St. Petersburg has a new way to buy local art and oddities thanks to the creative thinking of Chance Ryan and Kayla Cox, founders of Lucid Vending.
Ryan and Cox salvage old vending machines destined for the scrap heap and make them unique. In addition to new lighting, processors and credit card readers, each machine is custom designed and hand-painted into a work of art on its own – while blending into the aesthetic of the establishment that will house it. Machines come stocked with local art, engaging games, and “the cool stuff throughout Tampa Bay from local crafters and creatives.”
Ryan said their mission is community-oriented and community-driven. They scour local shows, the internet, and network with artists to find original art that is “really cool, and maybe underrated.” While some items in the machines are mainstays, the inventory frequently revolves. Ryan said that every machine is different, with each having “its own vibe.”
“It just depends on the venue,” he said.
If a business is more family-friendly, they include items kids will enjoy. If a place is dog friendly, you may find things like gourmet dog biscuits or a dog scarf. If an establishment is 21 and up, they will provide more “alternative, risqué items in there and turn it up a notch,” said Ryan. “We’ll do whatever makes sense, but whatever we do, we’re going to do it in our own way.”
Cox said she got the idea last year when the couple was living in St. Augustine. As an artist herself, she enjoys creating art – but not trying to sell it. After reading an article about Venderia, a creative vending pioneer in Portland, Oregon, she thought if she could take that idea and fill it full of art, “it would be pretty perfect.”
The couple was already considering leaving St. Augustine for a more cultural, artistic city when the state shut down due to the pandemic. They then decided to take their idea to St. Petersburg. Their first machine went into Studios at 5663 in Pinellas Park and is different than their other machines, as it only contains art from the artists in that particular studio. About eight months ago, their second machine debuted in St. Pete at The Studio Public House.
“That was more of our actual business model,” said Cox. “Local art mixed with vintage, stylistic things, and games and stuff like that.”
Lucid Vending now has seven machines in use, with an eighth recently ordered that will be online in a couple of weeks. Ryan said they have 10 machines paid for, with businesses lined up to house them. Once the 10 are completed, they will pause and decide if they want to keep expanding at such a rapid pace. Lucid also has machines in Safety Harbor and St. Pete Beach, and the hope is to one day cover the entire Tampa Bay area from Sarasota north.
Not only are the machines free for area businesses to display, but Lucid Vending will also pay rent. The only requirements are heavy foot traffic and a few feet of space inside. Lucid fills and designs the machines in collaboration with the establishment, and takes care of all maintenance and repairs. Businesses and local artists then receive a commission on items sold.
“It’s a fun, easy, profitable way to support the local art community,” said Ryan. He also adds that establishments will benefit from Lucid consistently promoting events and specials through social media “because their success is our success.”
Items in the machine are no more than $20, with many options priced well below that. Customers can pay with credit cards or through apps such as Apple and Google Pay. Some of the games featured are interactive – like the popular scavenger hunt. That takes people around St. Pete, where they can learn about the city and complete “fun, goofy challenges” to earn points and win prizes.
“Vending machines shouldn’t be boring,” said Ryan. “It’s really about supporting the local art community, and it’s just a cool thing to do that doesn’t cost you anything.”