Posh and Naughty wins stay from RI Supremes
|Owner Trisha Smith in front of Posh and Naughty.|
Trisha Smith, the embattled owner of Posh and Naughty, received an order staying her eviction from the RI Supreme Court on Friday. This afternoon, she had the order taped to the window of her East Main Road store, and she stood out front, with a bucket of soap and a bubble wand, blowing bubbles and waving to motorists.
The self-described "guerilla marketer" who raised some local eyebrows (and tempers) when she dressed up in costume outside her woman-focussed boutique will be tackling a new role when she represents herself at her appeal to the RI Supreme Court on April 21. Making her way through the system last week, she said, was like "Getting to see the Wizard of Oz," but she was inspired by her 8-year-old daughter: "She told me to do what I always told her to do with bullies — stand up to them."
"I felt really sick after the trial, and I took a few days out of the shop. I'm a single mother trying to make it. I didn't have thousands of dollars for lawyers." said Smith, "But then, I started reading law books at the Portsmouth public library, and I filed the appeal myself."
At issue is the RI Superior Court decision (upholding a District Court ruling) that Smith was in violation of her lease, due to a rent check returned for insufficient funds in December. Smith said it was an honest mistake that she quickly corrected, but Samuels Realty, her landlord, started eviction proceedings.
|Supreme Court order. View PDF.|
"The check was still good," says Smith. "That check was good to be returned up to three times, but they only presented it once." Did she feel that she was being evicted on a technicality? "It was never admitted at trial, but I only know of one other person almost evicted, he was able to stay by paying the rent he owed and attorney's fees of $650. I was sued for possession and $6,000 in attorney's fees." Does Smith think this might have something to do with the kind of store she runs? "One guy who came in here told me that he wanted to get out of his lease but [Samuels Realty] wouldn't let him, so he said he's going to start selling vibrators."
Smith says she is hoping to win the right to stay, but is glad to have found a location in Tiverton just in case. Her new landlord was very supportive, she said, and promised not to react to any neighborhood pressure. "He said if they don't like it, too bad, as long as I'm not breaking any rules," said Smith.
Although the store was closed today, she offered this reporter a chance to walk around and have a look at the stock. The front is full of fancy, frilly lingerie, and a separate area in back contains erotic novelties like massage oil and personal vibrators. I didn't see anything that you wouldn't find at a Spencer Gifts in pretty much any mall in America. (Okay, there were maybe one or two anatomically correct vibrators they might not stock, but nothing that struck me as offensive or pornographic.)
The store, says Smith, has a positive, woman-focussed philosophy. "I want women to see themselves, not look at an image. That's why I have all the mirrors in the store," Smith explained, "So women can hold out the lingerie and see what they will look like, not look at an image and then get home and say, 'I don't look like the picture,' and be dissatisfied and put it in a drawer."
Smith says that no matter the legal outcome, she is thankful for the support she's received. "I'm so grateful for my customers from Portsmouth, because without you, I wouldn't be here," she said. So far, Smith has received almost a hundred comments on her Web site, and over 13,000 views on her YouTube videos. There is no question that she's the best-known small business owner in town, and she hopes to parlay that recognition into a seat on the Town Council.
"I will run as an Independent," she said. "I believe that small businesses are the key to economic revitalization and to alleviating property taxes, and supporting them is the only way to stop this backwards swirl down the drain."
Watching her standing out on East Main Road, blowing bubbles, and acknowledging the waves of motorists as they pass, she seems like someone who'd feel quite comfortable on the campaign trail. Indeed, adapting to new roles seems to be one of Smith's skills.
"I learned about guerilla marketing by reading about it in the Harvard Business Review," she said, and looking forward to her appearance at the Supreme Court added with a laugh, "Now, it's like I'm going to law school."
Location: 2576 East Main Road, Portsmouth RI (After May 15th, possibly 14A Stafford Rd. Tiverton)
Posh and Naughty web site
Trisha Smith's YouTube page
Providence Journal coverage of the Superior Court decsion