Upon first entrance, the shop might appear like a typical coffee shop and bar — that is until you look up and notice you’re standing under a lamp covered in bras and underwear.
“These are mostly from performers,” Amber Myers, co-owner of the Bossy Grrl’s Pin Up Joint, said pointing up to the lamps. “A few rogue, just regular folks, threw mostly bras up there.”
It is tradition for the underwear to be left by past dancers as a memento of their performance.
“We do got our token boxers,” Sandy Rollins, co-owner of the shop, said as she pointed to the lamp in the back of the store with a pair of red boxers hanging from it. “He came in last night. He wanted to make sure they were there. Like ‘I donated those to the cause.’”
Bossy Grrl’s Pin Up Joint, located at 2598 N. High St., is a place where people of all ages and sexual orientations can come to and feel accepted, Myers said.
“It’s not rowdy, but it’s not a quiet coffee shop,” Myers said. “It’s a little edgier coffee shop.”
Myers and Rollins, who are both members of the Columbus-based Sex Kitten (Purrlesque) burlesque group, saw the opportunity to open up their store when performing next door at the Rendezvous Hair Salon and saw the lot was up for lease. The theme of the store comes from the aspiration Myers had when visiting the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend festival in Las Vegas.
At the festival, pin-up art, burlesque dancers and music were presented to the audience.
“It was something like, ‘I wish we had something like this in Columbus all the time,’” Myers said of her feelings on the festival. “So that was kind of our vision when we were trying to decide on what we were going to do here.”
After Myers and Rollins signed the lease in December 2012, they worked on the store themselves for a couple of months. They, along with family members and friends, including Marla Hicks, an employee and performer of the shop, cleaned and finished things from laying down a penny floor to ripping up carpet to make their “mom and mom” business a reality — the pair even missed Thanksgiving to make their dream a reality.
“We told our families, ’Sorry. Carve the turkey, do your thing without us, we’re starting a business,’” Myers said.
Myers said the shop is centered primarily around the community of burlesque, which she described as a more tasteful form of striptease.
“Sometimes people say it’s classy — well, it’s still a little trashy,” Myers said. “And we’re OK with that. We’re OK with being a little trashy.”
Bossy Grrl’s welcomes all types of performers from burlesque dancers to belly dancers to musicians. Myers describes the setup as a “New Orleans variety show.”
“Columbus is full of performers,” Myers said. “Some people are funny, some people are raunchy and we try and embrace all of their performance styles to intermingle on our stage.”
Hicks said since the stage doesn’t place the performers above the crowd and is “underwhelming” compared to bigger stages, it seems less intimidating.
“It allows you to break the fourth wall,” Hicks said. “And it allows the audience to become part of the performance and that they’re not just spectators.”
Myers said customers describe the store as open and welcoming of the patrons and performers who come there.
“We get people who are transgender who don’t necessarily like to go out,” Myers said. “And they come in here because it’s accepting. Like, ‘No one makes me feel out of place.’”
Hicks said they encourage anyone who is brave enough to get on stage to “do their thing” for the burlesque shows.
“All the performers who come in on Mondays are always very helpful to (amateurs) who are nervous,” Hicks said. “The crowd is always accepting. It’s a great place for performers to do new numbers and performers to get acclimated to the burlesque performance scene.”
Rollins said the patrons that come into the store are a mixed-aged crowd, and business varies per day.
“Some days it’s crazy, some days it’s not,” Rollins said.
Bossy Grrl’s offers a variety of specials and events throughout the weekend. Mondays, the store has its weekly “Monday Mayhem” burlesque show, and has a “Skinful Saturday” burlesque show the second Saturday of each month. Tuesdays and Fridays are $1 grilled cheese sandwich day, there’s an open mic night Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, local bands play. Thursdays, the store has karaoke and Sundays are filled with games, where patrons can play beer pong and flip cup.
Bossy Grrl’s is also planning to host holiday events. For Halloween, the store plans to have a karaoke contests in which people can win based on their costume and song choice. For Christmas, the store is scheduling a Christmas-oriented burlesque show, “The Slut Cracker,” for the second Saturday in December.
Myers and Rollins plan to open a second location within a year in the Columbus area, but Rollins said they do not know where yet.
Myers said compared to cities of a similar size, Columbus has a large burlesque community. Three dominant burlesque troupes, such as The Ooh La Las, reside in Columbus, as well as people who perform it on the side.
For those who have never experienced burlesque, Myers said she believes Bossy Grrl’s can be a great place to start.
“I’m sure there aren’t a lot of people who have seen a drag queen before,” Myers said. “Life is about experiencing new things.”