Bay Ridge hurts most in loss of flagship retailer Century 21
Bankruptcy for 13 sites
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.
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.
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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