Wayne Penney will be the first to acknowledge that he doesn’t quite look like somebody who would manage a store like Sunshine Daydream Imports.
The former military man, with short brown hair and a brown mustache, owns what he calls a “hippie store” in downtown Columbia; Sunshine Daydream Imports at 812 E. Broadway.
A reflection of the often-misunderstood community it serves, Sunshine Daydream is a veritable feast for the eyes.
The store contains a huge array of items, all competing for attention. Tapestries and posters grab your eyes, filling every available inch of wall space. Drums, hemp jewelry, incense, stickers, patches: if they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it. Move through a door to the back room, and you’ll find displays of a wide selection of glass pipes, water pipes, hookahs and other smoking accessories. Reggae, jam and classic rock albums play constantly in the store.
“We appeal to quite a mix of people,” he says. “From old Deadheaders, Bob Marley fans, fans of other old rock like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, to fans of the new bands like Phish, String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic.”
Kevin Hopkins, who books these so-called “jambands” for The Blue Note and Mojo’s, explains why shops such as Sunshine Daydream Imports are important to fans of these bands:
“They serve an important role because there are no other places to promote this whole culture,” he says. “You’ve got things like country stores and bars that serve the mainstream rock element — these places are just an outlet for us.”
“You can’t go into Wal-Mart or Dillard’s and buy a Dead shirt, or buy some incense,” Hopkins says. “Because we’re not on the map, we’re not in the mainstream, these shops serve our culture.”
While there are other stores in Columbia that sell tobacco accessories — namely Aardvarx, Eye Candy and Dream Catchers — Penney says what sets his store apart is a heavier focus on music novelty.
“We want to provide more than a smoke shop, more things besides tobacco accessories,” he says. “We want to appeal to as many people as possible, have a place where people can bring their kids in and shop for gifts without (the pipes) making them uncomfortable.
“We’re aware that there is competition, but we feel that there are not a lot of stores around that sell this type of stuff,” Hopkins says. “We don’t sell the actual music, but we sell just about everything else.”
Because it is a culture that, since the early days of the Haight Ashbury and the Fillmore in San Francisco, has been associated with drug use, shops like Sunshine Daydream face some extra scrutiny from the uninitiated.
To many, the modern culture’s affinity for the music of the Grateful Dead and contemporary descendants translates to a similar preference for the lifestyle practiced by its band members, specifically that of liberal experimentation with different drugs. Penney, however, says the link between alternative culture and drug use is not direct.
“The things we sell are for legal purposes,” says Penney. “It’s unfortunate that some people have a view that’s counter to our own, but these products are intended for tobacco use.”
It is that intent which is critical for protecting these shops, says attorney Dan Viets, who specializes in drug law.
“If the government wants to go after these shops, they must prove the intent of the manufacturer and the seller beyond reasonable doubt that the item be used for illegal purposes,” Viets says. “This is almost impossible to prove without the drugs themselves being present or the manufacturer admitting to illegal purposes.”
Cliff Moore, a glass-blower, echoes Viets’ sentiments.
“I don’t think the law should come down on me for making something of form, function and beauty if I don’t dictate what it will be used for,” Moore says. “It’s an assumption that the law makes; assumptions don’t get you anywhere in law.”
The assumption Moore speaks of is the idea that glass pieces are used exclusively for illegal drug consumption, specifically marijuana.
“There have never been cases in mid-Missouri, that I have heard of, where the state has been successful in carrying the burden of proof,” Viets says.
When U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft instituted sting operations earlier this year targeting shops in Iowa and California like Sunshine Daydream, many viewed the raids as discriminatory, an attack on a group that exists outside the mainstream.
“It’s clear that Ashcroft’s priorities are not in order when, in the wake of such a horrendous act of terrorism, he has the audacity to go after people selling pipes,” Viets says. “It’s a tremendous waste of resources.”
Moore opposes the idea that glass is only used illegally.
“Many of the people I know who smoke tobacco will only do so using glass,” he says. “They tend to enjoy the flavors you get from glass, and there’s no extra taste that you might get from using wood or metal pipes.”
Moore also has other motivations for making the glass devices.
“It’s very relaxing to do something that can be seen as art and also be functional,” he says. “Even if I couldn’t make money, it’s something that I would still be doing because it’s amazing — it’s that personal satisfaction you get from making such cool stuff.”
“It’s about spreading beauty,” says Moore’s business partner, Christina Payton. “The goal is to be recognized for the art you create.”