Vamp Boutique owner Teresa Davis is passionate about styling each woman to look and feel her best.
By Ainsley Maloney
Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
Customers who shop at Vamp Boutique often leave glowing, as if they just got a personal makeover from the inside out. After all, talking to owner Teresa Davis is like getting advice from a dating guru, fashion stylist, and life coach all in one.
Yvette Carr has been a loyal customer of Vamp, located at 4231 Main Street, since it opened 13 years ago.
“I’ll call Teresa and say, ‘Girl, I need an outfit for a date.’ And she’ll be like, ‘I got you! I have something that’s perfect!’ And she’ll put it aside for me,” Yvette said. “Teresa knows each and every one of her customers, and she’s always upbeat. Sometimes I’ll go in just to talk and browse. Her pleasant outlook makes you want to be in her store. It’s like retail therapy!”
Teresa talks passionately about using the power of fashion to elevate a woman’s confidence.
“When styling customers, first and foremost, I ask, “How does this piece make you feel in this moment?’” Teresa said. “When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you’re at your best. When you’re wearing an outfit you love, you’re floating around. You’re walking different, you’re talking different. You’re the life of the party! I’m not about the quick sell. I always want my customers to feel their best when they leave my store.”
For as deliberate as Teresa is with her customers, her first year as a business owner was anything but. Thirteen years ago, Teresa was visiting Manayunk to get a manicure when she strolled past a vacant storefront. She had worked in retail as a department store manager and dabbled in selling merchandise on eBay. In the back of her mind, she dreamed of opening her own store.
“I happened to pass by, and I was like ‘Ooo!’ Peeking in. I was playing around like, ‘I should call. Nah. But I’ll take their number.’ The next thing I knew, I was meeting with them and signing a lease. I was like, ‘What did I do?’” she said with a laugh.
Vamp first opened as a consignment boutique featuring high-end brands, such as Chanel and Gucci. She didn’t have much merchandise, so she put in her own and her girlfriend’s gently used clothing to start.
“My mom is a shopaholic so I was like, “Mom, clean your closet!” Teresa recalled, with a laugh. “Luckily, we were three different sizes, so it looked like there were multiple sizes in the store!”
Soon, though, demand from her customers outgrew the consignment model — she needed to carry items in multiple sizes. Teresa started easing in new pieces and those items would leave instantly. Two years after opening, she switched her entire collection to new clothing. Her customer base exploded from there. This year, Vamp celebrates its 13 year anniversary and now has a team of three to four sales associates and interns.
“I’m really proud that I was able to switch over to retail and see its success, because a lot of consignment stores have closed,” she said. “In retail, you can’t get stuck to one thing. You have to be willing to switch things up. That could make or break you.”
Vamp’s signature style is, in one word: “flirty.”
“Vamp is girly, but with a sense of woman,” Teresa said. “We’re bright and fun. We’re not about wearing black all the time — we want to spice it up! I love pink, and I’m really glad that pink is back in this fall! Our accessories are bold, eye-catching. Our pieces are one-of-a-kind: you won’t wear it out and see a million other people in it.”
For Yvette, Vamp is her go-to for statement pieces she can wear on vacations or special occasions that she can’t find anywhere else.
“Vamp is pretty much a one-stop,” Yvette said. “You can find everything you need, even pasties, so you don’t have to go running all over the place. Teresa carries cute two piece sets and T-shirts with fun sayings like, ‘Alexa Make Me Skinny.’ I wore that in Atlanta and everyone loved it!”
Teresa is not tied to particular brands and she deliberately does not list the brands she carries on her website.
“For my customers, rather than get tied into a particular brand, or get stuck wondering ‘Is this my style?’ I get them to focus on how the piece makes them feel,” Teresa said. “If it looks good, if it makes you feel good — it’s your style! You can be whoever you want through fashion. You don’t have to feel stuck with one look. You can have some fun with it!”
Teresa also does not worry about keeping up with changing trends.
“I’d rather set the trends,” she said. “The trends, they come and go, but your unique style stays forever. We stay true to the Vamp brand, but we’re always giving it new life. It’s very important to be authentic.”
Looking forward, Teresa plans to add a private label to the store. She also revamped her website and expanded her online
shop www.vampboutique.com, and she features real customers on
Teresa attributes the success of her store, in part, to having a positive support team, including like-minded business owners in Manayunk.
“Davida [Levin] from Worn Yesterday has been in business for 33 years and gave me so much advice,” she said. “We all want each other to do well, because when we do well, Manayunk as a whole does well. To have that positivity around you will move mountains, believe me!”
Looking back on how far she’s come, Teresa is thankful she trusted herself enough to take such a huge risk all those years ago.
“I should have been scared to death,” she said. “But I always dive in. I’d rather try and fail than never do it at all. The way I see it, you only get one life to live, so you might as well get to do the one thing you love.”