Brooklyn Boro

Bay Ridge hurts most in loss of flagship retailer Century 21

Bankruptcy for 13 sites

December 21, 2020 By Jaime DeJesus,
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Century 21 Department Store, which has anchored Bay Ridge’s 86th Street shopping corridor for decades, closed for good on Dec. 6.

The retail chain, which was described by the Brooklyn Eagle several years ago as selling “sought-after designer-brand clothing and accessories at cut-rate prices,” announced in September that it had filed for bankruptcy and would close its 13 stores. 

The Bay Ridge location opened in 1961. A second Brooklyn store, at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn, opened only four years ago, in 2016. A telephone message confirmed that this store, too, is now closed for business.

The chain’s website says, “Thank you to our loyal customers. Thank you for your continued support and patronage.”

In the days leading up to the store’s closure, long lines of customers waited to scoop up the remaining merchandise. The inside of the store was bare by its final weekend.

The spectacular, but short-lived, Century 21 store at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said the loss of Century 21 is considerable.

“For many in our community, Century 21 has served as our local mom and pop department store and I have been hearing from so many who miss shopping at Century 21 during the holidays,” Beckmann said. “It was a significant anchor store on 86th Street and I know many hope for new anchors to come to Bay Ridge soon.”

Local resident Kelly Ann Woodford said Century 21 was one of her favorite stores on 86th Street.

“Hope all of those employees find work soon,” Woodford said. “Goodbye to an era of deals and designer names for less.”

Insurance woes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic were the major factor in the chain’s demise, according to a statement in September by CEO Raymond Gingi.

“While insurance money helped us to rebuild after suffering the devastating impact of 9/11 [when the chain’s Lower Manhattan store was damaged], 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,” he said.

“While retailers across the board have suffered greatly due to COVID-19, and Century 21 is no exception, we are confident that had we received any meaningful portion of the insurance proceeds, we would have been able to save thousands of jobs and weather the storm, in hopes of another incredible recovery,” Gindi added.

Shoppers grab what’s left on Century 21’s final day on 86th Street. Photos courtesy of Madonna Be

Soon after Gindi’s statement, local elected officials tried to stop the chain’s closure. “We are ready to do everything in our power to help the business to keep at least the original Bay Ridge store open,” City Councilmember Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes wrote in a letter to the Gindi family. However, their efforts were unsuccessful.

Bay Ridge residents at the time were stunned by the news and expressed concerned about the shopping area’s future.

“That’s going to take a huge bite out of the neighborhood,” said Gale Young. “Century takes up almost a half block on 86th and 87th. It will be tough to find new tenants for that much retail space.”

“I used to shop there for my sons since they were babies,” said Anna Lisa D. “I would do all my Christmas shopping there too. It’s a shame. There’s no place to buy clothes in person. Everything now is online.”

—Additional material by Raanan Geberer

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    • Terribly! Our tax dollars are used to give protection to illegal immigrants who brake our laws and provide sanctuary to those… why not protect those businesses which contribute a lot to the.coffers of the city of NY! Politician. My foot…business as usual

      • What do “illegal immigrants” have to do with Cent 21 closing? How absurd. Cent 21 closed because they were unable to prove to their insurance company that they were a bustling business before COVID. Cent 21 had been in the shambles for years. I live in the area and shop regularly on 86 Street, so I know what I am talking about. Furthermore, I studied “Buying and Merchandising,” so I know how this works. You know what would have been terrible, for their insurance company to bail them out when in reality their sales were on the floor. Lastly, we are all immigrants in this country – unless you are a Native American.

        • ZyklonBee

          Native Americans (sic) migrated to the Americas from Siberia. They didn’t magically sprout up overnight in the Americas just like some wild mushroom growing out of the sides of a damp outdoor welcome mat.
          And don’t ever compare today’s immigrants to yesterday’s.

  1. George Plagianos

    So sad to lose this business. Unfortunately none of us knew how to convince the insurance companies or the owners Century 21 to stop closing. Not even our politicians knew what to do to get its constituents rallied up to show support to this business. They just let this business just died..l get emails from them they never once emailed us in what we can do to save this business and thousands of jobs. We are dissapointed that our politicians did not communicate with us the constituents. A mere letter isn’t enough

    • This business had been dying for years. Cent 21 simply tried to blame it on COVID, but they were disappearing little by little. First of all, they never kept up with the market and thought they were the kings of 86 Street. Their customer service skills were horrible and their return policy was even worse. They also expanded too much in size (the 86 Street store). I am supper happy that they are gone because I am certain that new businesses will be coming to 86 Street.

  2. I have been living in Bay Ridge for over 26 years and prior to moving here, as a teenager, I used to shop on 86 Street on Saturdays. Please stop saying the Cent 21 closed because of COVID. Sales at Cent 21 had been declining for many years. In the last 6-8 years their prices were not as competitive as other stores, like TJ Maxx for example. Furthermore, their return policy SUCKED. I was so happy to see them close and look forward to having a Target, Marshalls, Home Goods or Trader Joe’s in the area. Cent 21 was never loyal to their customers and were always like hawks spying on you like if you were a petty shop lifter. I am thrilled that they are gone. They got what they deserved and I am certain that better stores will be coming to our neighborhood.