Saturn Return Is The Spot for All You Gothic Cowboys

by | Jun 27, 2023 | SMALL BUSINESS

In astrology, “Saturn’s Return” usually means a period of intense change and growth. Per their website, Richmond-based vintage boutique Saturn Return assures you that they will help you with an “enjoyable and inspirational retail experience that helps you find pieces that connect you with yourself.” Between the unlimited amount of fun and fascinating things just in the entryway and the fact that it is situated comfortably beside breakfast staple City Diner (hey, goths get hungry, too), Saturn Return is here to help you get through it all.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, Saturn Return originally started its journey further down the road on W. Broad St by Alchemy Coffee. Lovingly called the “Goth Cowboy” store, a nickname Saturn Return’s owner, Erika, embraces with a bear hug, Saturn Return is a second-hand vintage boutique catering to a little bit of everything your goth heart could want. Whether it is skincare, your first pair of Doc Martens or Demonias, the gorgeous Victorian Chaise Lounge beside the front door, or that one Judas Priest shirt you’ve always wanted that has somehow managed to elude you, Erika and her team have you covered.

Saturn Return, story by Ash Griffith 2023
Photo courtesy of Saturn Return

Originally from further down south in Florida, Erika has always kind of known that she wanted to open a storefront of her own someday. This led to her pursuing a degree in fashion merchandising at SCAD in Savannah, GA, and working in a vintage shop post-graduation helped inspire what would ultimately be.

“I was 12 years old when my mom heard me talking about wanting my own store,” said Erika. “I had always been into fashion and stuff, but it wasn’t until I started cultivating my own personal style that I had other people constantly asking me where I got things, [etc.]. And they were like ‘Well let us know if you ever open up your own store because we will come shop there’ because they liked all the things I would wear on my person. I started working retail when I was 15 or 16 at a Rack Room Shoes outlet store. Knowing I wanted a store down the line, I started studying fashion marketing management at the Savannah College of Art and Design in order to prepare myself more for that. It wasn’t until I got to manage a vintage store in Savannah after I graduated that I knew I wanted the direction and focus for my own business to be more vintage inspired as well as provide an offering for more vintage pre-owned and preloved accessories.”

Saturn Return, story by Ash Griffith 2023
Photo courtesy of Saturn Return

Starting around 2013 is when Erika started to get more of a vision and focus about what she specifically wanted in what would eventually be Saturn Return. Taking a turn to get her feet wet in corporate retail such as Nordstrom, with the hopes of doing visual marketing as opposed to sales, helped make this clearer as well.

Ultimately, what helped situate Erika further up north in Richmond was the growing and thriving punk and alternative scenes and how they were more community-oriented. She had friends who were living up here and enjoying it, and after visiting it herself, she decided to come plant roots herself.

“I think just from my personal experience there is something about the location that is,” said Erika. “It’s the communal thing. One of the first things that I discovered was Best Friends Day, hang out at the river at some point, and we would have some other festivals that I was a part of. There was always some kind of congregation going on at some point. I think one thing is there is such an opportunity to commune in places like Richmond, and when you have that type of like-minded people all in one space who want a sense of community, there is the ability to re-commune, especially since the weather is better in Richmond than in, say, Florida. And honestly, it makes a difference. I have met way more people in Richmond who are into the same things than I did in Florida.”

Saturn Return, story by Ash Griffith 2023
Photo courtesy of Saturn Return

Being someone who lives for second-hand shops like a Disney Adult lives for Epcot, I always have to ask folks who do this professionally how they don’t just… keep absolutely everything they come across. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t just a struggle for me but a bit of a constant internal battle for folks running vintage and second-hand shops as well. Finding that one piece you’ve had your eye on for a while, or that one piece you didn’t know existed and now, do I sling it in my own home or find a way to price it? Suddenly that one-inch sliver of cardstock feels heavy now.

As I sit directly beside one of the most beautiful mourning capes I have ever seen in my life (which Erika notes as one of the pieces she struggled to keep or sell), and the corner of my right eye keeps casually darting back to the aforementioned Chaise Lounge by the door, wondering if it is remotely possible for me to get it in my 2012 Nissan hatchback – I get it. Boy howdy, do I get it. Their selection is curated from a combination of Erika’s adventures, and from folks who want to donate their own pieces. While these donations are usually clothing and accessories, occasionally Saturn Return does receive furniture as well, and they do feature local business in addition.

Saturn Return, story by Ash Griffith 2023
Photo courtesy of Saturn Return

“We do buy from customers, so you can make an appointment online,” said Erika. “Most of the time, it is predominantly clothes and accessories, but from time to time we do have customers who know we will buy housewares and vintage knick-knacks for the house. My whole direction in the beginning was for this to be a lifestyle store. Now we carry new business fragrances and candles, so yeah, you could come here and get something for your house, for your body, for your feet. Eventually, I would like to try to offer more furniture and become less attached to new furniture we are technically selling. I do also go on buying trips as well in the city and other places such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well. Anytime I get the opportunity to travel, even if it is a personal trip, whenever I get the opportunity to shop.”

Saturn Return has been a quiet staple of Richmond and its arts and alternative communities for a handful of years, and as I sat in the entry room talking with Erika, it was clear that not only did it have its bevy of fans and loyalists already, but Erika as well herself. With five years down in her pocket, what does she hope that the next five look like?

Saturn Return, story by Ash Griffith 2023
Photo courtesy of Saturn Return

“I would hope to have all of the different products we have wanted to sell,” said Erika. “I want more smaller-maker products [and] more locally made products. I tend to gravitate more toward female-owned businesses, obviously, so continuing that and trying to showcase that and products by women of color. Furniture was always something I was always hoping to offer more, but I struggle getting attached to things. Everything in here is something I would wear or own. Also doing more markets and events because this whole parking lot is mine technically. One of the visions I had with this space was to utilize it, so I’d like to have more local makers have tables and show their wares. Ideally, in the next five years, I’d like to have it set up to once a month.”

Saturn Return is located at 2239 W Broad St, Richmond, VA, and is open daily from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit their website at shopsaturnreturn.com or visit them on Instagram at @shopsaturnreturn.

Ash Griffith

Ash Griffith

Ash is a writer and improviser from Richmond. She has a BA in English from VCU and an associates in Theater. When she isn't writing or screaming on a stage, she can usually be found wherever the coffee is. Bill Murray is her favorite person along with her black cat, Bruce.




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