SUNY-ESF student turns hobby into business with The Pits Vintage
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Paul Sausville’s bedroom at home was completely full – a bulging closet, piles of clothes in every corner, even boxes in the basement because his passion for vintage pieces couldn’t fit in one room. When his parents begged him to cut back on his overwhelming wardrobe, rather than just get rid of the clothes, he decided to sell them – and so The Pits Vintage was born.
“It’s funny, what’s old is new and people love it,” Sausville said. “I love it.”
Sausville, a sophomore in chemical engineering at SUNY-ESF, started The Pits Vintage in 2019, but the business really started to take off during the last winter break. Run from an Instagram account, The Pits Vintage offers a wide range of clothing, footwear and accessories, all with a classic vintage twist.
Pits Vintage clothes come from everywhere. Often when consumers think of vintage clothing, thrift stores come to mind. But Sausville added that he tries not to rely on these for his merchandise, given the ethical issues of shopping at thrift stores just to resell what you’ve bought.
Of course, since the company grew out of Sausville’s personal taste and style, the hunt for parts often goes in the same direction, he said.
“When I’m shopping, I’m really shopping for myself,” Sausville said. “And then I discovered that a lot of people like the same things I do.”
For all of its merchandise, Sausville implements a meticulous cleaning and maintenance process to ensure that each item is shiny and new when it sells. For cotton items, a simple swipe through the washer and dryer will suffice, but less common fabrics – “there were days when I washed silk jackets in my kitchen sink” – require a little more watch out, he said.
While Sausville releases bags and shoes from time to time, at least for now, The Pits Vintage focuses primarily on clothing. But the clothes can be particularly versatile, which is useful for the varied tastes of its clientele.
“I can put on an XL or 2XL sweater, and a 6ft 5in guy with a 6½ft wingspan could buy it, or a 5ft 2in girl could buy it who just wants the oversized look” , Sausville said. “But if I put on a pair of size 12 shoes, someone with a height of 12 has to buy it.”
Risa Fromowitz, a sophomore in natural resource management at SUNY-ESF, said she really enjoys shopping with The Pits Vintage. She picked up an oversized teal and yellow London Fog jacket, a pink crew neck with snowflakes and skater bears and a button down shirt with a leaf pattern on it, which she said she loved.
“Naturally, because I’m going to ESF, I like clothes with cool natural patterns on them,” Fromowitz said.
Although her business operates primarily through Instagram, Sausville has started doing pop-up shows, including one at Bandersnatch’s recent concert at Goldstein Auditorium.
Sam Stehle, a friend from Sausville and sophomore in Forest Resource Management at SUNY-ESF, is a frequent customer of The Pits Vintage. He said his favorite pieces he bought in Sausville included a green, red and blue checkered crew neck and a navy and green floral collared shirt with a quarter button.
Stehle also helps run The Harrington along with his other five housemates. The venue draws on Syracuse’s vibrant underground music scene, but is still open to hosting pop-up shops and food vendors. Stehle offered to host The Pits Vintage at a recent show and said he was happy to see the Sausville business booming.
“Every time I pass, Paul is completely overwhelmed with people cluttering up his stuff,” Stehle said. “From what I’ve seen so far, he’s done very well.”
Around the start of The Pits Vintage, Sausville added his own personal touches – patches, embroidery, paint – to the pieces he resold. He even transformed a denim jacket by painting on crayons.
But due to the time it takes to customize, he hasn’t made as many of these pieces recently. Over the summer, however, Sausville said he hopes to invest in a screen print so he can get back to sprucing up his items with a bit of creativity.
Her favorite piece of clothing from her The Pits Vintage collection was a floral quilted silk puffer jacket. Sarah Skalski, a freshman at Syracuse University majoring in illustration, bought the jacket and then posted a drawing of herself in the room.
“I love puffer jackets,” Skalski said, “and this piece was so wild and unique. I was all for buying it.
Sausville credits his fashion sense to his three older sisters, all of whom he says had “phenomenal vintage style.” Sausville said that in high school he disregarded gender norms in fashion and wore a few traditionally feminine pieces; he liked the look and decided that if anyone had a problem with it, that was their problem, not his. Currently, Sausville said he gravitates toward workwear or the American heritage look with pieces from Carhartt and LLBean — “ESF brands,” he said.
Sausville also likes to find obscure vintage brands that have gone out of business because the pieces are so original, he said. One of her favorite pieces is a pair of 80s jeans from a brand called NIXIT – they’re paneled and baggy and have tapered cuffs, zippers and a creative wash. But when he tried to search for the brand online, other than a lone sweater, he found no trace of NIXIT.
Although most of his customers are from SU and SUNY-ESF, occasionally someone across the country who is interested in his apparel contacts him. He’s happy to ship — so those who won’t be in central New York for the summer can still shop with The Pits Vintage — which has allowed him to meet some fun people along the way.
“Not only do I sell to my friends and peers around me, but there’s a lady in California, there’s a guy in Utah, there’s a guy in Oregon wearing something I ‘ve found and loved,” Sausville said.
Sausville’s vision for the future of The Pits Vintage is a little hazy at the moment, he said, but he would like to expand, even if it’s just to reserve a room to take photos and store parts. For him, his business is an outlet outside of his STEM major as well as a great way to express his creativity.
“Something that started out as a total hobby has become something people care about,” Sausville said. “They’re into what I do, and I think it’s great.”
Published on April 17, 2022 at 11:30 p.m.