Noah Chani grew up surrounded by vintage sports jerseys.
They would hang up all around his room. The walls — and even the ceiling — were covered in them, and Chani added more to his collection every time he and his father would hit up local thrift shops.
But the 23-year-old Saratoga Springs resident didn’t expect his love for jerseys to one day blossom into the business opportunity it since has. In the coming weeks, Chani is opening his storefront for a business he’s been running for years online, Vintage Thrift NY. In just the last year of business, Chani estimates he’s re-sold about 1,000 pieces — hats, jerseys, sweatshirts, T-shirts — that he once purchased from local thrifts for far less. And that’s only online.
Chani, a SUNY Oneonta graduate, said that between his freshman and sophomore year in college, he took a year off. He was unhappy in his pursuit of a political science degree, so he decided to backpack in Europe and Africa for a break. During his travels, as he scrolled through social media in his free time, he started to realize that Instagram could be used as a shopping platform.
“It occurred to me, I had all this stuff, why not give it a try? I created the account that I have now,” Chani said. “Since then, I’ve figured it out and gotten into a groove. It’s all about being consistent.”
When his junior year of college rolled along, and as he lived next door to a Salvation Army, he began to thrift more regularly and he would post images of clothes on marketplace app Depop to make a profit and upload them to his Instagram account.
It was more of a side-hustle until March 2020, Chani said, when he got let go from his job running youth basketball tournaments.
“I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go hard and see what I can do,’” Chani said. “It’s grown a lot since then.”
The thrifter’s account — @vintagethriftny — has since earned over 5,000 followers as Chani shows off all of his findings and lists them for sale both there and on his site vintagethriftny.com. There’s vintage Champion jerseys, like one of Shaquille O’Neal’s that he’s selling for $70. There’s an old-school Buffalo Bills chalkline jacket running for $215. There are also several old Nascar tees for about $20 a piece.
“I don’t buy anything online,” Chani said. “I’m from the roots, I refuse to do it. I’m in a group chat with a bunch of other resellers who snipe on EBay. It’s cool, but I get adrenaline from flipping through a thrift store and finding something crazy. I love the idea of never knowing what you’re going to go into a shop on any given day and find.”
Now, he plans to bring that same feeling to shoppers in Saratoga Springs. While the prices of his items vary and aren’t necessarily the prices you’d find at a thrift, he still wants the shopping experience to be affordable to his customers, who he said are mainly in the 15 to 35 age demographic. And he tries his best to keep up with the trends.
Currently, Chani sees vintage Disney shirts making a bit of a comeback, with one in his collection running for over $400 online.
“Over time, you learn the tags and how to date things based on the tags, the stitching, all that sort of stuff,” Chani said.
Through the pandemic, Chani has found his way into graphic design; something that was a passion of his for a long time. That, too, has increased his following.
“When I lost my job, I was like ‘I’m gonna learn this,” he said. “It came into play, because my Instagram following grew like crazy. I would have my girlfriend take a picture of me, and I would photoshop my head out of the picture to make it look like it was a headless character.”
His personal favorite thrift find has been a Lithuania Basketball T-shirt from the 1992 Olympics, when the team was sponsored by the Grateful Dead, which donated money for the team to play. For a lot of people, Chani said, thrifting can be a history lesson.
“There’s so much you can learn from thrifting,” he said.
With his shop — soon to be located at 30 Beekman St. — Chani hopes to offer more than just thrifting. He and business partner, Hunter Stratton, are also including a screen-printing service on one side of the storefront, separated by barn doors, while the other side will house the vintage products.
Chani said he’s got some smaller elements of the store to tweak — like making those barn doors — before starting to spread the word about his business. But he’s hopeful about the turnout. After all, he’s run an online store for so long and has built a following with people across the country, not just in the Capital Region.
“I just want to give people a sustainable way in this area to have cool clothes and express themselves through their clothing, the way they want to.”