The road to owning a business has not been easy for Samantha Slater.
Samantha and husband, Dennis, are the new owners of Sunsations Tanning and Boutique in Scappoose. The business offers tanning booths, clothes, jewelry, soaps, gifts and a variety of novelty items.
The Slaters became the new owners of Sunsations, located at 51913 Columbia River Highway, in October 2022.
Slater described a journey in life that was originally focused on nursing.
She went to nursing school at Linfield University in McMinnville and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a minor in anthropology.
“I’ve always enjoyed people, cultures, why people do what they do,” Slater said.
For her, nursing was a draining job, Slater said.
“I would find myself with nothing left for my family … I didn’t like my lifestyle,” she admitted.
Slater held down several jobs in the nursing field until she had her oldest son from a prior marriage.
“It was a dysfunctional marriage — toxic, if you will,” Slater said, noting that as a stay-at-home mom, “I had that idealistic view that I was going to make my family something different, so I stuck it out for a very long time.”
Life eventually spiraled out of control for Slater.
“I ended up in treatment for alcoholism. I was very, very sick,” she said. “Seven and a half years ago, I was in and out of the ICU, in and out of the hospital. It’s a wonder I survived, to be honest. … I was drinking to the point that my body just wasn’t holding on anymore.”
Slater’s marriage fell apart, she lost her home, and for a time, she stayed at a treatment facility in Florida.
“I filed a restraining order, and that was the beginning of the new path I’m on,” Slater said.
After leaving Florida, Slater crashed with a few friends and started attending 12-step meetings.
“I met the recovery community,” she said. “I’ve met some amazing women who really gave me a leg up.”
Slater got back into private in-home caregiving so she could get her son back — he had been placed in the custody of his grandmother — and build back a life.
“I needed time to work on me and figure out why I made the choices I made in life,” she said.
Slater started dating her new husband, Dennis, and the two tied the knot in September 2020, “right in the middle of COVID,” she said with a smile.
Slater added, “We’re both driven, like-minded. I truly believed that it has worked because I worked on me. I became a caliber of a woman who deserves a good relationship and that can reciprocate that.”
At Sunsations, Slater is moving on with life and enjoying both her job and the many people she meets each week.
“I am exactly where I think I was always meant to be,” she said, adding in a joking way, “I feel like I’ve figured out what I want to be when I grow up.”
Slater added, “I absolutely love it. The people are fantastic. I’m business-minded and really structured … the background portion of running a business comes naturally to me.”
Dennis Slater is proud of his wife’s accomplishments.
“I let Sam pretty much handle the whole thing, because she’s gung-ho, she’s happy — she says it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to her besides our kids,” he said.
“She went from Florida rehab, to the clothes on her back, to St. Helens,” he said. “To come from where she came from to now, that’s huge.”
While Slater is settling into her new role as a business owner, she has advice for those struggling with life’s issues, including substance abuse.
“The first thing I have to say is ‘reach out,’” she said. “There is a whole community of people willing and ready to help give a hand out if you’re struggling with alcohol, if you’re struggling with substance, if you are struggling with a relationship … ask for help and give yourself some grace. We’re not perfect. We’re going to mess up.”