“You’re probably wondering, ‘Who would go to a sex toy shop in Jackson?’ Everybody,” exclaims Tami Rose. “You’re liable to see grandparents or youngsters. And sex toys have really been recession-proof.” She pauses. “Even when things get tight in Mississippi, we don’t stop having a good time.”
Since 2009, Rose has been running Romantic Adventures—one of the premier sex toy shops in the country. It’s located in a converted roadside motel building off U.S. Highway 80 in Jackson, Mississippi. Half of the store is dedicated to women’s products and the other half caters to men.
“The men are here every Friday for their supplements, and the women usually come in groups at lunch,” explains Rose. “We are also No. 3 in the nation for anal toys. And male supplements are huge here, because nobody can afford the pharmaceutical stuff.”
While Romantic Adventures was already doing big numbers, Rose says that “business has tripled” during the pandemic, where they offered curbside service during the months store-browsing wasn’t an option. Car after car would pull up to the building and have sex toys loaded into their vehicles. “Everyone I’ve talked to in the industry is booming,” she maintains.
“The big thing sweeping the nation now is this toy called The Rose,” she adds, “and it looks like a rose and pushes air in for clitoral stimulation.”
How Rose, who is in her late forties, came to own and operate Romantic Adventures is a winding road filled with tragedy and heartbreak.
She joined the Navy at 17 because she couldn’t afford college and went to boot camp in San Diego. The following year, after just two and a half months of marriage, she lost the man who she still considers the love of her life.
“My husband was on his way to Miramar for TOPGUN when he passed away in a car wreck,” she says. “It was super traumatic, but it was a very formative thing for me.”
“Man… I don’t know if I ever did get over it,” she continues. I just kept movin’ on. It’s horrible for anyone that’s lost a loved one, but the sun comes up in the morning, you have to put your pants on one leg at a time and go face it. It’s just as awful now as it was then, but you build a life around other things.”
The harrowing ordeal inspired Rose to become a religious petty officer in the Navy, which she describes as a clerical assistant to the religious officers who “solved problems for the chaplains”—including informing widows that their spouses had lost their lives in combat. “That was absolutely the toughest part of it,” she tells me. “I volunteered for it because I had lost my husband when I was so young, and somebody had to do that for me. I’d always appreciated how the Navy stepped in, like a father figure, and was so strong for me in the moment. I wanted to be strong for somebody else.”
Then, after a brief stint at Baylor Law School (she found it “cloistered” and “monastic”), Rose moved from California to Mississippi in 2001 to be closer to her family.
“I’m from California originally, but my mom moved here, and I have several aunts here,” she says. “We’re all from Portugal originally and I joke that if we keep moving east, we’ll wind up back there.”
But tragedy struck again. Rose was driving along a perilous stretch of road in Mississippi known as “Dead Man’s Curve” when a deer jumped out in front of her car. She swerved, spun out, and crashed into a tree.
“I broke both legs, and I was in a hospital during 9/11,” she shares. “Mississippi has a highly respected trauma unit, and they kicked me out of the hospital after surgery because they thought they were going to get bodies out of New York.”
Rose eventually got back on her feet and opened a spa business in Jackson—only to have it, as well as her house, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Her boyfriend at the time owned Romantic Adventures with his family, so she came onboard.
“I was with a boyfriend at the time who ran it but was terribly ashamed of it. I was like, ‘I’m not too ashamed to eat, so we’re gonna figure this out,’” says Rose. “I wound up in the sex toy business because I just didn’t want to lose another roof over my head.”
“I was with a boyfriend at the time who ran it but was terribly ashamed of it. I was like, ‘I’m not too ashamed to eat, so we’re gonna figure this out.’”
She took over the business in 2009, and in her very first week on the job found a $100,000 mistake in the system. Rose soon learned she had a knack for the sex toy biz and found the community around it to be incredibly welcoming.
“The year I took over, we made $500,000. And the following year, we made $750,000,” she reveals. “Nobody would believe it about this business, but the people in this business are so good to each other that once you’re in this business, you can’t leave it.”
In 2015, Rose grew tired of her boyfriend’s embarrassment over their booming sex toy business—which was pulling in around $1 million a year—and left him, taking over Romantic Adventures.
Once she took the reins, Rose started doing local radio commercials, charming the heavily Christian, heavily right-wing locals with her wit and good humor. Prior to her turn at the helm, Romantic Adventures had been targeted by the First Baptist Church, who sicced the local sheriff on the store. According to Rose, they confiscated around $50,000 in toys for reasons unknown.
“We heard anecdotally that they went to wives and girlfriends, but we never got them back,” she claims. “We fought in court for three years over the [sex] toys, and ultimately won.”
Still, Rose is worried about the future of the sex toy industry.
“Now that the circuit courts are packed with conservative judges, they could decide that sex toys are illegal in the U.S.,” she says. “And I’m out of business.”
She sighs. “Baby boomers are super shame-oriented. I would never go there. But what I’m finding is, the millennials that are coming into Romantic Adventures now, they feel like they have a God-given right to have pleasure and it’s none of your business how they achieve it. They are wide, wide open.”
So, for now, Rose is watching the toys—and penis pills—fly off the shelves. She also sells a variety of CBD products, and hopes to one day take the show on the road and be a traveling sex educator, teaching folks across the country about the joys, and importance, of sexual pleasure. “Mississippi is a tough place to live. We’re one of the poorest educated, have terrible health care, and there’s a lot of diabetes and heart disease,” she explains. “A lot of people want to keep their monogamous lifestyle, and I support that, but aren’t as… spry as they used to be. So, they need our toys.”