Nestled in the basement of 173 E. 91st St., the newly relocated Chuck’s Vintage is a hidden gem inviting discovery. Its locale and meager social media presence lend it an elusive mystique — stepping into the shop is akin to entering Narnia, where decades upon decades of clothing, signs, records and artifacts animate history in a living collage.
The brand was founded on the West Coast in 2006 by former model Madeleine Cammarata, whose clientele included Steve Jobs and Morrissey. Chief business officer Sara Ishag wrote in an email that Chuck’s Vintage was a way for Cammarata to express herself and her love of vintage. When Cammarata died in November 2020, her husband Vincent Cammarata moved the business to New York City where Madeleine had dreamed of locating it.
According to store manager Sallie Rose, the new incarnation of the shop is a near-perfect recreation of Cammarata’s original Los Angeles store.
“We’re not revamping [Chuck’s Vintage],” Rose said. “We’re keeping Maddie alive. This is an extension of her legacy.”
Most of the clothes for sale are originals curated by Cammarata herself. Throughout the store, mannequins stand proudly dressed in her outfits. Shelves of cowboy boots populate the outermost corner of the store, conveying the Americana theme of the shop’s repertoire, which Cammarata interpreted as uninhibited joy and freedom. Numerous racks are dedicated to workwear ranging from boiler suits to denim jackets.
“She … threw off the shackles of what society expected of a woman,” public relations manager Marina Dojchinov said.
According to Dojchinov, by wearing clothes associated with traditionally masculine roles, Cammarata demonstrated that women are just as capable of occupying them. The store’s denim section is particularly memorable, featuring authentic Levi’s jeans from the ’80s. Other notable offerings include children’s pieces, military capes and ’70s rock tees. The vault room, accessible by appointment only, provides guests with a VIP experience and access to exclusive one-of-a-kind items.
Regarding the shop’s sourcing, buyer JoAnna Cataldo said that all of the pieces are 100 percent American-made by reputable brands with recycled materials. Many of them were discovered at markets and fairs — such as the Rose Bowl, the West Coast’s largest flea market — and were overlooked by buyers lacking expertise in the value of vintage clothing.
In this same vein, Ishag stated that, despite the painstaking nature of Cataldo’s work, the team refuses to buy in bulk, believing it would undermine the quality of the brand.
At the store’s launch party on Sept. 30, guests gathered at Classic Car Club Manhattan, located on Pier 76 with a clear view of the Hudson River. The industrial interior of the showroom, the vintage vehicles parked throughout the venue and the horseshoes on each cocktail table were evocative of the brand’s focus on workwear, military gear and biker jackets. The open bar, red carpet and sleek dance floor, however, screamed upper-class elegance, clearly marking the merging of the brand and its newfound New York City niche.
Toward the end of the night, producers cleared the bar area for what appeared to be an impromptu runway show. Models wearing looks representing various decades in vintage fashion posed against cars and preened amid photographers scattered across the runway. Though there appeared to be no central theme to the show itself, it served to display the variety of high-end vintage pieces offered at Chuck’s Vintage.
Given the museum-like quality of the shop, the flawless fusing between Californian roots and a New York City branch, and the exclusivity of its offerings, Chuck’s Vintage has already made its niche in the city clear, catering to more selective clients looking for pieces to last them for decades to come.
Contact Con Xie at [email protected]