way out, one of them happened to be a former high school classmate that I hadn’t seen in TEN years. This wasn’t just someone from math class. He and I spent countless hours rehearsing for musicals, recitals, and choir concerts as part of our school’s music and drama program, and he dated one of my best girl friends during our time as fellow arts geeks. To make this exchange of smiles even more serendipitous, said best girl friend passed away in an accident only months earlier, giving me goosebumps as I imagined her planning this meeting from wherever she was watching. After wishing him the best of luck on his folk band’s SXSW debut, we parted ways as I reflected on the unplanned-yet-planned weirdness that a life on the road always brings. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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