(This article was originally published HERE in SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)
Meeting Jim Byrd, you will first notice his tall lanky body, visible tattoos, soft blue eyes and easy smile, a close-shaven beard with its well-defined chops, and his whispy, but fashionable hair.
Take some time to talk to him and you will expose a kind, funny, unassuming and respectful Southern gentleman who very outwardly adores his mother.
You will also find that this self-identified doctor really knows his stuff; and that “stuff” just happens to be hypoallergenic glass dildos.
It all started seven years ago, when an ex-girlfriend who had been diagnosed with breast cancer contacted Byrd, asking for his help and support through the process. After idly and helplessly standing by as a child while his own mother underwent cancer treatment, he said he jumped at the chance to help.
Within days, they became aware of his ex-girlfriend’s allergy to latex, a product used in both the temporary port implanted in her chest to facilitate chemotherapy treatment and the adhesive bandages used for her IVs.
What came next was an intense education about keeping bodies healthy and allergen-free. Though the relationship did not last once the cancer was under control, Byrd’s interest in a higher calling continued.
“My mindset has always been how can I help other people while having fun,” he said.
“My mother always fed the homeless and did outreach through her church to the needy. … We’re not a rich family but we’re rich in spirit. If you have your health you have everything you need.”
Byrd began doing his homework in the sex-toy market after the manufacturer of the eyeglass cases he was selling off-handedly remarked that they also manufactured glass dildos. A sales entrepreneur his entire adult life, Byrd’s jump was easy; it was an extension of what he was already doing, with the added benefit of helping what he knew must be millions of people with latex allergies.
He found there was not a lot of competition, and began looking at distribution, inventory, delivery, the overhead of owning a store, and finally, the home passion party market, with the potential to reach a quarter-million women.
“How can I bring the hypo-allergenic values of glass to the home party business?” he said he asked himself in 2009.
With the help and support of his mother as a co-investor, Byrd is ready to take the “passion party business” by storm, having just received his new “VIP Travel Kits,” each holding 12 different shapes, sizes and uses of various glass-blown hypo-allergenic products meant to bring pleasure to both men and women.
Though the dream to sell into the home party market has been three years in the making, his business thus far has steadily increased through online sales and tradeshows.
With a white, rusty Ford Econoline van emblazoned with his “theDildoDr.com” logo on the side through the streets of Pacific Beach, where he has a large private showroom in his home, Byrd has run into a bit of resentment, and often finds himself the target of outward aggression.
“I’ve learned now, three years into it, there is a lot of stigmas that come with it, and a lot of prejudices, discrimination and judgment,” he said. Some people in his neighborhood have even told him to open his business in Hillcrest, where they say the gay community will more likely accept him.
Despite the discourse, he said these aggressors do have a point.
“It’s not the gay community [who judge] – and understand that I’ve learned a lot about the gay community in the last two years doing this – it is the uneducated, the ones who love sex behind closed doors. The ones who say I want to do [sexual things] but I don’t want you to know it,“ Byrd said.
While he gauges his clientele base at 40 percent heterosexual and 60 percent LGBT, he said gays and lesbians are definitely his bread and butter.
A male couple was his very first sale at his first sex-toy trade show in 2010. His recent visit to North County Pride was not only successful, but gave him more visibility, which he said he craves. Byrd was the only male hawking wares at last year’s Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, and he has plans to return this year due to the huge response he received.
Next year, in addition to having another booth at San Diego Pride, he also hopes to put his van into the Pride Parade to garner more attention to his brand.
Though he said he expects the LGBT community will also be interested in the home passion party idea, he also wants to target straight, married women – already getting their friends together for these types of parties – and educate them, not only about the drawbacks of latex, but the natural sensuality of glass.
“Twist, turn and learn,” he said.
According to the “doctor,” not only is glass hypoallergenic on its own, it does not trap bacteria and can be instantly sterilized. For additional pleasure, glass can also be frozen or heated, he said, and it does not come with wires, batteries or other extras that often cause issues in the security line at airports. “These are 100 percent TSA approved,” he said, smiling.
Two women from the Dinah weekend, who are longtime partners and regular customers, said they found the glass they purchased helped with their post-menopausal issues, proving though glass dildos may be a novelty for some, they may be a necessity for others.
With his new travel cases, Byrd also hopes to help make a small dent in the economy and unemployment rates, as his goal is to have women host their own parties, selling the products to their own friends.
“There is no paperwork, no contracts,” he said. “You buy the VIP starter/travel kit and you get 50 percent discounts on glass for all of 2013, and 35 percent discounts on [other products].”
Byrd said you can make up to $900 a summer by selling from the travel kit, which makes him happy. “If I can get 1,000 people to have a better life because they are making a couple bucks off of me, I’m doing all right,” he said.
Each case, he said, can be resold – or not – as the buyer sees fit.
“Dabble with one case, sell six pieces and break even, then keep the other six for yourself,” he said. “Or keep replacing the loose glass at 50 percent off, and make money.”
The tagline he created for the home market he wishes to master is “wine, class and glass,” and when you see the glassware he is selling, you will see why. Putting the sexual pleasure aspect of these pieces aside, each one is truly a work of art.
Byrd said that once people buy one, they often find themselves becoming collectors because the diversity is so vast. Some are smooth, others ribbed or have bumps, many are curved just right to locate the G-spot or stimulate the prostate, many come with handles, and most all of them have beautiful colors spun into the glass. Each piece also comes with its own padded zipper bag to shield it and protect it from breakage.
To schedule an appointment to see his showroom where he has up to 150 pieces on display, or to find out more about being a passion party consultant for hypoallergenic glass products, send him a message through his website.
Morgan M. Hurley is Contributing Editor of SDGLN, Editor of San Diego Downtown News and Assistant Editor of Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News.