“Dare to be different” – Sam Parsonage on her ‘lifechanging’ decision to open Miss Samatha’s Vintage
Following 18 months of uncertainty, Sheffield’s award-winning reproduction vintage boutique Miss Samantha’s Vintage reopened its doors in July. Now entering its fourth year of trading, we popped by to see owner Sam Parsonage and discuss her lifechanging decision to turn an empty unit in Walkley into a thriving suburban fashion hub for anyone who dares to be different.
You often find that most people who opt to leave the relative safety of a nine-to-five and take the plunge into starting their own business have experienced a life-changing experience or sudden realisation, something that really brings home that old adage – life is too short.
For Sam Parsonage, owner of Miss Samantha’s Vintage, a perspective-shifting moment came when her husband Russell suffered a heart attack in 2016. Thankfully, he made a full recovery, but the traumatic experience led to a number of big decisions and soul-searching sessions that would eventually lead Sam to realise a dream of running her own vintage boutique.
“It caused us to really re-evaluate our lives,” says Sam. “Afterwards we renewed our wedding vows and went out to visit the US. At the time I was working on the phones at Nationwide Building Society and had narrowly missed out on a promotion, which added to me wanting to do something different. We were in Santa Barbara when Russell turned to me and said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I replied, ‘Sell pretty dresses.’”
The seeds were sown, and fate was quick to get involved. While walking down the Santa Barbara strip the following day Sam spotted a sign for a local retro store, Punch Vintage, designed with an aesthetic that instantly struck a chord. “I was immediately inspired. I took a picture and five months later I’d left my job and opened Miss Samantha’s Vintage. Some turnaround, eh?”
Indeed. And despite there being a steep learning curve to tackle, that aforementioned fresh outlook on life assisted in throwing caution to the wind. The gamble paid off: in just four years Miss Samantha’s Vintage has grown into a multi-award-winning independent retailer, specialising in modern clothes with a vintage twist and picking up admirers from the Steel City to San Diego.
Even after establishing themselves firmly on the city’s retro fashion scene, there’s been no resting on laurels involved and the lockdown period was seen as an opportunity to work on Miss Sam’s online offering. Following reopening they launched Retro Reloved at MSV, a new venture for the store where they accept pre-loved, second-hand reproduction vintage to ensure perfectly good clothing doesn’t go to waste. If accepted, an item will be on the rail for 10 weeks and sale profits shared 50/50 between the store and the original seller.
Based on the corner of South Road, the store has seen its residential suburb of Walkley undergo a significant transformation in recent years, growing into a hub of independent businesses and a sought-after area in its own right. The burgeoning homegrown indie spirit is something that Miss Sam’s thrives on and they’re hugely proud to represent a local postcode instead of a city centre high street, a topic that Sam says deserves more attention when it comes to reviewing Sheffield’s retail offering.
“Being out of the city centre means I get people travelling specifically to come and visit the store, which makes it feel a bit special. There’s a knock-on effect for retail in the area, too: you could come here, start with a coffee at Joespresso, and have a full day’s worth of shopping and food.”
“There’s that old adage of Sheffield being the world’s biggest village – it’s actually a city of many busy villages, and we can embrace that. There’s a lot of talk about the High Street struggling in Sheffield, a lot of stuff about John Lewis and Debenhams closing. But honestly, when was the last time you shopped in John Lewis? Places like that would make me feel quite intimidated. It’s important we support independents across Sheffield but not just in the city centre. Go to places a bit further out where you’ll get that warmth, that welcome. There’s a real personal touch in these places – a genuine sense of every sale being an achievement. From a £5 brooch to a £500 sale, it means just as much in terms of that personal sense of achievement for me.”
Looking ahead to next year, Miss Sam’s are planning to spread their wings and get out on the road once again, with plenty of fashions shows and vintage fairs across the UK in the offing. But first and foremost, they’ll be focusing on providing that renowned personal service to customers who pay them a visit in S6. It’s the backbone of what they’re all about and the thing that motivates Sam the most.
“Dare to be different – that’s the hashtag I go for. I particularly love it when we get young people in, who just want to go against the grain and wear a Cool Cat t-shirt or a dress that they can style themselves in their own quirky way. I don’t do this because I’m chasing millions or wanting the store to become a massive chain-style success; I just want it to be somewhere people really appreciate and feel proud to support.”
358 South Rd, Walkley, S6 3TE