The boss of one of Stamford’s best-loved businesses is preparing to step down after 20 years and hand over the reins to two colleagues.
Christine Bradshaw, who founded Sukie’s Party Emporium in February 1997 with friend Sue Wade, is planning to retire and close the current store at 9 North Street.
The business will, however, live on in two divisions - Sukie’s Boutique, a balloon and children’s party business run by Vikki Norton; and Sukie’s Party Emporium, run by Donna Youngs. Both will be based at Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre’s retail arcade.
Christine, 62, said she was confident Vikki and Donna will do a superb job in future.
She said: “I had been thinking about retiring for several years and the timing felt right to call it a day.
“Running Sukie’s has been great fun, but after 20 years I felt like letting someone else take over.
“Donna has worked with me since 2005 and Vikki since 2011 and they are both great at what they do.”
Christine and Sue opened their first Sukie’s shop in St Leonard’s Street. Both were experienced seamstresses who had made costumes for Stamford Pantomime Players and were often asked to help friends with fancy dress outfits.
When a fancy dress shop in St George’s Street closed down in 1997, the pair seized the opportunity and decided to start their own business.
Christine, 62, of Collyweston, said: “We went to a sale run by a company in Nottingham which was closing down and bought a huge number of outfits. We were also still making our own. One our first jobs - still probably our biggest ever - was making 50 medieval costumes for a major event at Peterborough Cathedral.”
Sukie’s moved to a larger unit in Scotgate nine months after opening, later relocation again the same street before moving to the Corn Exchange in 2008. The business moved to its current home in North Street in 2013.
Competition in the fancy dress market has got a lot tougher in recent years thanks to the rise of online retailers and supermarkets with ever-expanding product ranges. Despite this, Christine says there is still a place for traditional high street party shops.
She said: “We have to be a bit more savvy about we do these days. Supermarkets sell fancy dress items at key times of the year such as Halloween and Christmas, but we have better ranges, better customer service and we sell all year round.
“If you want a witches hat, for example, you could only buy one in a supermarket in October, but we sell them all year round. They are still very much in demand for Harry Potter events and parties.
“A lot of people come in and say they have had a disaster buying an outfit or party products online. We have people come in with huge quantities of balloons, not realising they wouldn’t be blown up on delivery.
“Many still like to be able to come in and have a look, a feel and to try out products before they buy. You can’t do that easily online.
“I’m really pleased Donna and Vikki were ready and willing to take over. Otherwise, Sukie’s would have closed forever and that would have been a real loss for Stamford.”
Sukie’s Boutique and Sukie’s Party Emporium are both trading the Corn Exchange retail arcade as of this week. The store in North Street is likely to remain open until the end of May while a sale is held to sell off some outfits and other stock.
For more information, visit www.sukiespartyemporium.co.uk or call 01780 754829.