When Stephanie Halfmann and Cody Pyfer moved back to Milwaukee after living in China, they decided to open an adult-oriented shop that was unlike anything else in the area. A short time later, they unveiled Blue, 7223 W. Greenfield Ave., on Nov. 27, 2009.
Blue is a one-stop shop for tobacco-smoking and sex-toy needs. This might sound similar to the windowless buildings that squat next to freeways, but according to Halfmann, Blue is quite different.
"Our atmosphere is clean, comfortable and non-judgmental," says Halfmann, 25. "We’re trying to change the perception from seedy and sticky floors to a friendly place where you can have your needs met."
And it’s true. Blue’s tag line is "a grown-up gift shop" and it describes the feel of the shop very accurately. Blue -- which formerly housed the Scott Walker campaign headquarters -- is freshly painted, filled with light from large front windows and very well organized into sections.
The front part of the space features imported items, including a large selection of incense including a hand-dipped brand called "Nose Desserts."
"We really like incense," says Halfmann.
Also, Blue offers a superabundance of tobacco accessories, including glass pipes, hookahs and water pipes made by glass blowers in the Madison area. The prices range greatly, from about $7 to $395 for a detailed pipe in the shape of a large demon.
The erotica section boasts a decent selection of vibrators and other sex toys, along with lingerie, dance wear and a large collection of DVDs divided into sections like gay, lesbian, transgender, East Asian, Latina, African American and European. All of the DVDs are for sale, but not for rent.
"We really encourage people to ask questions about our stock," says Pyfer. "Because there isn’t a Consumer Report on the best lube."
Blue also sports a bachelorette party favor section that includes all the classics like the famous "Pecker Straws."
Halfmann and Pyfer are both University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates, and in the future, they hope to offer educational workshops at Blue. Local woman-owned erotic boutiques like The Tool Shed, 2427 N. Murray Ave., and A Woman’s Touch, 200 N. Jefferson St., have similar missions, except they do not sell tobacco smoking accessories.
"We are really trying to reach out to couples," says Halfmann. "We are trying to make it as easy as possible for them to come in to a shop like this."
Prior to opening Blue, Halfmann and Pyfer spent a year in China teaching and studying. Currently, the couple lives in West Allis.
"We like it here. There’s a great mix of people and it’s really close to everything," says Pyfer.
Owning a grown-up gift shop comes naturally to Pyfer. He grew up in Oshkosh where his family owns the local business Satori Imports which is similar to Blue.
Halfmann and Pyfer knocked around a lot of different names before settling on "Blue." They wanted to name their shop something that was easy to remember and not embarrassing to say. It is also, of course, a play on words.
"At first, we came up with a lot of really cheesy names, but one day we were standing in front of the building, which is blue, and we decided that would make a simple name for our store," says Halfmann.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.