It’s known as “New York’s Best Kept Secret.” It’s Ross and Marshalls, before Ross and Marshalls became a thing. Century 21 — the iconic New York department store founded by cousins by Sonny and Al Gindi in 1961 — and which became known for their killer selection of designer goods offered at bargain prices is closing its doors for good (via The New York Times). The department store became the latest retailer to fall victim to COVID-19 after it said it couldn’t collect the $175 million it says it is owed under its business interruption insurance, a type of coverage which replaces the revenue a company could have earned if disaster strikes.
The pandemic wouldn’t have been the first time that Century 21 faced difficult circumstances. One of its stores is located directly across the street from the World Trade Center, and insurance saved them from going under 19 years ago when the Twin Towers fell on September 11. But there is no insurance money this time around, and without it, Century 21 says it cannot stay in business. “We now have no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we have paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, have turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi said (via CNN).
Century 21 holds a place in pop culture
The loss is personal for Century 21 fans who saw the store as a way to dress well without breaking the bank. Designer Zac Posen told The New York Times, “I got some of my greatest and most cherished fashion pieces there,” and that the store introduced him to the concept of shopping for fashion. Vincent Quan, an associate professor of fashion business management the Fashion Institute of Technology said, “Century 21 stores represented the quintessential New York deal. It was the place to go for a deal on fashion merchandise and luxury goods.”
He added, “Locals knew it, but tourists especially knew it and what it stood for. It was known that tourists would come in with suitcases to go shopping in the store and fill them up, go on the plane and go home.”
The department store even made it into pop culture when it got a mention on Sex and the City, when Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, called the store “the best part of jury duty.”
Vogue writer Liana Satenstein called Century 21 a “Store for the People” and said its closure is “a sad end of an era of a store that afforded people decent prices and the thrill of a rabid search for something nice.” While Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx will live on, there will be only one Century 21, and we are sad to see the sun set on this New York fashion icon.
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