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I live in NYC and went on a Thrifting Tour with Sammy Davis – here’s what I learned

Madonna in her thrifted jacket in cult classic Desperately Seeking Susan

You love fashion. You love the planet. And you know how the fashion industry sucks up natural resources and spits back pollution. Yet the thought of buying nothing. More. Ever. is…sad. And not entirely realistic. So inevitably the question arises: how can you rock your amazing style without hurting the environment?

Well, that’s the question we ask ourselves a lot at No Kill Mag. And we do it through things like cool mending techniques, shopping the Real Real and Depop and doing clothing swaps. As for hitting the thrift stores in NYC, I’ve always found thrifting in NYC a little overwhelming and a lot exhausting. There are so many options how do you even begin?

So when I saw something about thrift store tours in my feed I screeched to a stop.

Could a tour help get me over my fear of thrifting in New York City? I decided to try it and see if there was anything I could learn from a Professional Thrifter.

NYC thrift stores and thrifting tours with Sammy Davis
Sammy Davis on her thrifting tours

The thrifting tour I chose was with Sammy. TBH I didn’t do insane research to come up with her –unless you consider scrolling through someone’s IG account as research. (and I think it legit is!) But the fact that it’s the number one NYC all ages shopping tour on AirBNB Experience didn’t hurt. In addition she’s an expert vintage reseller so she knows secondhand clothes!

First to arrive, I easily recognized Sammy from Instagram. After a warm greeting, she said we’d soon be off once the rest of the tour checked in. While tours top out at 10 people, we would only be 7 which I personally think is a great number to troll through the different locales.

Before beginning she had everyone go around and introduce themselves, say a little about what they were hoping to find on the tour and how they’d describe their style. She noted what everyone said and then got us underway, navigating the streets with ease. She had created a schedule of stores that were all in the vicinity and gave everyone a map that showed not only those but a number of others as well.

The tour lasted three hours and literally everyone had found at least one –if not several– things to buy. I honestly was more about the experience than shopping and still went home with workout pants from Lululemon, a blue cashmere sweater by Vince and a brown printed polo shirt that definitely has Gucci from the ‘70s vibes –or Licorice Pizza.

So let’s break this down

Why a thrifting tour is totally worth it

  • The Day is Planned By Someone Else
    I don’t know about you but trying to decide where to go based on Yelp reviews is time consuming at best and sketchy at worst. I mean who wrote the review? Why? And thrift stores are known to have quirky days and times they are open. Especially post-Covid. Let someone else figure all this out.
  • You’ll Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
    We go where we know. And so generally that’s true for shopping. But why come to NYC only to go to the same thrift store you went to last time you visited? Or worse a chain store that’s in your local mall? Going on a tour lets you experience the city in a whole new way.
  • It’s a Fun Way to Meet New People
    Like really! Thrift on her tour and you’ll make friends. “I get people from all over like Australia, Israel, the Netherlands…and all styles and all ages. And they almost always end up exchanging their contact details with each other.” she shared. On my tour the people were all from the exotic land known as…Connecticut! Seriously, they had all just come in for the day to celebrate two different birthdays with Sammy’s tour. Turns out in Connecticut they don’t live that far from one another either and yes, exchanged contact details.

For those reasons alone I’d recommend a thrifting tour. But if you’re Thrifting in NYC I really recommend Sammy.

Sammy treasure hunting on tour
  • Thrifting is Her Thing
    Have you ever been on a tour with a bored guide? You can tell they’ve memorized what they’re talking about and are just doing it by rote? Or alternatively someone who is fake enthusiastic and needs to share that actually they’re an actress doing this to pay the bills? Sammy’s energy is authentic and infectious. She really enjoys what she does and creates a vibe you want to experience.
  • She is Like Shopping With A Personal Stylist
    On her tour it’s all about YOU. It’s not a search for certain brands but a search for things that will suit your style –and maybe push you out of your comfort zone with a new piece at a price that makes you take the risk.
    The personal styling was also born out of the fact that she managed a vintage store for a year and a half. “I was 25 when I was running it. It was the lowest paying job but the most fulfilling and that’s when I realized I do enjoy styling people on a professional level. I just love it. I love the thrill of seeing someone’s vibe… I’d challenge myself – I’d look at people with my third eye and think there’s something in this store I can suggest to them. It would be a game. I was a great salesperson but I didn’t want to be working for someone else.”
    On the tour I saw her doing exactly that. While we were shopping, she would be scouring the store and picking up pieces that she thought would be a good fit for someone.
    And unlike being a teenager with your Mom in a store suggesting items that she liked but you wouldn’t be caught dead in (or was that just me?) she really found great pieces that the others ended up taking home. I started daydreaming about having her as my own personal shopper. (Side note: she creates custom tours so if that’s your dream too you can make it a reality!)
  • It’s Completely Customizable
    Sammy can create custom tours for private groups. Say you and your girlfriends want to thrift like downtown club kids. Sammy can make it happen. Or if you’re looking more for upscale vintage or “buy by the pound” stores in the outer boroughs she’ll make it happen. And like my daydream above, a custom tour with Sammy would take the personal shopping aspect to the next level. She’ll get your deets days before to make it the best experience possible.

Beyond the secondhand personal shopping and personal styling I see myself as an ambassador to the city. So when it works and I can take someone somewhere that they would never have gone to on their own, I’m really fulfilled by that. –Sammy

And something I personally learned on the tour is taking your time is everything. I tend to think I know what I want and can scan a store and know whether I want to spend any time in it. During the tour I dropped my own preconceptions, took the time to go through the racks and discovered those few pieces for myself. -Saving them from the landfill for a little longer.

Follow Sammy on IG here and here
Book a tour here

Learn about her vintage reselling opportunities here

–Katya Moorman

Related Articles
How to Shop Secondhand and Vintage Like an Expert
Best Thrift Stores in NYC
Our Guide to Avoiding the Landfill
Donating to a Thrift Store? Read this First
Wear What You Already Own – How to Make it Easy
Best Thrifting Advice

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