Roll on 18-wheeler, roll on, The gal I loved, she done gone But I’m gonna get her back Buying black lace off the rack Soon as we pull into this truck stop
—Nonexistent C&W song
Most people go into a truck stop and wonder why the coffee is so lousy, but designer Vicki Lewis, 31, asked, “Why is there nothing decent to buy?”
Two years ago, Colorado-bound on Interstate 80, Lewis pulled into a truck stop and was killing time browsing through the shop’s key chains, ashtrays and pens when inspiration struck. “That shop seemed like a man’s place,” says Lewis. “I hate to say it, but a lot of men have no taste when it comes to getting a woman a gift. They buy a mug and think they’ve remembered her.” Vicki thought lonely truckers ought at least to have a chance to buy their wives and/or girlfriends a little naughty lingerie.
Her R-rated vision? A skimpy little teddy made of black or white lace, trimmed in satin and packaged “in a box so nice nobody would know you got it from a truck stop.” Today, Lewis’ Black Lace Inc., begun with a start-up loan of $10,000 from her father, markets nylon teddies at a suggested price of $24.95 in more than 70 truck stops across America. Total sales this year? Nearly $100,000.
Lewis, who quit her job as a receptionist at an ad agency two months after starting Black Lace, runs her business out of a one-room office in downtown Chicago. She grew up in nearby Olympia Fields and majored in painting, fashion design and textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was, she says, always underwear-minded. “I was wearing 1950s-type bras before Madonna,” boasts Lewis, “and I was dressing like Cyndi Lauper before she got famous.”
Does Lewis wear Black Lace herself? “I would if my body were the way it used to be,” she says with a laugh. But no matter, buyers are plentiful. “All women like nice things if you bring ’em something,” says W. Davis, a Pittsburgh trucker who was checking out the unmentionables at a truck stop in Griffith, Ind. “Even if they don’t like it, they like it—know what I mean?” Vicki Lewis is sure that she does.