Walking into Chesterfield is like entering The Velvet Underground’s dressing room right before their 1963 gig at Max’s Kansas City—there are endless racks of gently used leather jackets, hot pants, and belly shirts meticulously organized by size, not color. A sign blinking “vintage” points down a spiral staircase, leading a section crammed with denim jackets, baby doll dresses, and bell bottoms dating all the way back to the hippie era. It’s totally far out, man.
Behind the counter is style-savvy entrepreneur Tanya Buziak, who opened the store at 239 Stanhope St. in June 2016. Sporting a ‘70s Great White tee with a bright geometric skirt, Buziak epitomizes the hip, modern businesswoman that ambitious creative people idealize. She pauses to greet an entering customer, who is apparently one of her many regulars. Avid fashionistas and retro seekers often stop by Chesterfield to check out Buziak’s new inventory, which changes frequently.
“Fashion has always been incredibly important to me. I lie in bed in the morning and just think about what I’m going to wear,” said Buziak. “If I can’t wear something new every day, I’m just gonna find a new combination of something I’ve never worn. If you’re an artist, you’ll make anything into something artistic.”
Buziak’s fashion career route was inspired by Alexandra Marquez, a college student who sold $5,000 of clothing per month on Poshmark. Buziak started out by refurbishing and selling old pieces from the back of her closet on the popular secondhand website, but constantly felt shortchanged by their aggressive 20-percent fee. That was when she decided it was time to open her own store, and with a little help from an investor, and her dream became a reality.
“We pretty much designed Chesterfield from the ground up,” Buziak said. “I actually had to go to the ER when I threw out my back painting the ceiling black. My boyfriend, Dennis, built our dressing room, and we found the 1900’s light sconces and chandelier from some sketchy guy in Dennis’s neighborhood. We even went to South Jersey to pick up 50 super cheap mannequins from a closing American Apparel store.”
Buziak didn’t come upon the name Chesterfield by accident. Her father had been a used furniture salesman and called his couches Chesterfields, which remained a joke within her family. After doing some research, she found that there had been a jacket called a Chesterfield, which was thought to have been worn by an English noble named Chesterfield, but was actually worn by another noble named Stanhope. Since the store is located on Stanhope Street, Buziak knew it was meant to be. The store is lined with cigarette tins, beer cans, and clocks all with the same brand name, but from different companies, called Chesterfield.
Since Chesterfield officially opened, Buziak’s has been running the checkout counter, hand curating her inventory, and essentially becoming the “vintage fairy godmother” of Bushwick. Though there’s very little downtime, Buziak finds it totally fulfilling.
“People don’t realize how hard it is to run a business by themselves. Being a first time business owner, there are so many little unexpected things that come up, like, ‘Oh, shit my store insurance just expired! Oh shit it’s summertime and all my jackets are still on the floor!’” Buziak said. “I’m just happy that I’m not working my ass off for somebody else who doesn’t appreciate it. All of my stresses and responsibilities are just for myself.”
According to Buziak, who doesn’t stick to modern trends, it can be extremely hard for a fashion-oriented person to find clothes that stray from what’s in style.
“I wanted to be the opposite of H&M or Rainbow because they’re so trend based … Growing up, if I didn’t like a particular trend it was impossible to find anything else,” Buziak said. “I also really wanted to get a solid men’s section, since most vintage stores just have a men’s section filled with shy t-shirts, and I’ve been told mine is really impressive.”
Buziak also finds that popular self-proclaimed vintage stores often sell modern, gently used clothing, not fulfilling their “vintage” proclamation. With an eye for retro fashion, this was something she felt she could provide a market for.
“I began shopping at vintage stores when I was 18 in California,” Buziak said. “When I got to New York, I was like, ‘Where did all the real vintage stores go?!’ I just feel like a lot of thrift stores label themselves ‘vintage’ and it’s just modern, gently used clothing,” Buziak said.
Though Buziak had initially envisioned a laundromat and vintage store hybrid, allowing customers to browse while doing their laundry, she ended up just buying an in-store washer and dryer downstairs to wash her inventory. From destructive grass stains to unwavering pit stains, Buziak is a goddess in the art of removing almost any stain. If something in her inventory has any relentless gritty stains or rips, she slashes the price.
“I just want people to feel like there something new. I won’t put anything out with an imperfection without slashing the price, unless it’s high end,” said Buziak.
“And I would never have my store smell like anyone’s grandmother’s house. My inventory looks and smells fresh, but everything has its own story.”
Quaint vintage store in Bushwick with tons of great quality pieces, vintage and modern, for unbelievably low prices.
239 Stanhope St., Brooklyn, NY 11237 (off the Dekalb stop in the L train)
Mon-Fr: 12:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Sat-Sun: 12:00 pm- 8:30 pm
Cover image courtesy of chesterfieldbrooklyn