LONG BEACH, Calif. -- At 16, Erin Hamm has little work experience and no business expertise. But three months ago, she and her mom decided to go into the condom business.
On Friday, Erin, her mother, Heather Hamm, and a "silent partner" known only as "Pat," opened Condom Wrap, a store offering 200 types of prophylactics.
"It had to happen sometime," says Erin, a petite brunet who will be a high school senior in the fall.
Along with the condoms, the store will carry custom T-shirts, shorts, jackets, hats and condom jewelry.
The shop's first weekend is featuring a showing of condom-themed art by Long Beach City College students. There will also be a prize drawing.
Although not the first condom store in Southern California -- the best-known is Condomania in Los Angeles -- Erin believes her store will be the first in Long Beach.
A Long Beach native, she says she's taken only one marketing class. The idea for her specialty store was born out of the blue, she says.
"So many people are dying of AIDS, it seemed like a good idea," she says. So far, she hasn't lost anyone to the virus that attacks the immune system, but "I might soon," Erin says, referring to the climbing AIDS-related death rate.
When she pitched the idea to her mother, and to family friend Pat, they got behind her 100 percent, Erin says. Her mother and Pat obtained all the necessary permits, and the three-member partnership went looking for a location.
That was the hard part, Erin says. A lot of landlords weren't hot on the idea of a condom store.
"We'd call places and they'd ask us what we wanted the space for, and we'd say 'a condom store,' and we'd hear 'Click. Buzz,' " she says.
Their search led to the small storefront for which they've secured a year lease, Heather says. The store is across the street from The Center, a gay and lesbian community services center, and the Art Theater. Erin says she expects to get business from young, trendy, late-night moviegoers.
The partners expect their first-year investment to total $70,000 as they fill the store with merchandise, Pat says.
The 900-square-foot shop will offer prophylactics of every color, make and strength. There'll be well-known brands, a Japanese condom called Beyond 7 that is marketed to women, and colored "ultra-thin" condoms in color-coordinated compact cases.
Prices will range from 50 cents for a single-wrapped condom to 12-packs at $10 or more, Erin says.
On Monday, the three partners were stocking the store, surrounded by an array of products that included a can of Big Dog Condoms. "For the big dog," said the package, which featured a grinning bulldog.
Other items the teen-ager thinks will be big sellers include condom suckers -- wrapped, colored prophylactics mounted on lollipop sticks -- and condoms inside walnut shells.
"I think it's the perfect gift," Erin says.