Entrepreneurs, Fashion, Features

Vintage Gold Rush: Chad Senzel’s guerilla-style street racks

You never know what you’ll stumble upon.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Nov 8, 2022

On any given day in the Lower East Side, what you see is a beautiful wildcard: Bodegas, pizza spots, people filming TikToks. If you happen to be by Ludlow and Canal — you know, by Metrograph and Cervo’s — you might see a rack propped up against a brick wall that’s covered in graffiti… and a couple of designer shirts. And that means you came on a good day, because that means vintage dealer Chad Senzel is selling some of the best designer finds in the city, what you won’t get anywhere else.


The unique spot vintage is in

Vintage is something of a gold rush right now. Everyone knows you don’t have to subscribe to a certain style or fashion sense. In fact, individuality is the name of the game, and fashion is a necessity as much as it is a form of expression. And what’s more akin to building an individual style than one-of-a-kind pieces? If you’re lucky, you can find these at a stop like his.


“I’m choosing things that have no name or brand recognition, that the customer can retcon. But there’s something about the style, the design, the feel and fabrication, that is what they want.”


Made up of mostly menswear and high fashion choices from the runways of yesteryear, Senzel’s vintage setup is known around LES for being carefully curated and affordable. While you’re sifting through name-brand offerings at the rack — Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Diesel — you can also find a gem from a lesser-known brand.


chad senzel rack

Photo via The New York Times


Having always been into vintage clothing, Senzel decided to take a leap of faith when the pandemic hit and make his hobby into a career. Took a while to get here, though. In fact, when he first started, he found that things weren’t going to be that easy. His first big lesson: Location matters. First up was NoHo and Brooklyn.


“All of those aforementioned avenues never really worked financially. It was a good learning experience in seeing how people interacted with a rack on a sidewalk,” he says. SoHo and Dumbo being hot spots for “this-season-only” types of looks made it difficult to find customers. Senzel recalls, “The people who were walking by were already intimidated by a rack on the sidewalk, and what I was offering wasn’t remotely interesting to them.”


So a change of course was needed. As with most industries, but especially the niche vintage market within fashion, collaboration was key in carving out a flow, a formula. And that’s how Senzel spotted his prime market: Young people (Gen Z and Millennials).


It’s different for the younger generation

“One time, I did it on Orchard Street, like a block away from where I do it now, because a friend lent me their rack,” he says. “We made so much more money than we did in any other location, and the crowds seemed so much more excited than any other place I’d done.”


Senzel noticed that the younger generations craved a deeper form of expression — most notably, from the growing vintage market. And moving his operation to the LES was the perfect answer.


les vintage shopping

Photo via The New York Times


Like he puts it, it’s a hot spot for people who are their own selves and would be interested in noticing a rack on the corner of Ludlow and Canal.


“Where I sell is adjacent to Dimes Square — which is a really tiny area. And then there’s areas that emulate around it, the Dimes Square energy… it attracts young, hip people.” The vibe is always bustling. “It’s very unusual if there’s not a bunch of people around in the afternoon. While it is a sub-area in other pre-existing neighborhoods, it attracts mostly young people who are like, consciously dressed, and they’re socialites — but there still is the contrast of people who have been there for a while, and still are the traditional Lower East Side.”


Vintage is community-driven

Of course, social media helps in letting people know when Senzel will be out and what’s new. Since he doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar (yet), IG is the prime place to check. Being a visual medium, it’s an easy way to market, too.


Plus, the internet has helped Senzel form relationships with other sellers and expand his reach. Senzel is always working — he’s doing what he loves, but to be in the lane he is, he’s connected from the moment he wakes up. Maybe he’s making a sale through socials or maybe he notices there’s a new Diesel button-up in Toronto. Or an unforgettable find in LA. Whatever the case, he has to be on it, and he is.


“In the Lower East Side, there’s a pretty young, well-dressed, informed, naturally subversive group of people.”


If you catch Senzel, you’re in luck. Take a look and you’ll find something you’re ready to change into on the street (it’s happened). There’s a slim chance you’ll find a more affordable or accessible seller.


To keep up with Chad Senzel, hit up his Instagram account: @chadsenzel.


Also check out these 4 vintage thrifting spots in NYC.


Photo via Chad Senzel